Weekly media roundup 7-9-21

Narrative problems

The narrative in the Guardian about Russia and democracy is that there isn’t any. Putin fixes the elections and it is in effect a ‘regime’ or even dictatorship.

So the journalist writing this story about election sabotage in St. Petersburg has a problem. The story is that in a bid to sabotage a liberal party (‘Apple’) candidate in municipal elections two rival candidates have registered with the same name.

The Guardian writes: “‘Double’ candidates regularly pop up during Russia’s election cycles, which can be surprisingly cut-throat despite the expectation that the ruling United Russia party will maintain a majority in the Duma”

Here the journalist is fighting against his own narrative. On the one hand if the elections are always rigged in favour of United Russia so that they are a foregone conclusion why would it be necessary to resort to such tricks and foul-play? He tries to balance the two narratives: ” surprisingly cut-throat”. His problem of course is that if they are “cut-throat” then the results can’t be a foregone conclusion. (A small point; the elections in question are municipal elections – not State Duma elections; maybe these former are more ‘cut-throat’).

On this particular story as is usual in stories about Russia written by their staff based in Moscow the journalist has not attempted to ‘balance’ the story by obtaining a quote from the authorities – something which they almost invariably do on stories critical of the UK government. Had he obtained that quote he could have noted that the Central Election Commission in Russia has said that after the elections they will try to get legislation passed to prevent this happening again. [1] One can of course take this statement with a pinch of salt. On the other hand UK officials will often make promises in the heat of the media moment which are subsequently quietly dropped. There is no real journalistic reason to not include the ‘balancing’ quote from the relevant authorities. I don’t know why Guardian journalists suspend their normal rules on how to construct articles when it comes to Russia. Possibly because they know that their job is to write regime change propaganda.

Notes

  1. https://www.rt.com/russia/534085-opposition-candidates-same-name/

Guardian propaganda watch – fake news on Russia

The Guardian seems to be obsessed with criticising Russia. This is strange in itself. The Guardian is a UK newspaper. Its readership have no democratic say over what happens in Russia. They do (in theory) have a democratic say over what happens in the UK. There is plenty wrong in this country that one would have thought that a liberal democratic newspaper would want to concentrate on. But for some reason the Guardian wants to cover a lot of screen space criticising Russia instead.

There probably is plenty to criticise in Russia – if you want to. This is why it is all the more surprising that the Guardian ‘journalists’ who write on Russia have to consistently make up stories. Why do this? That they do this (and this website has demonstrated that they do this  time and time again) gives away what is going on. They aren’t even criticising Russia from some kind of real, genuine, indignation. They just want a straw-dog to shoot down.

This is typical example; a story about the head of Russia’s National Guard who has released a video in response to claims by the nationalist “anti-corruption” blogger Alexei Navalny of corruption in tendering by the National Guard. In the video the head of Russia’s National Guard, Victor Zolotov, refers to the age-old tradition of fighting a duel with someone who insults you, and, in this context, offers to fight Navalny on the mat or in a boxing ring.

The article is standard Guardian fare. It stops short of outright lies (mostly they avoid outright lies) but is spun in such a way to support the fixed narrative on Russia. Zolotov is described as a “close ally of Putin”. He obviously is a connection but the point of mentioning this, which isn’t really relevant to the story, is to tarnish Putin. The report by one of the Guardian’s propagandists in Moscow (that these people can live there and write this propaganda quite freely undermines half the narrative on the ‘harsh media climate’ of course) omits the context in which Zolotov made his comments – the tradition of the duel. Without this context it does appear as a “bizarre rant”. Since “bizarre rant” is the preferred story they omit the details which give the video a more coherent meaning.  The “investigation” by Navalany, referred to by the Guardian, appears, in his own words, to depend solely on looking at the website of the National Guard (where tenders are openly published, as government tenders are in the UK).  [1] Finally, the Guardian mentions that protesters have been detained in recent political demonstrations against recent pension reforms. (Not really relevant to their non-story about Zolotov but it is all part of the anti-Russia narrative so it finds a home here). This is true; people have been detained. But, as is standard in how the Guardian reports on protests in Russia, they omit the fact that people have been arrested on a proper legal basis. In Russia there is a law, (passed by an elected government), that it is an offence to hold a rally if the authorities have not given permission for it to go ahead. This may be a somewhat more authoritarian law than we are used to in the UK, (though police here also take a robust attitude to policing demonstrations where the organisers have not cleared it with the police), but that is the law in Russia. The protesters have been arrested for breaking Russian law. All this will be known to Andrew Roth in Moscow, but he chooses, for whatever reason, to omit it and instead promote a false narrative on Russia. As for the police “using batons on people who are in their teens and early twenties”. Gosh, Andrew, have you never attended a political demonstration in the UK? Hey ho; the police here use batons as well – and against people in their “teens and early twenties”.

There is plenty to write about in the UK – massive social inequality, laundering of public money to private corporations on an absolutely massive scale, use of solitary confinement as a routine punishment on teenagers in schools etc. etc. Are we being distracted from all this with these endless fake tales of how bad things are in Russia?

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/politics/438154-national-guard-navalny-duel/

Guardian’s role in Russian regime change

This is a piece in the Guardian about Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Notice:

The usual smears against President Putin. Personalizing all attacks on the Russian state onto Putin is characteristic of Western media propaganda. Demonizing the leader is a central feature of regime change campaigns.

Anyone who is anti the current (elected) government in Russia is inevitably described as an “anti-Putin critic”. The fact that they criticize the Kremlin seems to automatically elevate them to the status of Sainthood. Any critical questioning of the critic’s own past is therefore not required.

Using characteristic techniques of Western media propaganda the Guardian casts aspersions. Putin “suddenly” pardoned Khodorkovsky in 2003. As if there was something suspicious about it. (The Russian side explained that it was connected to Khodorkovsky’s mother’s illness). We are also told that the current re-opened investigation into Khodorkovsky “seems” to be connected to the original 2003 fraud case. In fact not “seems”. There is nothing mysterious and secretive about it as this text suggests. It is quite straightforward; the searches are connected with the 2003 fraud case. [1] In another piece on the same story, the Guardian tells its readers that Khodorkovsky’s offices in Russia were raided by “armed Russian police”. According to the Wikipedia article on the Russian police they routinely carry arms. [2] This appears to be another dramatic flourish intended to fuel the narrative – liberals being intimidated by the Russian state mafia.

We are told that the current charges against Khodorkovsky are being brought by the Russian Investigative Committee which “reports directly to the Russian President”. As always with the Western liberal critique of Russia anything which is different in the way that Russia organises itself is not accepted as just that, different, but is portrayed as something sinister. Russia is a Presidential Republic. It is not really surprising that the country’s main investigative body reports to the President.

The piece is entirely devoted to the comments by Khodorkovsky and those close to him. Since the Guardian omits the background it is worth pointing out that Khodorkovsky was sentenced by a Russian court for fraud and subsequently with embezzlement and money laundering. Khodorkovsky had been a Communist youth party member in the Soviet Union. In the period immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union he acquired the rights to multiple oil fields in Siberia. This was during a period when there was little central government regulation – and it was easy for those with contacts and/or access to capital to acquire significant state assets. During this period Western oil firms signed lucrative contracts to exploit Russian resources on favorable terms. Under Putin’s Presidency a new policy was developed which aimed to control these excesses and secure Russian national interests. Khodorkovsky did not play ball. [3] Arguably his arrest and detention were therefore ‘political’. But the context is that of an elected President pursuing a policy of national interest. This is the side of the story that the Western propagandists don’t tell.

Western liberals – and a few Russians -Â want a regime change in Russia. In this piece Khodorkovsky calls for a ‘revolution’. They talk the language of “human rights”, “democracy” and “open government”. In reality they want money.

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/politics/326744-searches-conducted-in-homes-of/

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militsiya

3. Russia. Robert Service. 1997 Penguin. p550