While breaking this story, MR fails to mention that the vast majority of Russians get their news about Putin from broadcast TV he owns and operates. It fails to mention that leading modernizers like William Browder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Sergei Magnitsky have gotten themselves, respectively, exiled, jailed, and murdered for their trouble. And it glosses over the revelation that fully half the population does not trust either the police or the courts.
Reviewing the MR website for the Moscow Times, Carnegie Foundation scholar Nikolai Petrov notes that “the news on the site isn’t very fresh or original” and asks plaintively: “Who needs this site?” He relates that the Kremlin’s press secretary says the comments section of the site is supposed to provide feedback, then bursts this balloon by revealing that the comments are aggressively moderated, squelching any tough criticism before it can ever see the light of day.
What’s odd about all this is not the lies, the misdirections, or the incompetence. We’ve seen all that before from Russia. The strange thing is that the Kremlin already has an English-language propaganda outfit on the web doing all this stuff. It’s called Russia Today (RT). You remember RT. They’re the ones who advertised themselves using photos of Stalin that praise the great mass murderer’s poetry.
Is the Kremlin admitting that the tens of millions it spent on that project were wasted on a spectacular failure? That Russians themselves can’t effectively generate propaganda of this type, so they need to bring in some American “experts”?
That seems to be the upshot. It’s hard to feel sorry for anyone MR will dupe into putting money into Putin’s Russia based on this siren song. Such investors are helping Putin to crack down on civil rights and liberties and revive a KGB state to once again terrorize the planet, and they richly deserve to lose their shirts.
But there could be wider consequences. Maybe hapless neophyte simpletons like, say, Barack Obama, will form their impressions of Russia based on this deluge of American-created propaganda and make policy on that basis. If they did, they might be inclined to munch hamburgers with Putin’s puppet Dmitri Medvedev while Putin enacted a new law permitting his KGB to arrest and detain anyone without charges for two weeks.