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Monday, June 05, 2006

Neo-Soviet Kremlin: Russians Are Tired of Having to Think

The Moscow Times reports that, according to leading Russian media mogul Nikolai Svanidze, Russians are lemmings, they know they are lemmings, and that's all they aspire to be, so leave them alone you crazy non-lemming Westerners:

Russians are tired of all the facts in reports by non-state media and want a soothing, Soviet approach to the news, Nikolai Svanidze, a presenter on Rossia state television, said Sunday.

Independent regional publishers sharply countered that their readers were hungry for alternative viewpoints and all but begged for stories correcting erroneous reports in state-controlled media.

Six panelists -- including Svanidze, Izvestia's chief executive and a close associate of murdered Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze -- sparred over press freedom at the opening of an annual conference of the World Association of Newspapers. Joining them from the floor were journalists from the regions, Tajikistan and Tanzania.

Panelists named hidden advertising and a lack of financial independence as the main threats to press freedom. One panelist noted Gazprom's seemingly unstoppable expansion in media and other sectors and joked that Russia was in danger of one day being renamed Gazpromia.

Svanidze ignited the debate by saying that the range of viewpoints in mass media was shrinking because the public "has grown tired of pluralism."

"Our guests from the United States and European countries may not understand what I'm talking about, but the classic Soviet viewer is not used to alternatives," he said. "It's tiring to have a choice because you have to think."

4 comments:

Winston said...

If I hadn't read Svanidze's comment too, I would have checked the date to see if it was April 1st.

La Russophobe said...

Winny: Svanidze is a master in producing that effect on people. Check this out for example:

In the September 21, 2000 issue of the weekly Russian tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets v Pitere (Young Moscow Communist in Petersburg, MK-Piter for
short), the paper sat down with Svanidze for a heart-to-heart. What follows is a verbatim translation of the article, which appeared on page 29 of the issue.

[TN] means a translator’s note

HEADLINE: THE TIME FOR BLACKMAIL IS OVER

CAPTION: Nikolai Svanidze calls himself a “liberal bureaucrat.” Not everyone understands exactly what he means by that, but one thing is clear: In this man the new regime has a formidable ally. While some are wondering
what freedom of speech means to the people of our country, the point man at state-owned RTR television has no doubts and boldly declares: “We are for
Mother Russia! We are for Putin!”

MK-PITER: Would you agree that generally with respect to Russian TV now we are seeing a sea change, a changing of the guard?

SVANIDZE: So far I’ve seen no such thing, just a lot of people pontificating and shouting. Naturally, as I predicted, there have been some changes in
the influence of the various stations. What’s most emphatically clear is the growth of RTR’s influence, which has occurred because we’ve simply trounced our rivals in fair competition.

MK-PITER: During the Kursk tragedy, only RTR reporters were allowed on the scene, and government sources gave exclusives to the government-owned station. Is that an example of fair competition?

SVANIDZE: The officials met with those they needed to meet with, those they found interesting. No one can tell them who they should or mustn’t communicate with. As far as access to the scene, perhaps were are now seeing just a leveling of the playing field. For many years, the directors
of the private stations practiced a kind of political and informational blackmail, saying that if you don’t come to us we will “stomp” you

[TN: here Svanidze is noticeably using the same slang verb, mochit, that Putin famously used when he said he would “stomp the Chechens in their toilets” if need be].

Now, perhaps, the shoe is on the other foot.

MK-PITER: You paraphrase Putin. When he talks about blackmail, isn’t that something like a snow job, an excuse for an assault on those stations by the state?

SVANIDZE: I can only say that there has in fact been blackmail, and I am prepared to stand behind what I say.

MK-PITER: It would appear that there is no love lost between you and Mssrs Berezovsky and Gusinsky.

SVANIDZE: I don’t know either one well enough to talk about love or hate. It’s simply that their conduct lately, and right now especially strikes me as negative, and in fact dangerous to the public interest.

MK-PITER: “Dangerous to the public interest?” That’s a stock phrase right out of 1937, isn’t it?

SVANIDZE: Not at all. If a person is objectively dangerous to the public interest but still behaving within the letter of the law, he should be left alone. If you are suggesting I think such a person should be arrested and shot, you are mistaken. God forbid. I’m concerned about something different: It’s clear that these people are just looking out for themselves and are calling their media dogs on their enemies, chiefly the state. They
are crying “Wolf!” like in the Tolstoy story, but between them they haven’t got a single valid reason. If, God forbid, they ever actually do have one, by that time nobody will be listening. On the other hand, perhaps these
tactics will push the authorities into a corner from which they will have no other way out. The TV oligarchs are risking not only the public interest but their own as well. But worst of all would be if they actually got what they wanted, because that would mean anarchy and then inevitably a “Brother II”

[TN: The popular film “Brat-2”]

government ­ that is, Russian fascism.

MK-PITER: What you’re saying now would be music to the ears of the former KGB officers who are now taking places in the regime.

SVANIDZE: What exactly do you have against the KGB? Would it be preferable to put Berezovsky in their place? Why should he be in control of the most widely received TV station and thus able even to influence the course of
elections? Does the public interest dictate that? Is that what we mean by public television? This man is no Sakaraov, Einstein or Likachev. He has no scruples. And he’s dangerous to the public interest. If you want to buy
a weapon, you need a permit and to get one you have to show that you’re not a psycho who will kill his own granny. I don’t think Berezovsky is qualified to get a license to own a weapon like a TV channel received by tens of millions.

MK-PITER: In that case, would you be for undoing all the privatizations from which Berezovsky has benefited?

SVANIDZE: No, that’s not possible. But Berezovsky has never received legal control of the first channel [TN: ORT]. The 49% of its shares he holds is a minority stake, and it is only through the special talents of Mr. Berezovsky that it can be made otherwise.

MK-PITER: If he offered you the shares, would you take them?

SVANIDZE: That’s just fantasy. He’d never do it, just as I wouldn’t in his place. But if he did, of course I would refuse to take them. It would be pure farce, a game I’d have no interest in playing.

MK-PITER: Some people think that criticism of the regime undermines the nation. Do you agree?

SVANIDZE: When news programs interpret facts and focus only on the negative where Putin is concerned, I think this won’t do. Criticism is necessary and
there should be private TV networks. But there must also be ethics. In the final analysis, I am not blaming but simply nurturing journalists when I say
that what they are doing now is simply not professional, which is reflected in their ratings and the general disgust with which the public views them.

MK-PITER: When you started at RTR, you were impartial. But then you found your way into the Yeltsin camp, even as the entire nation was leaving him. How did that happen?

SVANIDZE: I get no pleasure from recalling it, and I don’t intend to rehash it now. I will only say that at that time there was a real possibility of a return to communism and I was against it. Incidentally, nothing would have
been safer then than for me to go after Yeltsin. One can be the slave of the public just as much as of the state.

MK-PITER: Why did you show faked documentary footage about the Moscow police during the parliamentary ballot?

SVANIDZE: If was not faked. I said that they were absolutely unprepared for terrorist acts and was proven accurate, which justifies the harshness of
that broadcast. Moreover, of the many charges made about it not one has actually been substantiated and in fact everyone was pointing to just two brief episodes that had little to do with the central point.

MK-PITER: You claim that the TV oligarchs are assassins. Wasn’t that what you did to Primakov and Luzhkov, some say in cahoots with Dorenko?

SVANIDZE: I’ve never been an assassin. I’m not a low-blow artist. I’ve never been a master or had one. When I went after Primakov, I had plenty of
problems at RTR, which is state-owned and after all, he was the PM. But I had a clear idea of what was right, and in such cases I never back down.

MK-PITER: What do you think about the currrent situation with Dorenko?

SVANIDZE: The state cannot support a journalist who serves the interest of only one person. That would be masochism, a dereliction of duty.

Winston said...

Ah. Perhaps April 1st has been repeated a few times each year and I didn't notice...

Is this stuff real?

No, don't answer. I know it is.

La Russophobe said...

Winny, I guess you haven't heard. In Russia, every day is April 1st. ;)

I only WISH I could make up stuff like this. It would mean Russia isn't doomed and I'm the next Dosteovsky. ;)