Russia: Bloggers Deconstruct Isolationist Propaganda

Maghreb dictators VS people

"Dictators team is loosing 2:0 – Cartoon Putin: go, Muamar, go", Illustration by Sergey Elkin

As Russia is approaching another parliament (2011) and presidential ( 2012) election cycle, the voices of state propagandists get louder.

The upcoming election process, tamed and controlled by the Russian President's office and the ruling party “United Russia,” will be happening in the context of the Arabian “Spring of Nations 2.0.”

This fact inspires pro-Democracy activists, as well as regime advocates (often called okhraniteli, or “protectors”). Unlike the previous election cycle (2007-2008), such “regime-protective” rhetorics  are seriously challenged by Russian bloggers.

While revolutions sweep the third North African regime in a row and echo similar developments in Iran, Gabon and even Albania (not to speak of Middle Eastern countries), nervousness of the high-ranking Russian politician is getting more and more evident. On February 22, 2010 the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin expressed their concerns on the matter. Blogger propagandists followed suit.

In a public address in Kabardino-Balkaria (region recently hit by terroristic attack and murder of four Russian tourists), Dmitry Medvedev stated:

Посмотрите на ситуацию, которая сложилась на Ближнем Востоке и в арабском мире. Она тяжелейшая. […] В ряде случаев речь может пойти о дезинтеграции больших, густонаселённых государств, об их распаде на мелкие осколки. […] Такой сценарий они раньше готовили для нас, а сейчас они тем более будут пытаться его осуществлять. […] Но всё происходящее там будет оказывать прямое воздействие на нашу ситуацию, причём речь идёт о достаточно длительной перспективе, речь идёт о перспективе десятилетий.

Look at the situation in the Middle East and in the Arab world. It's very difficult. In some cases, we would see the disintegration of the big, densely populated states, their collapse into many small pieces.[…] Such scenario they [emphasis by G.V.] previously prepared for us, and now they would try to make it work. […] But everything that would be happening there [in Maghreb – G.V.] would be affecting our situation, and we're speaking of a distant perspective here, maybe several decades.

Medvedev didn't explain whom he meant by “they,” however, usual suspects for “they” are either United States or the world government. Anton Nosik was among the first to respond to president's addres:

Мне, грешным делом, казалось, что события в арабских странах происходят по какой-то своей внутренней логике, которая к России не имеет даже самого опосредованного отношения. Очевидно, я жестоко ошибался. За всем стоят они. И цель у них одна: сделать плохо нам. Именно в этом контексте нужно — отныне и до окончания выборов 2012 года — восприминать все мировые события: не только беспорядки в Африке, но и любые наводнения, землетрясения, тайфуны и цунами. Любой катаклизм на свете — всего лишь сценарий, который они готовили для нас. Что-то у них там не заладилось, и рвануло не у нас, а в Новой Зеландии. Но нас не обманешь. Мы знаем, что всё это они против нас затеяли. И любые беспорядки в Бенгази теперь будут оказывать прямое воздействие на нашу ситуацию.

Much as I regret it, I thought that the events in the Arab countries follow their own, inner logic, which doesn't have even distant relation to Russia. Apparently, I was deeply mistaken. Them are behind everything. And they have only one aim: to hurt us. And from now on until 2012 (presidential election) we should perceive all the world events: not just riots in Africa, but also all floods, earthquakes,  typhoons, and tsunami. Any cataclysm on Earth – it's just another scenario that was prepared by them for us. Something's got wrong, and it exploded in New Zealand [reference to Christchurch earthquake – G.V.], and not here. But you won't fool us! Any Benghazi riots now will be directly affecting our situation.

Andrey Malgin, was overwhelmed, too:

Кто “они”? Откуда здесь застарелая кагэбэшная метафора “сценарий готовили”?

Сказал это ДАМ на совещании по противодействию терроризму. Неужели он не в курсе, что Каддафи стоял у истоков международного терроризма? Что он снабжал деньгами и оружием ИРА и ЭТА? Что на территории Ливии были основные тренировочные базы террористов, съезжавшихся туда со всего мира? Что по его приказу взорвали дискотеку с сотнями посетителей в Западной Германии? Что по его приказу был в воздухе взорван самолет над Шотландией? Что за всё это его разбомбили в 1986 году и ввели международные санкции в 1990-м? Я уже не говорю о том, что и Каддафи, и большинство свергнутых сейчас руководителей сами пришли к власти в результате государственных переворотов.

Who “them”? How could the old KGB phrase “prepared a scenario” appear here?

Medvedev said that on the meeting dedicated to counter terrorism operations. Doesn't he know that Qaddafi was standing at the origins of international terrorism? That he supplied IRA and ETA? That Libyan territory hosted major terrorist training bases from all over the world? That after his order a disco club in Western Germany has been blown up? That after his order a plane over Scotland has been blown up? That he was bombed in 1986 and the world introduced international sanctions in 1990? I'm not speaking about the fact that Qaddafi, as well as most of dismissed leaders got their power via coups.

Igor Sechin, in his interview to “Wall Street Journal,” was more specific. Speaking of political stability in Russia and possible parallels to the situation in Egypt, he said:

In this case, we need to more closely examine what has happened in Egypt. See, well, what senior managers of Google have been doing in Egypt, what kind of manipulations of the energy of the people took place there.

Roman Leibov, one of the first Russian bloggers, and renowned linguist, reacted [RUS]:

Названо имя Зверя
Вот оно как. Google, значит.

The name of the Beast has been pronounced
You see, huh, Google then.

Nikolay Starikov, a writer and blogger with a distinctive anti-american approach wrote [RUS]:

Я уже писал, что при каждой «революции», на крышах домов появляются люди с снайперскими винтовками. Они убивают демонстрантов, под видом «правительственных сил». Судя по тому, что «неизвестные снайперы» никогда не появляются одновременно в трех-четырех местах одновременно, речь идет о 1-2 мобильных группах.

Previously I wrote that as soon as any “revolution” starts, people with sniper rifles appear on the rooftops. As “government forces” they kill protesters. According to this, “unknown snipers” never appear together in 3-4 places simultaneously, hence we're speaking of 1-2 mobile groups.

The quotation followed a detailed analysis. For Starikov, Maghreb events reminded Arab revolution in the Ottoman empire inspired by T.E. Lawrence rather then the “Spring of Nations” of 1848 (this example, however, leaves also a lot of space for isolationists’ speculations).

The common view of “the global conspiracy” was presented by Yevgeniy Fedorov on February 21, 2010 during a public debate with popular blogger Alexey Navalny. Responding to accusations in corruption, Fedorov exclaimed:

жесточайшая кампания, направленная на, конечно, дестабилизацию обстановки в стране. Она идет наряду с терактами. Это кампания, направленная на разрушение страны

This is a cruel campaign, aimed, of course, to destabilize the situation in the country. It goes along with terroristic attacks. This is a campaign aimed to destroy the country.

And further on:

Мы же с вами понимаем, что, допустим, в Интернете, и это показывает наш анализ, приблизительно несколько тысяч человек сидят на аутсорсинге у американского посольства. Их задача – дестабилизация в стране. Ну, работа такая. Такие же люди работали в африканских странах. То есть, фактически мы четко видим, что в России готовится какой-то бунт […]

We understand, of course, that, let's say in the Internet, and our analysis shows this, about a 1,000 people are working on the contract with the American embassy. Their aim is to destabilize the country. Well, they just have such a job. The same people worked in the African countries. We can clearly see that some riot is being prepared […]

Navalny's arguments that many members of the “United Russia” were more economically tied with “the West” than any blogger were ignored by the opponent but not the listeners. After the debate was over, radio DJ offered the audience to vote either for Navalny or Fedorov. The results spoke for themselves: 99 percent of listeners voted for the anti-corruption blogger Navalny.

The formula of isolationism and anti-Americanism has it's long traditions in the Russian/Soviet propaganda since the Second World War. Saving country's territorial integrity was an important part of Putin's election campaign back in 2000. It seems like that “United Russia” and Putin are willing to use the template once again. It seems that now it would be a much harder task. Not only bloggers can analyze, compare and check the information on the events abroad. As Twitter and online media outlets provide faster and more credible information of the events happening, they reach bloggers faster than official propagandists and politicians. This “first interpretation,” as Marina Litvinovich, a Russian blogger and analyst, uses to call the effect, gives the advantage of bloggers in receiving, interpreting, and broadcasting the world events. In this framework, spiced up with cynicism and humor, traditional isolationist propaganda looses, as Navalny/Fedorov vote illustrated.

This post was re-published in Russian by the Ezhednevniy Zhurnal (Daily Journal) as part of a content partnership with Global Voices’ RuNet Echo.

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