Embattled Opposition Blogger's Insanity Defense?

Images remixed by author.

Images remixed by author.

When attempts to silence Alexey Navalny, Russia's top blogger and anti-corruption activist, don't work quite as planned [Global Voices report], it's time to shovel the dirt. This time, a pro-Kremlin online resource claims that leaked court documents show that Navalny's defense team had opted for a “psychological instability” defense during a recent defamation case.

According to the leak [ru], two linguists and one psychologist examined Navalny's blog posts as well as articles published by his opponents regarding last summer's Montenegro scandal [Global Voices report], when information surfaced that Navalny might have undeclared property outside Russia. They were asked by Navalny's lawyers to evaluate whether negative press against him might have affected his emotional well-being and psychological state, which in turn would have affected his remarks [ru] cited as defamatory by the plaintiff.

The experts answered in the affirmative, adding that Navalny might have been stressed by negative press against him during his campaign for mayor of Moscow. Furthermore, they wrote, in extremely convoluted prose:

После начала действия стресс-фактора чувство страха, которое имело место в ожидании опасности, может «трансформироваться» в другие эмоциональные переживания: в радость противоборства с носителем опасности; б) в переживание веселья, лихости; в) в чувство гнева с проявлениями ярости», когда на фоне переживания страха у субъекта актуализировалось представление об испугавшем факторе как об объекте, который необходимо уничтожить, наказать.

After the stress factor becomes active, the feeling of fear which was present during the expectation of danger, can “transform” into different emotional feelings: happiness from battling the source of danger; b) experiencing joy and brinkmanship; c) a feeling of anger and fury, when during the experience of fear the subject imagines the stress factor as an object that must be destroyed and punished.

It must be said, that this is general expert space-filler talk — in none of these statements do the experts claim that Navalny specifically experienced one of the responses listed above, just that it is possible that he had. And even if he had, that would not prove him “insane,” merely “emotional.” Nevertheless, some bloggers jumped on the idea that Navalny might be cuckoo. Even anti-government journalist Oleg Kashin posted [ru] an excerpt of the leak on his Facebook account, adding in a comment that he had confirmed its authenticity with AGORA, the NGO that provided Navalny with a defense team in this particular case. Minor pro-Kremlin [ru] bloggers [ru] also picked up on the news, re-distributing it with barely any comment.

Although in the end the story failed to gain any traction, it might come back to haunt Navalny in his future political ambitions. As one overly optimistic blogger wrote [ru]:

Таким образом установлено, что будущий президент иногда впадает в состояние невменяемости. Пригодится, да.

So now its established that the future president sometimes falls into a state of insanity. That will come in handy, yeah.

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