Russia’s Barbaric “Internet”
Whenever the subject of the Kremlin’s brutal neo-Soviet crackdown on Russian newspapers and television comes up, as it has just done once again with the barbaric killing of Natalia Estemirova, the bleating refrain from the Russophile apologists is is always the same: But there’s the Internet! It’s perfectly free, and it’s all Russians need to preserve democracy.
It’s another ridiculous neo-Soviet lie, of course. In the first place, 80% of Russians have no access to the Internet, so even if it were full of critical information about the Kremlin, theycouldn’t read it. In the second place, the Kremlin is in the process of cracking down on the Internet too, prosecuting bloggers and even commenters, shutting down websites and deluging others with threats and intimidation.
As to the “Internet” that survives, it’s a wasteland of ignorance that reflects Russia itself, and only the fact that it’s written inRussian prevents certain naive foreigners from understanding that fact. To the rescue, however, came recently Harvard University’s Internet & Democracy blog, with a post showing how the Russian blogosphere utterly ignored U.S. President Obama’s recent visit to Moscow, just as the Kremlin wanted it to do.
Here are the horrifying facts:
Russian bloggers gave more attention to Obama’s trip to Moscow than Russian TV, but not much more. According to “Yandex blogs”, Obama’s visit to Moscow was not among the day’s top 3 blog topics, which instead include Google’s new operating system, juvenile justice in Russia and a subway machinist who fell off the train.
Obama’s visit appears at #11 in the “additional topics” column, which also contains references to the G8 summit in Italy, a Beer and Kvas festival, Newsweek’s list of top 10 books in the world, and the visit by Patriarch Cyril to the Ukraine.
A search among the posts of the top four bloggers in Russia found virtually no mention of Obama’s visit, although Live Journal blogger “drugoi”, whose photoblog is the most popular on RuNet, has a brief post on the superiority of White House press photography over that of the Kremlin.
Yikes. Is this kind of “coverage” that Russophiles think is going to save Russian democracy? Not likely.
In fact, even the tiny fraction of Russians who are able to go online do not have access to real information, not unless they are fluent in a foreign language and willing to actively search it out. That disquailfies virtually the entire country. And beyond the Internet, there simply is no real information at all. Russians were not even allowed to watch Barack Obama deliver a speech in their country, even though he wanted to “reset” and improve relations. The Kremlin censored him from all the national TV networks.
Russia is, as we’ve said for years now, a neo-Soviet state. It’s people live in blindness, but his time nobody can claim they are victims. They have embraced rule by the KGB, and the blindness that results is totally predictable.
The people of Russia have only themselves to blame for the brutal future that awaits them.