Long Live Luke Harding
On December 1, 2010, Luke Harding, Russia correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, published a story based on leaked confidential government documents which concluded that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin approved the murder of dissident KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko.
Six weeks later, the very next time Harding tried to enter Russia, his visa was revoked and he was sent back home. More than three dozen foreign journalists have been refused entry to Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power and many others, like Paul Klebnikov of Forbes, have been murdered outright.
But it’s pretty hard to think of a single pro-Kremlin journalist who has been arrested or exiled or murdered by the Putin Kremlin, isn’t it?
As a Moscow Times editorial about Harding puts it: “Apparently, the Kremlin’s notion of the ideal foreign journalist is former New York Times Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty — the quintessential “useful idiot” who self-censored himself so much that he denied the Soviet famine of 1932-33 in his articles published in 1933 in an apparent attempt to please Stalin.”
In other words, the Kremlin’s attitude towards journalists in 2011 is the same as it was in the time of “Soviet power.” Russia’s leaders, and its citizens, hold journalists in contempt. They see any citizen-journalist who dares to question the Kremlin as a traitor, and any foreign journalist who dares to do so as a spy. They have no problem, in that case, exiling, jailing or murdering such persons, since they are “threats to Mother Russia.”
Just as in Soviet times, the ignorant cretins of Russia, who are the majority, are unable to fathom the notion that such journalists are society’s only hope of learning about its flaws and weaknesses in order to improve and adapt. Without such journalists, the USSR was absolutely blind to its own faults, never reformed them and therefore collapsed in failure resulting from decay and obsolescence.
How is it possible that the people of Russia, having so recently seen the consequences of this blindness, can allow it to continue? Are they suicidal, do they actually want to watch their nation collapse all over again?
There is a “happy” ending to this story in the sense that a tsunami of international outraged forced the Kremlin to back down, admit its rejection of the journalist was totally improper, and re-admit him to the country. Once again, the Kremlin showed its palpable weakness in the face of genuine pressure, proving that its opponents still have very substantial leverage. A massive outpouring of public opposition could drive Vladimir Putin from office just as it did Hosni Mubarek.
Yet the fact is, it was international pressure. The people of Russia said and did nothing to protect Harding, just as they have said and done nothing to protect any of Russia’s other dissidents, like Mikhail Khodorkovsky or Anna Politkkovskaya. Other countries will not be able to save the Russians from themselves.