A New Low for Russian “Journalism”
We did not imagine we would be called upon to comment on the arrest for sexual assault of former IMF chairman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but a shockingly unprofessional op-ed about him in the Moscow Times gives us no choice but to do so.
In a profoundly ironic moment, the article accuses the U.S. of arresting Strauss-Kahn based on false charges in order to serve its own “propaganda” interests, yet the article was written by Alexei Pushkov, who hosts a political show on Kremlin-controlled television and earns his living as a professor of diplomacy at a state-controlled university. He is also a regular columnist for state-sponsored propaganda outlet Russia Today. Not once does he pause to alert readers to his own potential propaganda bias.
And it’s clear why Pushkov wants to make this attack: In the service of his Kremlin masters, he wants to deflect attention from the Kremlin’s outrageous misconduct in the Magnitsky and Khodorkovsky cases. It would be one thing if he at least told the truth about DSK in attempting to offer his propaganda, but his text is loaded with lies and misinformation that would make Stalin proud.
The basic errors of journalism in Pushkov’s essay are so many and so shocking that they recall the era of Soviet “journalism” when pro-government lies were policy.
Let’s start with the thesis that the U.S. arrested Strauss-Kahn. It didn’t. DSK was arrested by the State of New York and charged with a crime which the U.S. government has absolutely no authority to prosecute. Pushkov doesn’t understand this because he is ignorant and illiterate, and like most Russians has no idea of the vast differences between the American and Russian legal systems. Russia has no concept of federalism, but America does.
Pushkov states that “the prosecution itself acknowledged that it did not trust the testimony of the 32-year-old woman who claimed Strauss-Khan sexually attacked her.” That’s a lie. The prosecutors publicly said that they are convinced the victim is telling the truth about the assault, but that her questionable past will make it very hard to convince a jury that is so.
What’s more, Pushkov totally ignores that a new accuser has come forward in France to allege that Strauss-Kahn brutally raped her as well. He has to, because it’s pretty hard to claim that the French are engaged with the Americans in a conspiracy to advance American propaganda at the expense of a prominent French citizen.
Pushkov states that “investigators have found no forensic evidence whatsoever that a non-consensual sexual attack occurred.” A second lie. In fact, the victim sustained serious injuries in the attack and that is the main reason the prosecutors themselves believe her. But by the time of a trial, the jury could not see those injuries live and in person the way the prosecutors did because they would have healed.
Pushkov states that “the worst blow to her case was the taped telephone conversation she had with an incarcerated man in which she discussed how they could benefit financially fr om accusing the wealthy Strauss-Kahn of raping her.” That’s lie #3. The victim never filed a lawsuit and never made any demand on Strauss-Kahn for money. By filing criminal charges, she made it impossible to easily settle such a claim, because DSK could not make the criminal case disappear just by paying the victim money.
Pushkov asserts that the “perp walk” takes place because ” the people have a fundamental right to see on television who has been charged with a serious crime” and he condemns it on this basis. But that’s not why it takes place. The perp walk is meant to show victims of crime, in this case female victims of sexual assault who rarely come forward to complain about their mistreatment, that even the most powerful and famous among us are subject to justice. Here again, Pushkov betrays a fundamentally ignorant understanding of the basic precepts of the American legal system, yet he is ready to judge that system. It’s typical Russian idiocy.
Then Pushkov condemns the judge in the DSK case, accusing him of”clearly acting on emotions and not evidence” in deciding “that Strauss-Kahn should be kept in pretrial detention alongside hardened criminals instead of being freed on bail.” And he attacks the cops who were “all too quick to arrest Strauss-Kahn.” But Pushkov totally ignores the fact that DSK was only arrested and denied bail because he was on an airplane about to flee the country when the accusations against him were made. Had the judge and police not acted, many months of investigative time would have been lost while they struggled to extradite DSK from a foreign land. What other country would have acted any differently?
At last, Pushkov loses control completely and lets his propaganda motivations become absolutely clear. He writes:
The U.S. media were also disgraced. Although they love to proclaim themselves the most objective, independent and fairest in the world, there are hundreds of cases besides the Strauss-Kahn incident that prove the opposite. Remember, for example, how the U.S. media unanimously supported the NATO bombing of Belgrade in the late 1990s. Or how they so eagerly signed onto the U.S. government’s assertions that Saddam Hussein had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Or how, as if by command from above, the U.S. media attack a newly designated enemy of the United States, such as Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Moammar Gadhafi.
Belgrade? Really? That’s what this is all about, proving that the U.S. was wrong to defy Russia and invade Belgrade? And wrong to prosecute Milosevic, and wrong to defy Russia and pursue Gadhafi?
The hysterical, inane statement that U.S. media “unanimously” supported the NATO attack on Serbia (apparently, NATO is just the lapdog of the U.S. in this idiot’s ignorant, illiterate, paranoid neo-Soviet view) can be belied by anyone familiar with Google.
But even more utterly crazy is Pushkov’s attempt to prove the quality of U.S. reporting about DSK by citing Maureen Dowd. Apparently Pushkov is not aware that Dowd is an op-ed opinion columnist, not a reporter.
Then Pushkov attempts to explain his “propaganda” campaign. Apparently, the U.S. had a vendetta against DSK and wanted him out, so it invented false charges of sexual misconduct when it could not achieve his ouster by standard political means. Pushkov writes: “The Strauss-Kahn arrest corresponded in a curious way with the fierce political battle in France for the presidency and the future of the dollar as a reserve currency and the future of IMF policy.” And that’s it. No further explanation. Not a single quote from DSK indicating that he would push to drop the dollar as a reserve currency or alter IMF policy in any way that would be harmful to the United States.
And then Pushkov publishes three of the most extraordinarily mendacious paragraphs about Russia that we have ever seen in print:
Russian journalism, despite what people say and write about it in the United States, is much more distrustful of statements made by authorities. Largely because of the Soviet legacy, Russians are more skeptical than Americans of the government’s version of events. On the whole, Russians better understand that there are two sides to every scandal. In this sense, Russian journalists seem to be more open-minded than U.S. journalists, who are all too eager to believe that a “God-fearing maid,” thanks to America’s democracy, stood up to one of the world’s most powerful men.
From the very beginning, Russians viewed the allegations against Strauss-Kahn with great suspicion. Likewise, most Russians do not believe for one second that John F. Kennedy was killed by a lonely maniac. Or that the reason the United States invaded Iraq was because Saddam Hussein supposedly had weapons of mass destruction. It would seem that both Russian media and society have a better ability to put together facts and come up with logical conclusions from the story that is unfolding.
Similarly, Russians also do not believe that former President Boris Yeltsin was a “democrat” whose rule benefited the country, although this is the official version that is eagerly supported by the West. It was telling that when President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a statue in Yekaterinburg in February in honor of Yeltsin, only a handful of local citizens were present for the ceremony. The Russian media have a number of weaknesses, but political correctness is certainly not one of them.
Simply breathtaking! While claiming that Russians are better informed than Americans by more suspicious reporters, Pushkov does not mention one single fact about Russia’s current rulers, Putin and Medvedev, that Russians or Russian reporters have been suspicious about. Instead, he points to Boris Yeltsin, as if there is nothing about Putin or Medvedev that could give rise to suspicion.
Pushkov’s rantings are simply psychotic, and fully neo-Soviet. But there is a big difference now: Unlike in Soviet times, no iron curtain prevents the world from seeing through his ridiculous lies.