… You don’t know how ridiculous it looks. Honestly.
The context is as follows. A couple of weeks ago, the “well-known in close circles” Russian lawyer Alexey Navalny, the creator of the anti-corruption website RosPil (the name is a clever wordplay that alludes to the concept of the Russian ruling elite that is dividing – literally, “sawing away” – Russia’s wealth amongst themselves), who has one of the most popular blogs of the Russian blogosphere (and who was just recently at Yale for some sort of a leadership program!), said in a radio interview that United Russia (Edinaya Rossiya), Russia’s ruling party, is a “party of thieves and swindlers”. In his blog, Navalny makes similar statements consistently (for example, that a daughter of a United Russia member governor mysteriously owns about a dozen enterprises at the age of 18), and, what’s more, he usually cites the appropriate documents to support his claims. Not surprisingly, United Russia, whose leader (but paradoxically not its member) is Vladimir Putin, didn’t like this turn of events. Surprisingly though, instead of just ignoring Navalny’s statement, which is the party’s usual tactic, one of the party members, Evgeny Fedorov, United Russia member and Chair of State Duma Committee on Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship, decided to participate in a radio debate with Navalny, which aired yesterday. While it was brave of Mr. Fedorov (and untypical of the Russian bureaucrats) to even show up to talk about the issue, it was sad to watch and listen to the nonsense he was saying.
In a nutshell, Fedorov, despite all the evidence presented by Navalny, claimed any corruption allegations to be rumors, and, most importantly, blamed Navalny for being an “American agent” whose “job” is to “destabilize Russia”. The latter, of course, was a KGB-like tactic aimed at swaying the conversation away from the actual topic. However, in doing so, Fedorov continuously claimed that the U.S. has a huge budget specifically for the purposes of destabilizing Russia, and that Navalny works directly under the orders of the U.S. Embassy.
Now think about how ridiculous it would look if, for example, a senior U.S. Congressman accused an American lawyer or journalist of being a Russian agent. Aside from being ridiculous, it would be a serious accusation that would require factual support. In Russia? Nah. No evidence or even common sense needed.
It makes me sad that such outdated rhetoric still works in Russia. To be fair, 99% of over 1300 listeners supported Navalny over Fedorov in a text message vote, which gives some hope. But still, the very fact the Fedorov is able to exploit the “America-wants-Russia-dead”-rhetoric without being immediately ridiculed, means a lot. It means that a large chunk of Russians, especially those who are not necessarily savvy Internet users, share this stupid Cold War stereotype.
Fedorov argued that Russia was on a brink of collapse in 2000, and then Putin heroically saved the day. Wrong! Russia was just starting to breathe, and Putin gradually cut off the oxygen supply. America is allegedly dying to weaken Russia and is eager to spend tons of money on it. Only after living in the U.S. for a couple of years can a Russian fully realize how ridiculous it sounds for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, in Russia, this sounds weirdly normal even to the smartest people – such is the power of long-enforced stereotype. If Russia hadn’t been so preoccupied with blaming everything on America, it could have been on its way to a more prosperous future right now. But no, people have been brainwashed with the same bullshit for a decade. And it still works – at least on some people.
It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.