Last March, Russian state-controlled television channel NTV aired an anti-oppositionist hack program called “Anatomy of a Protest.” The show came in the wake of the largest anti-governmental demonstrations Russia had seen since the fall of the Soviet Union, and accused those demonstrators, without any evidence, of getting paid for their efforts. Although the accusations were highly absurd, had no basis in reality (renowned TV host Vladimir Posner said it initially looked like a “spoof”), and led to numerous NTV journalists resigning in protest, the majority of Russian citizens get their news from television, so a negative impact on the image of the opposition was inevitable.
Now, NTV has released a follow-up program entitled “Anatomy of a Protest 2.” The program, which aired last Thursday, accuses Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov of conspiring with Georgia to obtain foreign funding to aid with anti-Putin protests in Russia. While Udaltsov denies the conspiracy, federal investigators are taking the matter seriously to a surreal extent. The film also alleges that leading Russian oppositionist Garry Kasparov holds US citizenship – a charge that has been debunked so many times that it has almost become cliché. In his latest op-ed, Kasparov puts the accusation against him in larger context of the Russian leadership’s insulated conspiratorial mindset.
In a country where parliament has long since ceased to be a place for discussion, and the participation of the top leadership in pre-electoral debates is seen as damaging sovereign democracy, it’s inevitable that television would turn into a mouthpiece for radical state propaganda. Since losing one’s reputation among “official” journalists has long since ceased to be a relevant factor, and the libel law is well known to be used only against people who criticize the current government, federal television has armed itself, with no misgivings, against the opposition with Putin’s favorite tool, “wasting [them] down the toilet.”
“The Anatomy of a Protest 2,” yet another of NTV’s masterpieces of incrimination, fully corresponds with the Kremlin’s conception of opposition leaders as foreign agents conspiring evilly against their homeland. And, of course, in their anxiousness to expose this insidious plot, generously funded by foreign security services, they couldn’t help but revisit the hackneyed myth of “American citizen Kasparov.” This time, the source isn’t an anonymous Nashi leaflet, but solid, trustworthy Public Chamber member Georgy Fedorov, head of the social and political research center Aspekt (”Garry Kasparov is a man who can go into any US governmental office whenever he wants, because he’s a US citizen.” 34 minutes into the film). In the biography of this zealous public guardian of the foundations of the state, there’s a mention of a thank-you letter from the Central Electoral Commission, which in today’s Russia means that the recipient has an exceptional ability to disseminate information that has nothing to do with actual reality.
Surely, the appropriate Russian agencies haven’t lost so much of their professionalism that they aren’t in a state to verify such elemental pieces of the biography of a Russian citizen. So it’s logical to assume that the Kremlin’s propaganda machine acts according to the well-known principle that “the dregs will remain.” So, for instance, the information about how Kasparov asked NATO to bomb Russia that appeared on Infox.ru was immediately replicated by all other mass media. But, naturally, the redaction that Infox.ru was forced to publish after my lawsuit did not enjoy such publicity.
The history of my “Americanization” has old roots. Back in 1975, when my teacher Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik tried to put together a small stipend for me, a number of chess managers felt it was pointless to invest in my training because “Kasparov will run abroad sooner or later.” High-level party leaders used this same argument during my confrontation with Anatoly Karpov, which justified his need for administrative support. I also recall that, at the beginning of the 2000s, a journalist writing about chess asked if I planned to leave Russia. When I said no, he looked at me strangely and said heatedly: “If I had a hundred thousand dollars, there’s no way I’d stay here.”
This honest admission is the most accurate possible reflection of the mentality of today’s so-called Russian elite, which, indeed, attempts to hide its own complete integration with the Western world with cheap patriotic rhetoric. The idea that anyone with the means to get an American passport (or at least a green card) wouldn’t jump at the chance simply doesn’t occur to them. And, like always, the only explanation for events that don’t correspond with their primitive views of the surrounding world is that it is a mythical conspiracy theory.
Of course, such conspiracy theories won’t prevent a libel suit, although anything’s possible in Putin’s courts. My previous lawsuit against Nashi, in 2008, was turned down because the court didn’t find sufficient basis to confirm the fact that plaintiff Garry Kimovich Kasparov was the same “American citizen Kasparov” mentioned in the Nashi leaflet.
The film “Anatomy of a Protest 2″ won’t leave the judges with that same room for doubt. So it’ll be interesting to see what explanations citizen G. V. Fedorov and his co-defendants from NTV bring with them to court.
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