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Feature Story April 22, 2004
 
Lord of the Swine
Censorship in Russia: Revenge of the Disenfranchised By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
Page 7 of 7
 
This kind of two-faced hypocrisy is exactly why most Russians could give a shit once the Tregubovas started to squeal. Indeed, those squeals sounded good, as good as the squealing that came from the oligarchs whom Putin also brought to heel.

Alexander Budberg of Moskovsky Komsomolets said it exactly right on page 277 of her book when he described the purpose of Putin's press strangling this way: "You don't understand: Putin is creating a new elite of journalists." This new class of journalists today is far less overtly arrogant, far more humble about its role as mere PR conduit. It knows its place. And if you're one of the 80 percent of Russia's have-nots, that's not a bad gift from the president.

Putin may not have redistributed the stolen property; but at least he made some grotesquely arrogant elitists cry. And that's more than most presidents have ever done.

It was only later, when I put the book down for several hours and my spleen settled to more normal levels of bile production, that I remembered the context of this appealing dramatic resolution. The fact is, the free press under Putin really has been destroyed, to the extent that the oligarchical press was "free." One has to remember that on some tangential, accidental level, freedom of speech and democratic values really were victims of this grotesque battle between vile elites. But since this freedom only served a tiny elite, it hasn't been missed as much as it should have.


In this context, the results of December's Duma elections become that much more understandable. Chubais and the liberals ran on commercials showing them zooming around the country in private jets, tapping away on their elitny notebook computers, expecting everyone to fall on their feet for them...but instead, they got booted out of power for good.

Kremlin Administration chief Dmitry Medvedev's op-ed piece in the Financial Times this week blamed exactly this attitude, as well as the liberals' lack of a social conscience, for their loss. Whatever his motives, he's obviously right. Not that there's a lesson to be learned. It isn't as if tomorrow the SPS elitists are suddenly going to discover the narod. If they're smart, they're applying for green cards, so they can take their pafosny act on the road for good.

I will cite one last example. Tregubova writes that she and Masha Slomin argued often over Chubais; Tregubova supports him unquestionably, not the least because he always gave her access and complimented her on her looks, while Slomin, according to Tregubova, "being a British subject, transferred to Russian politics her innocent delusion of a satisfied, stable and noble Europe the idea that the more intellectual you are, the more you should support the Left. Simply out of a feeling of harmony -- because one should always support the weak..." Here is Russian elitist liberalism, the liberalism of the Yeltsin intelligentsia, summed up in a sentence. Tregubova cannot even imagine that her best friend arrived at her politics based on idealism rather than on crude, superficial clannishness. To support the weak is naive, innocent, almost sad. To be liberal, in the mold of Tregubova and Chubais, is to be elite and to enjoy all of the elite's trappings. The free press was a good thing because Tregubova led an interesting elitny life. Period. Nothing more.

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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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