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#25 - JRL 8375 - JRL Home
From: "Mike Averko" <mikeaverko@msn.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2004

Anglo-American mass media's shamefully one sided commentary and reporting of Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposed changes for Russia's political system overlooks several realities. Ironic how this very same media has the gall to assert that Russian media isn't open. As a mater of fact, Russian media is filled with plenty criticism about the Russian president, with much of it being unfair.

The mantra of condemnation of Putin is grossly hypocritical. Even if his proposal takes effect, Russia will remain far more democratic than Saudi Arabia and Communist China. In relation to the Bush administration's criticism of the Putin proposal, where is the similarly stated opposition to the regimes in Riyadh and Beijing (the same can be asked of Anglo-American mass media)? The answer lies with the economic ties that Washington has with those two countries.

Especially pathetic is the suggestion found in neo-conservative circles of punishing Russia with sanctions. U.S.-Russia trade is insignificant as is, unlike Russia's trade with Asia and Europe.

Contrary to the imagery found in much of Anglo-American mass media, it's not only Putin's inner circle desiring his proposal in Russia. It could be said that it isn't actually his own and that he has caved in to popular opinion. The Russian population and body politic at large show support and little opposition to the proposal. All this is muted because Anglo-American mass media often props some dissenting Russian political minority, while muting out the more mainstream Russian perspectives. This is on par with having the fringe American Socialist Workers' Party reflecting the U.S. with the views of the Republican and Democratic parties shelved. This kind of slanting does little to reflect reality.

Since the Soviet breakup, the Russian republics having the most autonomy from Moscow (like Kalmykia and Tatarstan, as well as Chechnya when it had broad autonomy) are also the most authoritarian and corrupt, thereby debunking the faulty notion that less centralized authority automatically transcends into greater human rights.

It's astonishing how many Anglo-American analysts overlook this point. The American South's clamoring for "states' rights" was a veiled attempt to better enact discriminatory measures against Blacks. Likewise, Yugoslav dictator Tito's granting of autonomy to Kosovo in 1974, resulted in the increased discrimination of non-Albanians in that south Serb province.

The Russian citizenry generally welcome Putin's proposal of more centralized governance as a means of making local leaders more accountable. The local leaders in turn welcome it because the Kremlin will be held more responsible when screw-ups occur. Many of these local leaders also correctly see themselves as individuals who Putin is more likely to trust over untested upstarts.

Putin didn't inherit a Jeffersonian democracy. Try as they may to be open minded, many Anglo-American analysts subconsciously apply their own political upbringing to the Russian experience. Other issues include the influence of extreme anti-Russian prejudices by some non-Russian commentators from eastern and central Europe as well as those indicted Russian oligarchs (namely Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky), who have made great financial donations to some groups involved in analyzing Russia.

In America, there's no legitimate denying that the anti-Russian view gets far greater emphasis over the Russia friendly view. Someone passionately pro-Russian as Zbigniew Brzezinski is passionately anti-Russian doesn't come close to getting the same consideration in American mass media, academia and body politic. Russia has been poor in making efforts to have its view positively portrayed in the U.S. Recently, Moscow seems aware of the need to better enhance its image abroad. Other foreign governments have been successful in employing the use of public relations firms to enhance their image in America.

Such pr gamesmanship has its disingenuous aspects. For Russia to have a more positive image in America, it's perhaps a necessary evil.