Extreme Makeover: Russian Home Edition

1200px-Ty_Pennington
Ty Pennington

This is what is meant by ruchnoye upravlenie or “hands-on governance” in Russia.

“In a stage-managed gesture of benevolence a year ahead of a presidential election, Russia’s Vladimir Putin flew 1,200 km (750 miles) to call in on a woman living in squalor and ordered her to be rehoused immediately” (Gleb Stolyarov, “Eyeing election, Russia’s Putin stages visit to voter’s rundown home,” Reuters, June 28, 2017).

None of the other candidates (?), especially Alexei Navalny, who was officially sidelined by the Central Electoral Commission the other day, can hand out new houses and trips to Sochi to the needy. If they could and did, they would probably be brought up on charges for influence peddling or something like that.

But Putin can do it. The problem is that he cannot and will not do it for everyone, and certainly not in the systematic way implied by the clause in the 1993 Russian Federal Constitution that declares (emptily, as it would turn out) that the Russian Federation is a “social state,” i.e., a welfare state in the best sense of the word. That would mean bankrupting the current Russian state, i.e., the capitalist oligarchy run by Putin and his cronies in “manual mode” for their own benefit and one else’s.

I love the headline: “Eyeing election…” There are virtually no real elections in Russia, and in the few elections where a real, well-meaning person might, theoretically, be able to sneak past the watchful eyes of the elections boards—say, if she ran as a candidate in a lowly municipal district council (not even for city council or regional legislative assembly, where the winners do have nominal or real power and, at least, in Petersburg, personal discretionary budgets for spending on pet projects)—she would end up serving on a entity that has almost no budget (to hand out largesse, like Putin did in this case, or to do something that benefits all or many of her constituents) and no power whatsoever.

Putin will limit his campaigning to a few feel-good demonstrations of “manual control” like this one, where he unwittingly reproduces the role played more cheerfully and persuasively by Ty Pennington on ABC’s popular reality TV program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which probably did more for the needy than Putin has ever done and ever wants to do. TRR

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Manufacturing Half-Baked Consent in Russia

Here is a textbook example of today’s Russian-language propaganda journalism (the bill footed by Russian taxpayers, one sixth of whom have slipped below subsistence level living, according to Rosstat).

canadian smiThe headline reads, “Canadian media: By provoking Russia, US risks following in the footsteps of Hitler and Napoleon. With its mendacious rhetoric and endless military exercises near the Russian border, the US is trying to pull Moscow into a military conflict, write Canadian media. However, journalists [sic] argue that Washington should remember how previous attempts to conquer Russia ended.”

If you actually read the article—and why bother, because its robot compilers want you to scan three things very quickly and get the takeaway message in under ten seconds: 1) like Napoleon and Hitler, the US wants to “conquer” Russia for some reason; 2) the US has been taken over by neo-Nazis—just look at the picture; 3) even the otherwise loyal “Canadian media” are writing about this fiendishness—you’ll find out that the “Canadian media” referred to is really just this one article, published on the more than dubious Canadian Putin fan club website Global Research.

The article was written by someone named Stephen Lendmann, “who lives in Chicago.”

Well, Mr. Lendmann does much more than just live in Chicago. He has also edited a nice little anthology of pro-Putin writing by western leftists and “anti-imperialists,” entitled FLASHPOINT IN UKRAINE: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.

At $24.95 a pop, it’s a steal, I think.

Meanwhile, back in Putinland, where it will probably soon be a crime to read or speak English (lest anyone get any funny ideas), Russian readers will have to content themselves with this Russian-language summary of Lendmann’s article, which features, inexplicably, a photo of someone dressed up as Hitler and looking desperate.

A waxwork of Adolf Hitler before a 41-year-old man tore its head off from the controversial exhibit on the opening day of Berlin's Madame Tussauds July 5, 2008 is seen in this July 3, 2008 file photo. The man was arrested by police after he jumped over the desk and ripped off the head of the waxwork figure in protest of the controversial exhibit that showed a glum-looking Adolf Hitler behind his desk in a mock bunker during the last days of his life.   REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/Files  (GERMANY) - RTX7NQ0

A quick Google image search reveals that this is not someone dressed up as Hitler, much less the world’s greatest villain himself, photographed on the eve of his demise in the bunker, but a waxwork figure of Hitler whose head was torn off by an enraged visitor on the opening day of Madame Tussauds Berlin in July 2008.

This has been a brief lesson in how consent is manufactured facilely and cynically in Putin’s Russia at taxpayer expense. Basically, all the major Russian media outlets have been engaged in this manufacturing of reality for most or all of Putin’s reign, but since the winter of 2014, the brakes have come off the buggy and fact-based reality almost never makes an appearance in such “news reports.”

* * * * * *

Sadly, lots of people here buy into this stuff, at least partly, if only in a half-baked “since they rant on about it day and night, at least some of it must be at least sort of true” way. I am not the “liberal” (i.e., profoundly misogynistic, Russophobic) Levada Center, and I don’t believe that polls in this country are used in any other way than the implicitly violent, authoritarian “we get the feedback we want” mode, so I will never cite any of these dubious surveys to make an argument about how many people believe this crap, much less how they believe it. (Which really would be the only interesting aspect of this “pollocracy” to study.)

However, a student of mine, an otherwise level-headed psychiatrist, told me the other day that the large numbers of young patients he sees with severe personality disorders and traumas had something to do with the chaos of the nineties, when many of these young people, then small kids, were left to fend for themselves, emotionally, at least. It is hard to argue with that hypothesis.

But then he said something I am sure he didn’t believe himself when he said it.

“Russians have been better off psychologically when they have had a strong leader.”

The desire to conform to “public opinion” among God’s allegedly smartest creatures is strong, almost irresistible at times, and not only in Russia.

P.S. A simple Google image search revealed that the photo of the Sieg-Heiling US neo-Nazis, above, was undoubtedly filched from this Reuters article about how, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (who never saw a hate group they didn’t like to blow out of proportion), the number of hate groups in the US has declined by 17% over the last year.

And yet, if RT is to be believed—visually and viscerally, so to speak—these selfsame declining neo-Nazis have somehow either seized power in the US or are dictating US policy towards Moscow. Or have something to do with provoking the powerful anti-American, pro-Moscow tilt of the “Canadian” media.

In reality, they have nothing to do with anything.

us neonazis