The Scare


In Putin’s Russia, the US has been the go-to scapegoat for years now for everything that goes wrong in the country, from crashes in the Moscow subway to, in this recent case, the fact that 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the mayor of Tomsk, a major Siberian city, to resign.

Let me repeat that. The shameless scapegoating of the US, usually in the demonic guise of the “Gosdep,” the US State Department, has been going on at all levels of Russian government, mainstream media, and society for many, many years.

It’s actually been going on in certain circles since the mid 1990s. I remember once watching a “documentary” on the local cable access channel back then outlining the CIA’s alleged plan to turn Russian youth onto hard drugs.

Putin, more pointedly, blamed the mighty Gosdep and Hillary Clinton personally for engineering the popular uprising against his regime during the elections of 2011–2012, although there was zero evidence this was the case.

So why haven’t we heard much of anything about this long-running, utterly baseless “red-white-and-blue scare” or “permanent scare”? (I don’t know what else to call it. If you have a better suggestion, let me know).

The scare has claimed lots of real victims, including dozens of Russian NGOs, most of them doing invaluable, irreplaceable work for their own people, not for the Gosdep, on shoestring budgets in terrible conditions, who have been branded “foreign agents” by the Russian Justice Ministry. Many of them have been forced to close up shop or go into exile because they weren’t able to deal with the heavy fines, court hearings, and endless inspections.

But we now have a US president-elect who took literally every opportunity he could during the campaign to gush over Putin and his “strong” leadership. Yet this fact alone—Trump’s flagrant, overt support for a war criminal, crook, and tyrant who has crushed civil society and political opposition in his own country—didn’t automatically disqualify Trump from consideration for the highest office in the land.

Let’s pretend that all the recent skullduggery around Trump isn’t true in the slightest. Would it make any difference?

Trump said time and again that Putin was his idol. Let’s take him at his word and oppose him, among the thousand other reasons we should oppose him, for that huge, steaming, glaring, stinking chunk of very bad, very telling judgment and, more important, not show him the slighest sympathy for the “hard” time he has recently been getting from the press, the White House, the intelligence community, and so on.

He deserves as good as he dishes outs, and what he has been dishing out for the last two years is pure, destructive fascist evil. That will remain true whether the Kremlin hacked anything or slapped together some kompromat on him or it didn’t do anything of the sort.

Trump doesn’t deserve a fair deal for the simple reason that he doesn’t want a fair deal for so many of his fellow Americans and lots of other people, starting with the Mexicans. Let’s treat him like the enemy he is instead of inadvertently defending him and Putinist tyranny to boot by conjuring up equally nonexistent “CIA coups” and God knows what else. TRR


NTV Lies

Warning in TV listing next to NTV logo: "Be careful! TV news programs often commit distortions and false information. This tendency has been most often been remarked on NTV and Rossiya." Photo courtesy of
Warning in TV listing next to NTV logo: “Be careful! TV news programs often commit distortions and false information. This tendency has been most often been remarked on the channels NTV and Rossiya.” Photo courtesy of

Hygienic Modification
Regional newspapers warn readers about “false information on NTV”
June 8, 2016

Beginning June 8, up to a hundred regional newspapers, most of them members of the Alliance of Independent Regional Newspapers (ANRI), will publish in their TV listings a warning next to the logo of TV channel NTV that it spreads false information. Valery Bezpyatykh, editor-in-chief of City News, a newspaper published in Redva, Sverdlovsk Region, and one of the organizers of the protest, explained their plans to TV Rain.

According to Bezpyatykh, he vetted the text of the appeal to ANRI members with lawyers before sending the letter, in which he asked members to note in their TV listings for NTV that the channel broadcasts “distorted information or propaganda” under the guise of journalism.

Bezpyatykh estimated that between twenty and forty newspapers could join the protest this week, but by the next week the number could grow to one hundred.

The protest was inspired by the newspaper Evening Yakutsk, which in late May printed a note next to NTV’s logo, warning that the channel committed “distortions and false information” on the air. The note appeared in the newspaper after the film Debtors of the State Department, which claimed the newspaper received funds from foreign sources linked to the US State Department, was aired. The film also mentioned other media outlets, including Tula News Agency, the Tomsk channel TV2, and Chelyabinsk Worker newspaper.

Excerpt from the TV listings in the June 8, 2016, edition of the Redva City News. The warning read, “Be careful! You might get distorted information or propaganda in the guise of journalism on NTV. Details on page 2.” Image courtesy of

The Public Board on Complaints against the Press has labeled the NTV film a “mendacious denunciation” in which “manipulative techniques for impacting the minds of viewers” were used. The board supported the view of expert Svetlana Shaikhitdinova, who argued the NTV film was an “information product created by spin doctors in order to discredit the directors of Russia’s regional media.”

NTV has repeatedly broadcast made-for-TV films attempting to expose the Russian opposition. The most controversial were Anatomy of a Protest and Anatomy of a Protest 2, shot in 2012. Russian law enforcement authorities filed criminal charges based on claims made in Anatomy of a Protest 2.

In April 2016, the channel aired the film Kasyanov’s Day, based on illegal footage of members of the opposition.

NTV has been on the air in Russia since 1993. It is part of the Gazprom Media Group holding, owned by Gazprombank.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade VZ and Gabriel Levy for the heads-up

Sergey Chernov: Grymov’s Hollow War

A still from Yury Grymov’s Strangers

A Hollow War
Sergey Chernov
St. Petersburg Times
October 17, 2008

Condoleezza Rice, allegedly, has banned Yury Grymov’s new film, but is it all just a cheap, blog-led PR stunt to drum up publicity?

Local channel 100TV opened its evening newscast on Wednesday last week with a report that Moscow director Yury Grymov’s film Strangers (Chuzhiye) had been banned in the U.S. The film is due for release in November, and critics suggest this “news” was part of the publicity campaign for the film, which kicked off last week. The channel itself was hard pressed to name its source, claiming it arrived by e-mail from a news agency.

“Grymov’s film Strangers has been banned in the U.S.,” said the newscast’s presenter. “Condoleezza Rice’s staff has not recommended it for distribution.”

“Most likely, this has something to do with the anti-American mood of the picture, which would be inappropriate in view of the upcoming presidential elections in America.”

It is unlikely that the station’s claims have any real basis. The U.S. Secretary of State’s purview does not include monitoring either new Russian films or, more to the point, giving recommendations to U.S. film distributors.

The report was, however, in tune with anti-American sentiments in the Russian media, which have been on the rise in the aftermath of the war in Georgia. TV100 did not provide any sources for their report.

The report ended with a fragment of a tape-recorded telephone conversation with Grymov, a TV ad maker turned feature-film director. He described the news as a “surprise.”

“I think this is nonsense, but everything is possible. I don’t know anything about it for certain yet,” he said.

The 100TV report also aroused suspicions because, as a Google News search revealed, there was no mention of the subject, or even of Grymov, in the international media.

100TV editor-in-chief Andrei Radin did not respond to an e-mail inquiry sent on Oct. 9, but when called on his cell phone on Thursday he said he “did not know” the source of the information.

Yekaterina Dodzina, 100TV news editor and the evening newscast presenter (whom Radin referred to), said the news came by e-mail from an agency, although she does not remember the name of the agency.

“We were surprised as well, but we checked it with Grymov and his assistant,” she said by phone on Thursday. However, Dodzina said she did not verify the information with anyone in the U.S. or with U.S. officials.

According to the film’s official website, Strangers is set in a war zone in a third-world country. The plot involves doctors from a U.S. charity organization who become responsible for some terrible crimes as the film unfolds.

“Viewers will see how the American nation tries to instill its morals in another world but at the same time it doesn’t understand one simple thing—there is no such thing as one’s ‘own’ morals. Since morals are one and the same for all,” states the film’s English-language press release.

The news was picked up by several publications, most of them web-based. All of them referred to different sources for their information. quotes the RIA Novy Region news agency, which, in turn, refers to “news agencies that quote Condoleezza Rice’s staff.”

Research has revealed that the news originated on Internet forums and was subsequently cross-posted in several blogs.

Russian entertainment website refers directly to “Condoleezza Rice’s staff,” adding that “censorship as such does not exist in American film distribution but in this specific case the U.S. State Department recommended that U.S. film companies not distribute Strangers within [the U.S.].” is published by OAO News Media, which also publishes the tabloids Zhizn and Tvoi Den.

The website also added that the U.S. Department of State had previously not recommended Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. In reality, Moore’s film had a general release in the United States in June 2004. It became the highest-grossing documentary of all time on its first weekend in release, taking in $21.8 million.

However, at least two publications soon deleted the news from their websites, although they did not publish corrections or disclaimers. The local edition of Argumenty I Fakty newspaper published an article entitled, “Condoleezza Rice Is Unhappy About Grymov’s Film Strangers,” on its website on Oct. 9. When accessed on Saturday, this page was blank. Cinema website also later removed its article on the apparently fake controversy.

But it was in the blogosphere where the story gathered real force. There, the news was reposted dozens of times after the initial report on TV100.

The most persistent blogger on this front was Alexander Korsunov, who writes under the nickname “jordan_korsun.” Korsunov uploaded the video link from 100TV to the popular community “ru_politics,” and he was especially active in responding to the comments and misgivings of other bloggers. In several postings, he corroborated the veracity of the report, claiming that American film distributors obey the recommendations of the U.S. State Department.

Research on the web has shown that Korsunov works in public relations and has himself been involved in the blogosphere advertising campaign for Strangers.

On, the business offer that Korsunov made to Ruslan Paushu, who blogs under the nickname “goblin-gaga,” was found.

“Do you remember how you and I tried to launch a campaign against Ukraine over the ‘gas war,’” Korsunov wrote to Paushu on Sept. 30.

“I want to invite you to take part in a PR campaign [in the blogosphere]. Grymov is releasing a new film, Strangers, about American doctors, Arabs, and the Russian military. The film is patriotic and ideological, especially in connection with the [war in] South Ossetia. […] If [you’re] interested, please write to [inform me] about your conditions […] and come to the pre-release screening.”

Last year, Paushu was identified by Vedomosti newspaper as one of two bloggers who launched an infamous advertising campaign for Utkonos, a Moscow store chain. Several popular bloggers almost simultaneously made similar postings advertising the chain.

Dozens of popular bloggers were caught placing Utkonos ads in their postings. According to Vedomosti, Paushu said the postings were commissioned by an advertising agency that he declined to identify. He added that bloggers are usually paid $50 to $300 for covert product placements in their blogs.

In a posting to another blogger (the deleted comment is available in the cache of search engines), Korsunov confessed that there was a budget for advertising Strangers in the blogosphere.

“There is a budget for PR, not especially large, but I think the stance of the film is close to yours and you’ll find it interesting,” he wrote.

Further research showed that the news originated in two places, a Canadian website (where it was later deleted) and an Arabic-language forum. There, the report, which had apparently been translated into Arabic from Russian by a computer program, was still available as of Thursday. In another discussion on, which took place on the afternoon of Oct. 8, several hours before the 100TV evening newscast, Korsunov referred to the Arabic version as the “original.”

Korsunov first achieved a modicum of fame in 2005, when, as a 22-year-old student, he launched the website Now defunct, it was described as a source of political news independent from the Kremlin. “Information is the first step toward democracy,” he said in an interview with The Moscow Times at the time.

Film critic Stanislav Zelvensky, who writes for Afisha, arguably Russia’s leading listings magazine, said the news that Grymov’s film had been banned in the U.S. could easily be part of the film’s advertising campaign.

“When I first saw, or rather read this [on the web], I thought it was an advertising campaign,” he said. “It looks like a publicity stunt.”

Zelvensky said film companies occasionally hire bloggers to advertise a movie, but more often their own publicists do the work.

“I’ve read all this, but it’s not clear who was paid and who was not,” he said.

“Actually, they do not pay many people. Usually, it’s someone who works for the film company itself. This person launches a blog, or starts to write to Internet film communities about what a wonderful film it is.

“To put it crudely, there is a girl on salary who sits and types postings to endless numbers of silly [Live Journal] communities. ‘Such-and-such a film is being released, and I would love to see it. Guys, do you know what it’s about?’”

However, such stunts like the one probably used to advertise Strangers help film companies economize on their advertising budgets, according to Zelvensky.

“It’s clear that there’s a certain advertising budget in any case, and a portion of it can go to blogs,” he said.

“But it’s more effective when some copywriters come up with something like this, and it spreads all by itself, and then, when you realize that it’s fake, it’s already all over the place.”