OK, so here goes: The New York Times has published an article about another New York Times article which prompted strong responses from the Russian public. Yes, I think I’ve that right. What happened is that someone came up with the interesting (and highly promoted) idea of creating a LiveJournal page for the newspaper and translating a long feature article by Clifford J. Levy, and soliciting some social media interaction and dialogue with the Russian blogosphere. An appealing idea, but it is always hard to know which comments are coming from genuine individual citizens and web users and which comments represent the Kremlin’s astroturfing efforts (creating fake grassroots trends on comment boards) as we have seen in many other examples. Nevertheless, the variety of vibrantly pro- and anti-government reactions to the Times piece makes for good reading.
From the New York Times:
The Moscow bureau of The Times reviewed the comments in Russian and translated scores that were representative of the strains of opinion on the site. The translations in English were then posted in the comments section that accompanied the article on www.nytimes.com.Here are excerpts of the translations:“I do not doubt that most or all of the facts in the article have a place, but they are a drop in the ocean. THERE IS NO ATMOSPHERE OF FEAR in the country, though the journalist is subtly painting the picture of a ‘bloody regime’ that pressures its citizens.We do have problems and we will solve them in time. Democracy is great when you live under a warm roof and have your piece of bread with butter for lunch. For now, the people do not need democracy, but the possibility to live humanely.Please, do not teach us how to live.” dmlord“Russia has always needed to have a czar who tells people how to live and condemns things that are not right.” victor_aka“You’re facing an uphill perception battle. Your article is a piece of investigative journalism; to you — but not to your audience. Most of what’s published in this genre in Russian are thinly veiled, slanted opinion pieces masquerading as reporting. Your work, to a greater or lesser extent, will be read in the same vein.” muphta“We criticize our own government with pleasure, as well as the way of life that they impose on us. But we will never allow non-Russians to criticize our Motherland. Even Pushkin noted that.” 3rd_world_kid“If it’s a propaganda material, it is very stupid and weak. If it’s a journalist’s text, such journalists have to fired for professional incapacity. It’s better not to translate such a nightmare into Russian. One can only repeat what McCain’s wife said: I am ashamed for The New York Times.” panam“Anti-American propaganda is under the Russians’ skin, and will be for a long time.” Sashapyls“It is funny to read this from people who, for 10 years, have invaded other countries, toppled the stable regimes that ruled and enforced their rules there. Especially funny to read it if you don’t forget about prisons and torture in Guantánamo. And completely funny when you recall how these people hanged the former president of the country they invaded. Why am I saying this? Because Mr. Putin and his team are evil, of course. And only cattle vote for him. BUT these are OUR problems. And WE will sort them out.” happy_bra“People in Russia today have still failed to learn how to really look at things. For many Russians, it is still easier to blame some ‘enemy’ for all of their problems than to look for solutions to those problems.”Rothschtein“How frightening it is to live in this country.” ouks“This article is somehow strongly reminiscent of an editorial in Pravda from the Soviet days. The journalistic brainwashing techniques are identical.” Yurvur“So much noise, so much noise and the article itself is absolutely objective, it tells truth. Why attack it? Yes, the newspaper does not depend on any authorities, it’s difficult for the Russian bloggers to imagine it.” boris_petrov“Americans don’t understand an elementary thing.There is no real opposition, not because ‘Putin banned’ it, but because it has discredited itself.” archer5“Ah, freedom of speech, the foundation stone of democracy. How you got me with your ‘denunciation’ of the Putin regime. Sometimes I think that the majority of people see more ‘totalitarianism,’ ‘dictatorship’ and other frightening words than there is in reality, much more.My grandmother told me how in the 1940s at night they came and took people. That was a police state.” chiga28“Looks like everything is correct and that overall, the quite ugly picture of political reality in Russia is outlined with high authenticity.But why do I have such an unpleasant feeling from what I’ve read?As the patriots correctly noted, the opinion of the reporter is too contemptuous, which is very close to America’s and Americans’ foreign political views on the outside world.” mark_ars“This can be a first pebble skipped on the water, just to send out feelers and find a pretext to start a dialogue. Not a dialogue between Bush and Putin, but between our peoples, who are neither dumb nor bright, simply different.” falcon icp