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The Propaganda War

I’ll admit that both the Georgians and the Russians are being a little clumsy with their information spin in this conflict, which at its worst leads skeptical journalists to declare moral equivalence. This bit from the spin wars comes from the New Republic.

“Everybody out. You have 20 minutes to inspect this damage,” barks Alexander Machevsky, shock-trooper of the Kremlin’s propaganda war in Georgia, as he tries to shepherd 25 Western journalists out the open back of a military truck. Machevsky is not having a good day. As one of Vladimir Putin’s senior advisers and an official presidential spokesman, he’s had to come back early from his summer vacation to lead this slow-moving group of foreign correspondents around a half-ruined Georgian village just north of Gori–the eastern city Russia occupied during the war this month. And his guests are not exactly the most cooperative. At one point, Machevsky gestures towards a row of bombed-out buildings and explains, “The Georgians have been claiming that this [wreckage] was caused by Russian forces. However, that’s not the case. There were gas-leaks, lights were left on, there was criminal activity and of course cases of arson–this was specifically done by Georgian special commandos.” A British journalist butts in: “You’re not suggesting, Sasha, that the Georgians burn their own houses–are you?” Contorting his face in disbelief, Machevsky turns and hisses in Russian to the smiling, implacable Russian colonel accompanying the tour: Wish we could kick him off the truck and leave him here. But the Brit isn’t cowed: “Sasha, I speak Russian.”