The state-owned media giant RIA Novosti is being restructured, and its editor Svetlana Mironyuk has been replaced by a well-known Putin mouthpiece, Dmitry Kiselyov. Slon.ru, a liberal online magazine, weighs in on the recent development. — Ed.
The fall of RIA Novosti is a drama that was deliberately made into a serial. Everyone saw the first series, when Svetlana Mironyuk cried; when the students from the Higher Economics School (also, between us, a bit RIA) organized an action of solidarity with taped mouth; and with the demonic Dmitry Kiselyov gesticulating as he does on television, but asking people not to confuse him with his television image.
But the second series promises to be more gripping – in the spring, or even earlier, after the New Year’s holidays, when the “liquidation commission” headed by Kiselyov finally assume their rights, some of the RIA journalists, including likely those who in the first series suffered on social networks due to Kiselyov’s appointment, will have to think about how to go on living and where to go on working.
They will come to the conclusion that there is no place to work besides RIA, and at least it is worth waiting – maybe Rossiya Segodnya will not be so terrible as it might have seemed at first, and on the whole, haste makes waste. People will joke nervously, call Kiselyov “our vampire” or something like that, but out of every hundred employees of RIA today, at least half will address “our vampire” with a request to remain at work in the newly-organized agency, and in that context, even if the second half begin to slam the door and make a scandal, even so, the statements requesting employment will outweigh them. It’s already obvious now that despite all the conversations about the hundreds of journalists who were cast at the mercy of Dmitry Kiselyov, there is only one real victim suffering from the liquidation of RIA – that’s Svetlana Mironyuk, whose future fate is incomparably more unsure than the fate of any other correspondents of Prime [the owner of RIA Novosti] who, even asking Kiselyov the most pointed questions, have already entered into relations with him as their lawful new boss (damn it, this is Kiselyov, after all, the very same [who advocated burning the hearts of gay people], you could at least boo at him or something. But no, they stood so politely, asking him questions, talking to him – that is, they accepted him, that’s it.)
This is already just pure mathematics. If somewhere near the government there is an endless number of “decent people”(in scare quotes, because “decent people” is already a special term which is customary in our country to signify a social group, a part of the intelligentsia, who have not been caught in any indisputably low acts), then in the division of this infinity in half (or in thirds or in quarters, as much as you want) in strict conformity with the laws of mathematics, you will still get infinity. And the number of “decent people” cooperating with the state will be equal to infinity always because the boundaries of the social group “decent people” have nowhere been fixed, and the more “decent people” turn away from the government, the more other “decent people” remain with the government – it’s just that ordinary and often even indecent people through this process turn into “decent” (here’s a test: imagine that three or four years ago the president of Russia had liquidated RIA Novosti; would such a decision have been a blow to freedom of speech or not?) Most likely it is precisely this paradox that ensures such an impressive persistence to Putin’s Kremlin; if only vampires cooperated with him, everything would be completely different. But as practice has already shown many times, each time the latest Chulpan Khamatova winds up next to Putin, and life continues precisely in the previous wearisome fashion, well, what can you do, infinity is not beatable. [Khamatova is a famous actress and philanthropist who was criticized by some of the Russian intelligentsia for supporting Putin in the elections apparently in exchange for ensuring that her charity would not be closed.]
This week, we will see yet another illustration of this simple mathematical law – Putin’s big press conference, in which as always hard questions will resound, interspersed, and in the right proportion, with touching and humorous sayings and simple human stories. They will ask about the amnesty, about the possible abolition of the mayoral elections, about Ukraine, about the amendments to the Constitutions – these homework assignments, written in large letters on little slips of paper, are obviously sitting on Putin’s desk, and Dmitry Peskov [Putin’s press secretary] already knows which of these homework assignments will become at the end of the week the vivid and cited news on the wires of the news agencies. No matter what a journalist brings to a Putin press conference, he is already a co-author of this carnival of aphorisms, regardless of whether he asks about the Bolotnaya prisoners (although why ask about them – Putin has already said a hundred times what he thinks of them), or whether he tells about how the governor refused to pave the street in his native village. The only thing that could make a Putin press conference an important political event would be if Putin and Peskov would come out on the Kremlin stage and see in the hall instead of the 1,319 accredited correspondents, only the eternal Andrei Kolesnikov and Andrei “600 Square Meters” Tumanov [a reference to his editing of a paper for landowners].
Then we would really see a sensational press conference, and only then would each one of these 1,319 have a chance to seriously go down in history. But they will of course not use their chance, and it will be Putin who will go down in history, as, likely, the first Russian ruler who learned how to properly speak with “decent people.”