Friday, June 04, 2004

Russian TV Newsman Fired in Media Crackdown

In keeping with the old frog-boiling strategy of only very gradually turning up the heat, Vladimir Putin is keeping up his slow but steady efforts to kill off all critical voices in the "new" Russia.

MOSCOW, June 2 - One of Russia's most outspoken television broadcasters has been fired after he aired a program against the wishes of the government and then objected angrily when the broadcast was abruptly halted.

The firing of the broadcaster, Leonid Parfyonov, announced Tuesday night, appears to be the latest step by President Vladimir V. Putin in tightening control over the news media as well as other areas of public life.

The firing - and the shutdown of Mr. Parfyonov's weekly current affairs program - drew accusations of Soviet-style censorship from some of his colleagues and warnings of colder times ahead from some political analysts.

"One of the best television hosts in Russia and one of the best analytic and information programs have not only been censored, they have been destroyed, which definitely indicates that we live in a police state," the Russian PEN Center of writers, poets and essayists said in one of the sharper commentaries.
I feel for Russia's intelligentsia, but what is one to do when it seems their very own masses reject the liberal values they seek to protect? What if the average Russian doesn't want to be free? One can't force liberty down the throats of people who'd prefer to stay in chains.
More broadly, Anders Aslund, a political analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow, said the move against the program, "Namedny," had been "highly predictable" because it had been one of the last freewheeling holdouts against government pressure.

"It is very consistent with Putin's strategy of building authoritarianism in small steps," Mr. Aslund said in a telephone interview from Washington.

Last week Mr. Putin suggested further government control when he said some human rights groups and other civic groups were working against the national interest.
Human rights groups are clearly "enemies of the people" - why else would they be willing to agitate for "rights" that might embarrass the Great Leader? V. Putin is the Rousseauan manifestation of the General Will, and to contradict him is to contradict the Russian people themselves.

The truly scary thing about Russia is that the great majority of Russians would likely take the preceding sentences at face value as obviously correct, rather than as the attempts at sarcasm they were intended to be.