There she goes again.
Via “reporter” Ellen Barry the New York Times is publishing some of the worst Russia journalism to be found anywhere these days.
We already reported on two other egregiously misleading articles by Barry in the NYT, and now we have a third. On New Year’s day, Barry published “A Dilemma for Russian Leaders, to Suppress Protests or Not” and the NYT touted it as a main feature on the home page of its website.
Ironically, that same day the Moscow Times reported that the Kremlin had ordered mass arrests of protesters just the day before. No dilemma here, folks. When Putin wants to arrest, he does so.
And that wasn’t the only key fact Barry totally ignored. She also chose not to mention that protest activity in Moscow other than the 12/10 and 12/24 rallies organized by nationalist Aleksei Navalny were dismal failures (we refer specifically to the rally Yabloko organized and the demonstration in support of opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov — in both cases, only a tiny fraction of the Internet support materialized on the streets, and organizers were embarrassed). Moreover, she ignored the fact that the protests on 12/24 were not remotely national in scope; Navalny was exposed as being unable to generate support of that kind.
Barry also chose to ignore recent polls that clearly show Russians rejecting both the message and the messenger where Navalny is concerned, and those that show support for Putin rising markedly the more Navalny works to discredit him. Far from calling for “political rights” as Barry inaccurately reports, the only thing the protesters have asked for has been rerun of the parliamentary elections so that the communists and nationalists can collect (even) more votes.
Barry’s attempt to link the Moscow protests to the revolution that toppled the Tsar is so ludicrous as to bespeak mental illness. Navalny has not even tried to become a candidate for office, much less does he preside over anything remotely like a national political movement. And for good reason: He doesn’t have a national base of support, just a clique in Moscow that follows him on the Internet. He’s a Russian version of Joel Osteen or Howard Stern.
Then Barry just starts lying. She writes: “ The crowd is pausing now, as for a deep breath.” That’s totally false. The reason the crowd is pausing is to drink itself silly for several weeks in celebration of the New Year’s holiday. It’s pretty telling that Russians care more about a drunken party than they do about their country’s future. Also pretty telling how aggressively Barry seeks to rationalize this failure rather than expose it.
One has the distinct impression that, at least subconsciously, Barry knows that the lack of arrests on 12/10 and 12/24 is not good for her narrative about revolution in Russia, a narrative which just so happens to call for her Russia-reporting services to become much more important and sensational (only a coincidence, of course). So she’s eager to invent a rationalization which has Putin fretting and worried about what to do next. But the fact is that the protesters are simply not that scary, and Putin can’t be bothered to confront them. The protesters don’t have a dog in the March presidential race, just as they didn’t have one in the parliamentary elections in December. They don’t have a credible agenda, and they don’t show real revolutionary fervor (they won’t demonstrate at all in the month of January). Putin is not the least bit unclear about when to order arrests and when to ignore the protesters. It is the protesters who are fretting and worrying, and Putin who is smiling.
Quite simply, this is not journalism, it is self-interested cheerleading, and Ms. Barry ought to be ashamed. We call for her to apologize and begin telling the truth about the protests in Moscow.