The Gray Lady has published yet another ludicrously inane piece of disinformation about Russia. On Sunday, Andrew Kramer wrote about a recent Kremlin effort to Photoshop opposition leader Navalny next to Boris Berezovsky under the headline “Smear in Russia Backfires, Online Tributes Roll In.”
The article is misguided at its core. The fraudulent photograph was not published online but in the physical press, and its purpose was not to undermine Navalny with his online supporters. To the contrary, it had the exact opposite purpose, to destroy any vestigial support Navalny might have with the mainstream press and in the general, non-virtual, population.
The reporter totally ignores the fact that a recent poll showed Navalny with absolutely no electoral support for president, and with voters even rejecting the central tenant of his political platform, rerunning the December parliamentary elections. He totally ignores the obvious actual purpose of the photo campaign, choosing instead to set up a straw man argument which perpetuates the ridiculous narrative about “revolution” being ginned up in the Western press.
If the Kremlin wanted to smear Navalny among his Internet supporters, wouldn’t the Kremlin have published the smear online? And if the NYT wanted to show the smear didn’t work, shouldn’t it have looked evidence offline, where the actual smear was published?
The article does make one good point, at least, and one wonders why that wasn’t the headline: This altering of photographs to smear opponents dates back to Soviet times. So it’s hardly surprising to see it reappear in the reign of Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy who has reinstated the national anthem music played in Soviet times. But are Navalny’s tactics, focusing on the Internet and calling a protest once a month, really up to confronting the other Soviet traditions, like political incarceration and murder?