Two of our favorite Russia bloggers are Brian Whitmore (blogging at The Power Vertical) and Vladimir Kara-Murza (blogging at Spotlight on Russia). So we were deeply disappointed to see both publish highly misleading reports on the activities of their fellow blogger Alexei Navalny.
Recently, both Whitmore and Kara-Murza wrote about the resignation of United Russia State Duma Deputy Vladimir Pekhtin, who was exposed by the blogsphere as owning vast property holdings in the U.S.A. even as he viciously attacked Americans and Russians who sympathize with American values. Both Whitmore and Kara-Murza credited Navalny with bringing down Pekhtin, with Whitmore writing acidly that Navalny had “claimed a scalp.”
But the actual truth about Pekhtin was not to be found on either Power Vertical or Spotlight on Russia. It was found instead on the website of Andrei Tselikov (a blog called RuNet Echo operated by Global Voices). Tselikov reveals that it was not Navalny at all who brought down Pekhtin, but an anonymous physicist blogging from Spain under the moniker “Dr. Z.” As Tselikov reports: “Curiously, while Navalny thanked Dr. Z for giving him a ‘heads up’ on Pekhtin, he never made it clear that around 80% of the materials he posted were first found and published by Dr. Z.”
“Curiously” is the type of language that the milquetoast bloggers at Global Voices use when they want to denounce outrageous misconduct like plagiarism, which is what Navalny is clearly guilty of. His failure to give due credit to Dr. Z, attempting to steal the thunder for himself, obviously misled both Whitmore and Kara-Murza, who didn’t look deeply enough before lauding Navalny with credit he simply did not deserve.
Whitmore and Kara-Murza also missed another important component of the story. Their one-sided reporting implies that the downfall of Pekhtin highlights Navalny’s ever-growing power and influence, but the reality is that it shows the exact opposite. We are delighted to see Navalny return to his roots, bringing publicity to the work of others in rooting out instances of corruption in Russia, which is where his talents lie. But his doing so only further emphasizes the total and disastrous collapse of Navalny’s so-called “movement” seeking to bring political change in neo-Soviet Russia. Every promise Navalny ever made about that movement was broken, and now it has completely given up its feeble attempt to run candidates for office. Whitmore’s grossly misleading headline “Advantage Navalny” has it exactly backwards. Advantage: Putin.
As we’ve said many times before, there is far too much breathless, fawning, rose-colored reporting about the Russian opposition by those who oppose Vladimir Putin. What these reports routinely fail to remember is that in the end the opposition faces a fundamental obstacle nearly impossible to overcome: They are comprised of Russians, and Russian vices inevitably bring them down. We’ve said from the very beginning that Navalny is a dead-end for Russia, he simply has far too many classically Russian faults to be the country’s Gandhi or Martin Luther King. He’s not even Che Guevara. He’s just a pretender, whose exploits have sucked all the oxygen out of the opposition room and prevented a more viable alternative from emerging, something that can only delight Putin and help Russia further down the road to national collapse.