The Putin Juggernaut and its Appeasers

Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld analyzes the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s final assault on the Russian Internet.

And on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog, Kim takes former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to task for his gross acts of appeasement of Putin, helping Russia down the road to totalitarian dictatorship and failure.

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Russian Internet, by the Wretched Humiliating Numbers

Russia is #9 in among nations when ranked for population size.

But it is #56 when ranked for usage of the Internet. A shocking 47 countries in the world have smaller total populations than Russia but more extensive usage of the Internet.  Business usage of the Internet in Russia is a truly stunning world #95.

Looking further at the Runet, the picture gets even darker.

Russia ranks #90 for business innovation, #107 for growth of e-business, #108 for regulatory framework and #125 for intellectual property protection.

In fact, the only reason Russia ranks as high as it does, #54 for overall network readiness, is simply that Russia has a vast number of mobile users and improving broadband access for them. But the reason for this is that Russia’s land-line infrastructure is so utterly wretched that people have no choice but to opt for mobile phones. A tiny mobile phone is far from being the best way to fully access the wonders and power of global connectivity.

Costa Rica, Kazakhstan and Oman all rank higher than Russia does for overall network readiness.

Nobody can be surprised by this woeful performance given Russia’s draconian, neo-Soviet crackdown on the Runet. The Putin dictatorship relentlessly attacks online freedom, shutting down websites and prosecuting bloggers with impunity.  For this reason, Russia will continue to languish as a backwards country, cut off from the progress of modernity and from the flow of information that is crucial to global competitiveness.

Wall-to-Wall Zigfeld

LR/DR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld offers readers a full slate of columns this week on all three of her major forums:

  • On Pajamas Media, Kim gapes slackjawed at Russia’s decision to revive the name “Stalingrad” and return to its failed neo-Soviet past
  • On American Thinker, she documents the latest horrifying escalation of Vladimir Putin’s war on the Russian Internet
  • And on RUSSIA! magazine, she exposes the breathtaking hypocrisy of Dmitri Medvedev in calling for plagiarism reform while ignoring the outrageous acts of his county’s plagiarist-in-chief, Vladimir Putin.

We can’t think how it might be possible for any reasonable person to read all three of these pieces and conclude anything other than that Russia is a doomed, barbaric state committing national suicide.

Putin’s Final Crackdown on the Runet Begins

On the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld lays out the horrifying details of Vladimir Putin’s final crackdown on the Russian Internet.  It’s this simple: The apologists of Putin who told us it was OK for him to wipe out newspapers and TV because the Internet would always be free were lying.

Meanwhile, over on the massive PJ Media website, Zigfeld reviews the horrifying peek offered to gaping outsiders into inner workings of the Russian “judicial” system by, of all people, Madonna.

Russia by the Numbers

Sometimes, numbers paint a picture of a people better than words:

69%

Share of the Russian population that believes the Pussy Riot sentence, two years in jail, one at hard labor for young mothers singing in church, was appropriate or too lenient.

64%

Share of the Russian population that voted for Vladimir Putin

63%

Share of the Russian population that supports Internet censorship.

Putin’s Neo-Soviet Internet

Azerbaijan, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka.

Those are the wretched countries that pose the greatest risk to Internet freedom in the coming year, according to Freedom House.

That’s right:  Putin’s Russia is one of them.

Pages 408-421 of FH’s 2012 Internet Report examine the state of Russia’s Internet in horrifying detail, giving Russia  woeful 52 on a 0-100 scale of Internet freedom (with zero being total freedom) and classifying Russia’ Internet as already being party unfree.

It confirms that less than half of Russia’s population can access the Internet at all, which explains why polls show most Russians have never even heard about the leading figures of the Russian opposition.

It states:  “Since January 2011, massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and smear campaigns to discredit online activists have intensified. After online tools played a critical role in galvanizing massive anti-government protests that began in December 2011, the Kremlin signaled its intention to further tighten control over internet communications.”

None of this should be surprising, of course, given that Russians have just handed unchecked power for life to a proud KGB spy.

Welcome back to the USSR.

Blowing the Lie about Russian Internet Access Away

Photograph taken by blogger-activist Roman Dobrokhotov showing an area of Astrakhan opposite his hotel in the center of the city.

Washington Post reporter Michael Birnbaum is in Astrakhan this week, and has filed two devastating reports that drive the final nail into the coffin of the lie that Russia has a vibrant Internet.

First, Birnbaum reports on how nobody outside Moscow has the vaguest clue who Alexei Navalny is, then he reports on how nobody in Astrakhan knows that mayoral contender Oleg Shein is on a hunger strike to protest what he believes was a rigged election that caused him to lose.

He notes that people in Astrakhan, a giant city of 500,000, have virtually no viable access to the Internet, hence they know neither Shein nor Navalny — and Astrakhan is of course a typical Russian city, not an aberration, which is why nobody anywhere outside Moscow knows Navalny.

This comes as no surprise to us, of course, since we’ve been reporting on Russia’s Potemkin Internet for years now. And it should surprise nobody else either, not if they are aware of Russia’s puny household incomes and creaking infrastructure.  Most Russians simply can’t afford Internet access, and even if they could their browsing experience would not encourage them to use it and their level of civic activism would make it even less likely that they would use Internet access to defend their citizenship rights.

It is, quite simply, a myth that freedom on the Russian Internet may save Russian democracy. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. It’s because the Russian Internet is accessed by virtually nobody that there is some freedom there, more at least than in the rest of neo-Soviet Russia. The Kremlin simply doesn’t care much about the Internet because it knows hardly anybody can or will use it. Were it otherwise, the Kremlin would quickly snuff it out.

As the Internet Goes, so Goes Russia?

An interesting new poll from Levada (Russian-language link) reports that 63% of Russian citizens trust the news they hear on Kremlin-controlled broadcast television, while just 28% distrust it.

That figure, 63%, is exactly the share of the vote gathered by Vladimir Putin in the 2012 presidential elections.

Just 55% of Russians ever use the Internet, and only 43% of Russians trust the news they get from the Internet, according to Levada.  An even smaller number than that, a puny 24%, actually use the Internet to get the news.

So one could reasonably suggest that the more Russians use the Internet, the less they trust their government and the less likely they are to vote for Putin.  Little wonder, then, that Putin expresses so much animosity and suspicion for the Internet, saying he never uses it himself and thinks it mostly pornography.

One can also suggest plausibly that of the 55% of Russians who ever use the Internet, many use it very rarely due to its expense and the challenges of Russian technology.  One can also suppose that a disproportionate number of Russians using the Internet to get the news, and for other political purposes, are located in the more wealthy areas of the country, particularly Moscow.  That would explain why opposition politicians were able to generate much bigger crowds in Moscow than anyplace else.

These statistics show the increasing divide between wealthy Moscow and the impoverished remainder of Russia. They imply that nothing will really change in Russia until rich Muscovites decide to share their wealth with the nation.  Will they be willing to do so, or will class warfare again rise in Russia just as it did in pre-Soviet times, leading to radical upheaval and national collapse?

More Idiotic Gibberish about Russia on the Pages of the New York Times

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.

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Exploding the Myth of Russia’s Internet

Once again, data has confirmed that two-thirds of the people of Russia have absolutely no access to the Internet and never access it.

Those who do manage to access the Runet, moreover, use it for nothing more than socializing, and even that they do at a rate well below the European average.

What this means is really quite simple:  Those who tell you that it doesn’t matter that Russians have no real TV news, because all sources of it are owned and operated by the Kremlin, and no real newspapers, because the same situation prevails, because Russians have ready access to the Internet to make up for it, are lying to you.

There is no significant offset of the Kremlin’s propaganda on TV and in the mainstream press to be found in the Internet.   What’s more, the obscure sources that do exist, serving a tiny fraction of the population, are under constant assault, and the Kremlin is aggressively seeking to co-opt or destroy them.

There is no hope to be found for Russia online.