More Spectacular Misreporting on Russia by Ellen Barry of the New York Times

Ellen Barry

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.

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Ellen Barry Misleads the World on Russia

A letter to the editor of the New York Times:

To the Editor,

The statement by Ellen Barry and Michael Schwirtz (“Vast Rally in Moscow Is a Challenge to Putin’s Power,” December 24) about the recent wave of anti-Putin protests in Moscow that “[i]f the movement sustains its intensity, it could alter the course of the presidential election in March, when Mr. Putin plans to extend his stretch as the country’s dominant figure to an eventual 18 years” is deeply misleading.  The writers fail to inform their readers that protest activity in other cities beyond Moscow disappeared almost entirely on Christmas Eve.  Less than 5,000 were on the streets of Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, and almost nobody anywhere else.  0.2% of the population on Moscow streets cannot alter the course of the coming election. Nor can 0.4% or 0.6%. Moreover, in Ukraine we have seen a real popular uprising fizzle and dissipate, so that now its leader Yulia Tymoshenko is rotting in prison.  There is far less hope for Russia than these journalists would have us believe.

Kim Zigfeld — Russia columnist, American Thinker and Pajamas Media

Breathless Idiots Gasp over Russia

If Saturday’s protest is as large as its organizers expect — the city has granted a permit for 30,000 — Mr. Navalny will be credited for mobilizing a generation of young Russians through social media, a leap much like the one that spawned Occupy Wall Street and youth uprisings across Europe this year.

That was what New York Times reporter Ellen Barry had to say about Aleksei Navalny and the “protest movement” allegedly sweeping Russia, ending in a massive demonstration in Moscow.  She didn’t care to speculate about Mr. Navalny’s fate in the event no such protest occurred.  She did not care to mention that the Western protests were not based on any cult of personality, or that they were long-lived and truly national in scope.  She may not have known that even as her crazy diatribe was going live, the first of the “waves of protest” that organizers were predicting was breaking in Russia’s Far East.

200 people showed up in Vladivostok.

The sole basis for suggesting that 30,000 might come to the streets in Moscow was that a number like that had signed on to a Facebook page calling for participation in the Moscow rally.  And the breathless Barry could not even wait to see if they showed up before anointing Navalny as an epic, earth-shaking hero. Slow news day over at the Gray Lady, you think?

Even if 30,000 people did show up, that’s in a city of 15 million.  It’s o.02% of the population.  It’s only more evidence that the vast majority of Russians will continue to sit on the sidelines, doing nothing as Putin consolidates his neo-Soviet dictatorship. Exactly the same behavior they showed during the time of Stalin.

And what would they be protesting, exactly, if they all came out into the streets? The fact that hundreds of thousands of votes were stolen from the Communist Party, which should have taken at least a quarter of the total vote?  The fact that two Kremlin sycophants, Just Russia and LDPR, should have gotten lots more votes too?  Is that really a basis for breathless, gushing excitement over Russia’s future?

We’ve seen some utterly idiotic reporting on Russia in our time, but the coverage of the aftermath of the elections to the Russian Duma is truly unhinged even by those standards.    Russians totally ignored Putin’s vicious crackdown on opposition parties, and turned a blind eye while Kasyanov, Nemtsov, Ryzhkov, Kasparov, Alexeeva and others were barred from offering alternatives to Putin’s dictatorship. They did not demand any serious debates, nor did they even demand any role in United Russia’s nominating process.  Only when the sham election had been completed did they decide to raise a very small, insignificant, meaningless squeak of protest, and only in response to the cult of personality being developed by hardcore nationalist Aleksei Navalny.

This isn’t a sign of hope for Russia. It’s a sign of the beginning of the end. And with reporting this ignorant in the so-called “enlightened” West, Russia can hardly have any hope of assistance from abroad in its time of desperate need.