The NYT-Kremlin Conspiracy

It’s happened slowly and surreptitiously, but the Public Editor of the New York Times has undergone a metamorphosis. Today, she spends more time singing the paper’s praises than calling it to task. Call her the Public Cheerleader.

In May of 2011, the Russian government began inserting a color supplement known as “Russia Beyond the Headlines” into the pages of the Times.  Masquerading as news, RBTH has weekly regaled Times readers ever since with all manner of Kremlin propaganda.  Only if you were a seasoned Russia watcher or read the fine print and then started Googling would you have any idea about the true origins of the supplement.

Yet three years later, the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan claimed to be blithely unaware that the supplement even existed, much less had she or anyone else in the Public Editor’s office investigated the propriety of the Gray Lady’s conduct in regard to it.

In a January 2014 column, Sullivan wrote: “Just last week, The Times began a careful foray into native advertising — paid content that looks something like news.” Her statement was simply false: The “foray” began three years ago, when RBTH first appeared.  Indeed, Sullivan had “reported” in December of 2013 that native advertising was “about to arrive” at the Times “after months of preparation and scrutiny.” In fact, it had already been in place for quite some time.  What is Ms. Sullivan reading, if it’s not the New York Times?

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Spectacular Failure for Vladimir Putin

The tsunami of bad news for Vladimir Putin on the foreign policy front this week was so overwhelming as to make it seem like a nightmare. But it was oh, so very real.

For the first time since Putin came to power, a majority of Americans told Gallup that they see Russia as an enemy.  Putin’s effort at propaganda in the New York Times was such a spectacular failure that the paper itself, in a virtually unheard of move, attacked him for it.

Ukraine thumbed its nose at Putin and declared its intention to join the European Union, a hop, skip and jump from NATO membership.

Belarus and Russia entered a state of open economic war.

And Putin’s policy towards Syria was openly mocked around the world. Everywhere, people were asking:  If, as Russia claims, Syria’s government did not use chemical weapons against its people, then why is Russia forcing Syria to disarm?

If you thought Putin could look to the domestic front for solace, you thought wrong.  2013 will be the sixth straight year in which Russian GDP growth has fallen from the year before, and 2014 will open in all likelihood with Russia entering a double-dip recession as a debtor nation barely able to make ends meet.

Putin’s foreign policy has left Russia isolated all around the world, a pariah state with only the likes of Iran, Syria and Venezuela for allies.  His domestic policy has left Russia impoverished and collapsing.  He is a disaster everywhere, all the time.

Another Incredible New Low for Russia

It seems like only yesterday that Vladimir Putin was writing in the New York Times that the will of the United Nations must control what happens in Syria, and that the United States must bow to that will.

If you thought Putin’s hypocrisy in asking the US to do in Syria what Russia refused to do in Chechnya or Georgia was stunning, you had better sit down for this one:  Now, after a UN investigation revealed that Putin was lying when he claimed that it was the Syrian rebels, not the regime, who used chemical weapons in Syria (a “war crime” in the words of the UN), Putin is attacking the UN and refusing to follow its will.  He doesn’t just accuse the UN of lying about who was responsible for gas attacks, he also accuses them of lying about whether such attacks even took place.   His “evidence” for these claims comes exclusively from the tinfoil hat crowd.

This hubris and duplicity on Russia’s part is a new low for an already utterly wretched country.  How can any civilized nation possibly take Russia seriously after this?  In just a few years, Vladimir Putin has obliterated his nation’s credibility and set it on a course to become a rogue state itself, like Syria, Iran and North Korea.  Just when one thinks Russia can’t possibly sink any lower, it delves into depths so hideous that you can’t believe you thought it was bad before.

Writing in the Moscow Times, the chairman of the powerful U.S. House Armed Services Committee has castigated Putin for his dishonest, duplicitous and venal New York Times piece defending genocide and barbarism in Syria.  Putin’s refusal to follow the UN’s lead after demanding that the U.S. do so disqualifies Russia from sitting at the table of civilized nations. It can and should be booted out of the G-8 and G-20 organizations, the World Trade Organization and the UN security council.  Russia needs to learn what it feels like to be Syria, Iran or North Korea if it is Russia’s ambition to emulate those nations.

It is simply shocking to see how little pushback from his own citizens Putin faces for his outrageous public lies that disgrace their nation.  Because they don’t stand up to him, Russians are fully complicit in Putin’s misdeeds and richly deserve the brutal suffering that lies in wait for them.

Putin the Pundit

Vladimir Putin’s latest pro-Syria propaganda gambit is an op-ed piece for the New York Times so riddled with lies, distortions, deceptions and ignorance that it could easily have come from the Soviet Politburo.

Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld deconstructs the article point by point and exposes the fundamental fraud it is trying to perpetrate on American readers.  (Zigfeld’s piece has been translated into Russian by INOSMI).

Zigfeld is actually just one of a whole legion of Russia watchers who have condemned Putin’s article as transparent nonsense.  The publication of this article is a rare gaff by Putin, a mistake so ridiculous that we’re sure somebody’s head is going to have to roll in the Kremlin.

The manner in which Russia continues to stand up for the Syrian dictatorship, fueling it with weapons and providing intense diplomatic cover, is appalling. That dictatorship is engaged in a brutal campaign of genocide against its own people. But because Syria is one of Russia’s last remaining beachheads in the Middle East, Russia stubbornly clings to its nasty little ally, heedless of the harm to its international reputation.

Not one major nation has joined Russia in claiming that the Syrian rebels, not the government, were responsible for the use of poison gas against civilians.  Similarly, in 2008 not one major nation approved Russia’s annexation of Abkhazia and Ossetia from Georgia.  One after another, Russia has watched Kremlin-friendly regimes in places like Egypt and Libya topple and collapse despite Russian support, because Russian support cannot hope to overcome the clear will of the overwhelming majority of citizens of a nation.

Putin’s horrifically failed foreign policy is leading Russia down the same road trodden by the USSR, a road that leads only to national collapse.

Russian Corruption, in Black and White


The photo above is one from a stunning series by photographer Misha Friedman titled “Photo51 — Is Corruption in Russia’s DNA?” and touted recently on the “Lens” blog operated by the New York Times. Click the image to see it full size.

In the image, a Russian man beats a woman in broad daylight in the streets of Moscow, as policemen look on with disinterest.  In Russia, one woman is murdered by her spouse every hour on the hour.

An exhibition of Friedman’s work will open on Feb. 15 and be on view through March 2 at 287 Spring in SoHo in New York City.

Failure and Humiliation in Astrakhan

Instead of being a force to galvanize a new round of opposition enthusiasm, the efforts to protest the recent mayoral election in Astrakhan have served only to emphasize the weakness and indeed dissolution being experienced by the opposition forces.

The Just Russia party promised that every single one of its deputies in Moscow would travel to Astrakhan to rally in support of Oleg Shein, their defeated candidate for Astrakhan mayor who claims fraud denied him the office.  But in the event, less than a third of the deputies (Russian-language link) actually made the trip.

Just Russia, of course, is hardly a focal point of the opposition.  Though it had a place on the ballot last December, none of the opposition leaders endorsed it much less participated in its operations, and it has always been thought of as a Kremlin patsy.

The focus on Astrakhan resulted in major reporting in the Washington Post and the New York Times about the city and its political leanings. But what the reporters found when they looked was disheartening:  Little access to the Internet, and even less interest in the criticism of Putin to be found there.  The people of Astrakhan simply don’t care about democracy or about Shein’s fate, and the arrival of the glitterati from Moscow (like Aleksei Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak) came with a resounding thud.

An absurdly small number of people turned out for the Moscow-led protest demonstrations, and many of them had been brought in from outside the city — a practice that was condemned by the opposition leaders when Putin tried it in Moscow.  Putin scoffed at the protests and defied them. Larger demonstrations were organized in support of the status quo.  Soon, local elections officials were turning the tables and accusing Shein himself of fraud.

So all the protests in Astrakhan managed to accomplish was to remind the world how confused, disorganized and isolated the opposition movement is now.  When the opposition leaders say that it doesn’t matter that protest activity has dissolved in Moscow because they are seeking real political power in the remote regions, their claims ring hollow.  There is no groundswell of support in the regions for opposition reform, the regions are where Putin is strongest.

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.

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.