Tag: Mass Media

Coffee and TV

I am (sort of) on vacation and visiting the Motherland. In the meantime, I allowed myself a couple of days of couch potato mode that included some Russian TV. A political scientist in me is never on holiday so while flipping through some mainstream channels I made a little Russian TV digest for the Duck. I am not repeating Gary Steyngart’s experiment of watching Russian TV for a week at the Four Seasons, mostly because early career researchers don’t have money for 5* hotels and my mum cooks better than Michelin restaurants. Let’s skip the morning shows that, fortunately, don’t include the benefits of urine therapy anymore and just try to persuade Russian women to wear high heels otherwise they won’t find a man and will never be happy.

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Why Do People Buy #Pizzagate?

Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory started by alt-right Twitter which alleged that John Podesta‘s emails exposed some members of the Democratic party as being part of a DC pizzeria-based child-sex ring, has made its way into Russian social networks. Now some people are convinced of the existence of pedophile lobby that ‘rules’ the US, and believe that both ‘lamestream’ media and elites are trying to hush it up. As one Russian LiveJournal user puts it: its’ ‘American internet community versus pedophiles in politics’. Why do people believe that debunked conspiracy theory? Two reasons: the blood libel trope and a pattern of misinformation.

As children are viewed as a universal symbol of the future, the attack on them can be viewed as an existential threat to a nation. This is the way homophobic fears are stocked as well: in the US and most recently in Russia homosexuality was constantly discursively linked to pedophilia. This is the mechanism borne out of ‘blood libel’ cases, which were pretexts for organizing Jewish pogroms: the ‘killing of babies’ and the ‘use of their blood’ during Passover is a perfect way to incite hatred. Hillary ‘nasty woman’ Clinton is also present in the blood libel narrative.

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Ice Thin Memory

Usually when news about Russia makes it to American late night shows, Russia either gets hit by a meteorite, or it annexes part of a neighboring country. Either way, it is illustrated by Putin’s bare-chested photograph on a horse. This time, however, neither celestial bodies, nor Putin’s nipples were at stake. Several high-profile newspapers and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah reported on…  an ice-skating dance routine.

‘Wife of Putin’s ally’ [putting aside the whole sexist tradition of defining a woman through her male companion] was widely criticized for her Holocaust-themed ice-dancing routine. Even though the press secretary of the Russian Federation of Jewish Communities said in a commentary that the story didn’t have anything to it and there was no reason to get upset over the dance, as the Holocaust has been used as a theme in many art projects. The champion ice-skater Tatyana Navka was also surprised at the negative reactions and insisted that the routine was done ‘to remind our children about that horrible time’.

No offence, American media, but you kind of live in a bubble that does not include Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitic crime. Oh, sorry, now you no longer do. Russia is a different story. Holocaust was never really a part of Russia’s collective memory. Most monuments erected during the Soviet era on the sites of Jewish massacres were dedicated to civilians while their Jewish identity was brushed over. Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in 1945 and Soviet citizens knew about concentration camps, but the Jewish identity of the victims was downplayed. Through the works of Ilya Ehrenburg, Evgeny Yevtushenko or Vassily Grossmann some people were familiar with mass executions of Jews. But these works were far from mainstream and were a protest against Soviet governmental policy of hushing up the ‘final solution’. This is yet another example of ‘warped mourning’ over the victims of wars, famines, repressions and purges in Russia.

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