Press Freedoms: The Good, The Bad, The Really Ugly

Overgeneralization is a dangerous game to play, because it’s so often wrong – and even when it happens to be right, it’s analytically suspect: no matter how lax your standards, “one” is not a valid sample size for any survey.

Case in point: Russian news media.

While poking around the web this morning, I came across this fairly interesting analysis of the renewed global interest in the arctic region. The bottom line: it’s all about oil and natural gas reserves. That conclusion, though predictable, isn’t really too far-fetched. However, you kind of have to wonder about the source…

“News From Russia”, a/k/a Pravda.RU, doesn’t really have any connection with the Pravda of yore, the State-run official newspaper of the Communist Party. Still, reading some of the other articles on that site, you’d be hard-pressed to tell: if there’s an outlandish way to be anti-American, they’ll manage to find it.

I mean, okay, I get it, they don’t like Dubya, good for them. Well, they’re not real big on Obama, either. I’m all for them mocking our grand national obsession with terrorism, but, seriously, conspiracy theories about the U.S. Dollar? (With snide bonus shot at the Ukraine, another country not on Russia’s Christmas-card list at the moment, for good measure.)

It’s easy to suppose that the folks at Pravda are just writing the crap they’re told to; Russian media reportedly not being a shining example of freedom and independence and so forth. Honestly, their site, if you read through it a bit, looks an awful damned lot like your typical, State-run propaganda organ: seventy-five percent bigoted, xenophobic yellow journalism, ten percent domestically-targeted appeals to the common man, and fifteen percent fluff and filler. But most accounts say that online “media” in Russia are largely left to do their own thing, free of interference or direction from the government or its proxies. And others – like the Moscow Times – aren’t afraid to cast aspersions on the Kremlin, or even take a moderate tone towards Obama. Hell, they’re even optimistic about Russia’s newly-proposed freedom-of-information legislation, which, were Pravda to bother to notice it, you can be assured would be vehemently decried for some handy, if mildly retarded, reason.

Rather than being forced to “toe the party line”, it seems much more likely that the folks at Pravda are gobshites merely because they want to, and enjoy, being gobshites. Hey, why waste natural talent, right? (How did that expression go, again? “By each, according to their ability?”) In a way, that’s kind of encouraging: having the freedom to practice sensationalist anti-journalism – the media equivalent of running naked through the streets, throwing your own faeces while shouting obscenities – is, still, a “freedom of the press”, of sorts. ‘Cause the thing about naked, shit-flinging village idiots is, you can never really trust their aim, and, let’s face it, they are something of a public nuisance, even by the laissez-faire standards of modern Russia. That such useless blights on the landscape are permitted to flourish suggests, to me, that perhaps the Kremlin really does “get” the whole idea of modern “freedom of the press” after all.

Published in: General | on January 22nd, 2009| Comments Off on Press Freedoms: The Good, The Bad, The Really Ugly

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