Last Friday, Vladimir Putin not only made an amazing admission of what he and his regime have been doing in the information sphere but also introduced an aphorism that is likely to survive him just as Viktor Chernomyrdin’s phrase “we wanted better but it turned out just like always” has outlived him, Izrail Zaidman says.
In his message on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the All-Russian State Television Company, the Moscow commentator notes, Putin praised its staff for breaking “the information monopoly” that he said “certain of our opponents” have had in the world’s media.
The success of Russian television in that regard, the Kremlin leader continued, has prompted Western outlets to denounce everything pro-Moscow Russian media do as propaganda. But in a related statement at the branch of Russian television in Sochi, Zaidman says, Putin unwittingly admitted that such Western charges are true.
“What I especially want to note is the following,” the Russian president said. “First, your news tapes. They undoubtedly enjoy the great trust and interest of the people, above all because they are true, full of content and interesting. I imagine how difficult it is to do that – to work constantly and cook up these information blinis on the stove.”
On this point, the Moscow commentator says, Putin “was absolutely right.” Cooking up the news on a constant basis and “without leaving the stove “is not so simple.” But from his perspective, it has “a colossal advantage” compared to traditional journalism: “one can cook up any ‘information.’”
Others have done this on occasion in the past, Zaidman continues, “but only under Putin has it achieved its real breadth and aphoristic definition.”
“In dull democratic countries,” he says, “one has to search for, collect and sometimes unearthing information … but what you will find and how it will turn out for you is something you can’t know in advance. But in authoritarian regimes, as [Putin] has explained to us, information is cooked like blinis” by those which by inertia are still called “journalists.”
In such systems, “there are no surprises; everything is prepared to order.” That has been obvious since the start of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, Zaidman argues, with Russian “journalists” constantly putting out stories that had no basis in reality but were intended to mislead.
But Putin’s words last Friday raise a question: why has he suddenly decided to be so open? “Is it a sign of repentance?” Unlikely given his style. Or “perhaps it is the first sign of senility?” – but he is still relatively young. “Most probably,” the commentator suggests, “it is simply bravado,” the actions of “someone without any moral constraints.”
Anyone who has doubts that Putin has made an important admission, however, need only consult the story as carried by RBC. But one thing is obvious, Zaidman concludes, Putin has now introduced two new terms into the Russian language –“infoblini’ and “Putin’s infoblini” – that are likely to outlive him.
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