The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: media

This is (not?) Russia today

by fpman

Alexei Navalny is a strong and stubborn critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also been working to expose corruption in state-owned enterprises such as Transneft. To no significant effect. Not much happened in follow-up to his revealing of documents concerning possible corruption related to Transneft except he eventually came under accusations of embezzling money from two companies himself. He was accused of having done so together with his brother, Oleg Navalny, who was sentenced by a Russian court related to this on December 30, just a couple of days ago (Alexei was handed a suspended sentence). Oleg will now be sent for three and a half years to a penal labor camp. There was a protest against this in freezing conditions by some people in Moscow yesterday. Never the most frightening thing from any regime’s prespective, given the unfriendly weather. Yet Russian police intervened to arrest about a hundred of the protesters.

Not a nice story.

The amount of coverage it received under the “Russian politics” section on “RT”, i.e. formerly “Russia Today,” the international news television channel sponsored by the Russian state? You can check that yourself. Don’t try too hard. I’ll include here a selection of RT’s headlines I found there myself:

1) Attempts to isolate Russia have been thwarted – senator. The head of Russia’s Upper House Foreign Relations Committee has said that coordinated efforts of all branches of power prevented attempts to isolate the country and exercise “political and economic blackmail” over Moscow.

2) ‘US military hardware will cause more bloodshed in Ukraine’ – Russian official. The possible relocation of US hardware from Afghanistan to Ukraine suggested by President Obama will only lead to more casualties, a senior Russian lawmaker has stated.

3) State Duma chief suggests trying US for WWII nuke attacks. The Russian Lower House speaker wants to instigate an international investigation into the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military – a possible crime against humanity with no statute of limitation.

4) ‘Stop blaming everything on Russia’: Heirs to 1917 revolutionary-era emigrants appeal to EU. Over 100 descendants of the Russian nobility residing outside the country have addressed European nations with a call to stop irrationally alienating Russia and give an unbiased appraisal to the current Ukrainian crisis.

5) France shows its weakness by scrapping Mistral deal – Rogozin. France’s refusal to deliver the Mistral amphibious ships to Russia, can’t be considered force-majeure, but confirms its geopolitical weakness, says he Russian Deputy PM in charge of the defense industry.

The above are 5 out of 12 of the regular news stories RT was running today in its Russian Politics section. Representatives of the Russian state are the chief source for four of those stories (with the exception of the pro-Russia lobby group) and for all seven of the rest. For 11 out of 12 in total. The chief messages transmitted from those chief (state) sources behind the 4 selected reports highlighted are: “don’t give weapons to Ukraine” (message to the US), “give weapons to Russia” (message to France), “the US killed people” (in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), “stop blaming/start liking Russia” (message to everyone). These are not really reports about domestic Russian politics – this is Russian foreign policy rather, including public diplomacy.

Besides this, RT also has a sub-section under “Russian politics” called “Official word.” Apparently this focuses even more on what Russian state leaders say, with headlines such as “Putin: ‘Supporting Russophobia in Ukraine will result in catastrophe’”; “Russia overestimated EU’s independence from US – Lavrov to French media”; and “‘Landmark in Russian history’: President Vladimir Putin’s New Year address.”

No news story on the Navalny case. No mention of it even as, say, a triumph of the Russian state over corruption.

From the site that uses the following two words as its main slogan: “QUESTION MORE.”

RTcover(They decided to question less on this occasion.)

Putin’s gesture

by fpman

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around Peng Liyuan, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife at the APEC summit yesterday.

Sigh. Boring.

Yawn.

What…? This counts as big news somewhere, somehow? The Guardian explains how:

“The incident, at a performance linked to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, was originally shown on state TV and spread online as a forwarded video. But it was soon scrubbed clean from the internet in China, reflecting the intense control authorities exert over any material about the country’s leaders while also pointing to cultural differences over what is considered acceptable behaviour in public.

“China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” said the Beijing-based historian and independent commentator Zhang Lifan.”

Very interesting. So the censors partly get the blame for this.

Not all the blame though. Some of Western media is in overdrive now to frame what happened either as a “PUTIN GAFFE” or as “CHINESE CENSORSHIP” or both.

Russia’s English-language media in return talks about… hold your breath…

…still hold your breath…

…still hold it…

…SHAWL CHIVALRY!

By the way, from RT’s article linked above you can also learn that Vladimir Putin engaged in similar shawl chivalry at the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg last year, on Angela Merkel in that case.

Alright, back to lazy times. Just chillin’.

Being close to war

by fpman

We’re travelling, and posting is light these days here at the Patrimony.

But this shouldn’t stop us from pointing out some noteworthy analysis produced by others, tangentially relevant to our focus over here. Travelling in the virtual world of the internet we have come across this report on Malala Yousafzai’s donation of $50,000 to rebuild schools in Gaza. She is the little girl who started an activist career at a young age in Pakistan, blogging in favour of women’s right to be educated, who was then shot in the head by the Taliban but survived, and has by now won all kinds of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the World Children’s Prize. The money she is giving for education in Gaza comes from the latter source, actually.

Perusing articles even loosely related to this, on the Middle East, we have then found this article from almost a month ago in the Jerusalem Post. An Israeli perspective, you might say, or rather a perspective on the difference between Israeli and other perspectives, actually, on the most recent round of conflict related to Gaza. It contains some important observations about the emotional impact of how close to one, specifically in terms of human relations, a conflict happens to be.

Two key excerpts should be lifted over here. Firstly, regarding the view of the general public in Israel: It might be difficult for an outsider to understand, but when your child is spending their summer vacation running to find shelter—with merely a 15-second warning in the south, 90 seconds in Tel Aviv—one has limited emotional capacity to see what is happening to the children on the other side.

And secondly, regarding the elite’s perspective: In this war Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.

Even in an airport lounge one sometimes has the time to trace back information and so we found this report which reveals that the soldier killed in action was Hadar Goldin, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s close friend in question is Simcha Goldin. Minister Moshe Ya’alon indeed knew Simcha Goldin well: “Ya’alon knew Simcha Goldin, the dead soldier’s father, from childhood and had known Hadar since his birth. Ya’alon once lectured at Hadar Goldin’s high school at his request.” In fact they are related, too, as Ya’alon’s grandfather was in fact the brother of Simcha Goldin’s grandmother. This means that Hadar Goldin was Moshe Ya’alon’s second cousin once removed.

The prominent left-wing politician alluded to above is most likely Haim Oron, a politician formerly from the left-wing Meretz Party, and a leader of the kibbutz movement in Israel – his grandson was injured on the Gaza border, some time in the second half of July. His name is Adi Zimri, and he was hit in the leg in the explosion of a rocket propelled grenade while searching for Hamas-built tunnels reaching into Israeli territory. By the way, the second link goes to an article that also reveals Haim Oron’s son Oded as being a helicopter pilot, his firstborn son Uri as being a Brigadier-General in the air force, and his granddaughter Omer Zimri as being a reservist officer. Which is obviously not all that uncommon a situation (for a family to have so many members in the military, either on active duty or in reserve) in Israel.

Now, before somebody confuses this brief post on a very specific issue (degree of one’s separation in terms of human/family relations from a conflict, on one particular side involved in said conflict) with a thorough analysis of the background of the Middle East conflict and some kind of justification for anything or its opposite, let us state that it is not. Our point is simply what the author of the article quoted above is also saying: degree of one’s separation in terms of human/family relations from a conflict (as a variable) matters somehow.

A mother-in-law and (in) journalism

by fpman

We have discussed Amal Alamuddin’s marriage with George Clooney before, and tracking the story suddenly put Ziad Takieddine, Amal’s uncle, on our radar, too. Now we turn our attention to Baria Alamuddin, Amal’s mother – “Clooney’s mother-in-law,” says the Guardian, rudely, given that Amal is, on the one hand, Mrs Clooney herself, and, on the other, that her mother may as well be simply “Amal’s mother.”

This is Baria Alamuddin’s personal webpage.

We just can’t stop thinking, and even saying – aloud – “Wowoweewow,” as we go through the intro. Listen to this:

“(she) has interviewed numerous heads of state including, King Hamad Bin Issa Alkhalifa, President Hosni Moubarak, King Hussain of Jordan, Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Fidel Castro, to name a few. She was the last journalist to interview Indira Ghandi.

At the part where the text says “to name a few” we were totally cooked.

For reference, this is a report on the interview with Indira Gandhi, together with some excerpts from the interview itself (prepared shortly before Indira Gandhi’s assassination).

And this is a somewhat random image from the above video, as portrait, of “an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the United Kingdom,” as well as a mother (and now mother-in-law).

BariaAlamuddin

Gérard Depardieu is a businessman, not a politician

by AiteVer

Ello. It’s AiteVer again. Did you miss me? Did you notice I was gone? Well, I guess you were in good company anyway, thanks to fpman, my colleague over here and a cousin apparently, too 🙂

Anyhow, while I was busy upgrading my status in academia [sic!], the globe was shaken [very sic!] by the news that Gérard Depardieu can drink or drinks up to 14 bottles of wine a day. In my opinion, it is quite a shame that this is the one snippet that swept the news world as it was taken out of some truly remarkable context: from an interview that’s filled with astonishing statements such as

‘Putin is a simple guy, a former KGB agent who was long imprisoned in Vienna’

or

‘Do you think that if I was egocentric I could approach Jean-Paul II, Mitterrand, Castro, Putin, and all those kinds of people? I don’t care about having an ego. ‘

I guess these days it isn’t really news when a celebrity takes up a second job advertising other people’s stuff or starts his or her own business. It can be especially true for those who are over their prime time in showbiz. As for Depardieu, he has done all of these. Before his abandonment of his status as French cultural god and becoming a ‘tax refugee’, he was known to own a vineyard and other businesses in France, and he gave his name to basically anything, whether it was ketchup, Azeri cuisine or an Armenian air company, naturally regardless of politics. Well, regardless of politics at least as long as the politics of certain policies didn’t affect him personally…

The change came into his life with the introduction of a temporary 75% income tax in 2012 by the French government that was levied on people earning more than a million euros. He first moved to Belgium and was subsequently granted Russian citizenship by a presidential decree on January 1, 2013. What’s changed since? Little – and maybe some, I would argue.

He’s admittedly into ‘living a life of excess’ just as much today as pre-tax-scandal, and he still lives the dual life of a high-profile actor and successful businessman. Nonetheless, he now also plays in a movie whose plot is rather reminiscent of the DSK scandal, in a patriotic Kazakh film, and lately in a Russian movie set partly in Chechnya, too. Added to this, his Russian businesses include a chain of restaurants present in major Russian cities, as well as a line of organic vodka. Also, he has appeared in a Kazakh commercial advertising Eurasian Bank’s special VIP card that is ‘elaborated with a pure gold pattern and 0.02 carat genuine diamond’ and in a video with Gulnara Karimova (of whom we already wrote on this blog) – to further illustrate the diversity of his impressive portfolio. Altogether, we can assume that whatever he is doing, he must be really successful in it, considering the expenses it must take to sponsor his daily 14 bottles of quality alcohol, ‘whenever he’s bored.’

DepardieuIn vino veritas (source)

The notable part from a political point of view is that his post-career career has brought him onto a slippery slope. As a symbol of the West from a certain perspective, whatever he says resonates loudly. Even though Depardieu’s love for Russia perhaps did not start with acquiring citizenship, it definitely has given him room to voice his ideas on international politics. He started his new career as a proud Russian by calling the country a ‘great democracy’ and then went on to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions. And as the dominant political narrative of events in Ukraine has increasingly focused on a conflict with the West in Russia, the role of the well-known French national symbol has grown in parallel.

Of course, there is some importance of his Russianness in the Europe he left behind, too. Firstly, his departure left a mark on France, as he was one of the most famous exports of the country. Secondly, his stance towards Putin is quite controversial, as signaled by the large amount of questions he receives from western media.

Still, his presence in Russia is possibly much more important for the host country itself, which, given his presence in the Russian press, has clearly been recognized by Russian decision-makers too. For example, according to Russian media, on a trip to Serbia he recently praised the people there for not supporting the EU sanctions against Russia, while in an interview about his new movie Viktor, he hastily explained Ukrainian history by saying the western half used to be Polish and the eastern half Russian, even though he quickly added that he isn’t too competent in politics to talk about it…

Depardieu is now, for all its worth, a (proud) Russian citizen. He pays lower taxes, he’s involved in local business and he’s a friend of Putin. On the other hand, he still is an international superstar and that continues to work in his favor financially. When he was asked why he’s still in business, he replied:

‘I have to make a living, and besides, I do other things too. Cinema is not the only thing I do, luckily. I hang out with artists, I travel, I’m into cuisine, and wine, I go and visit dictators…or so they say!’

If I have to take a guess he probably meant to be kidding with the last part but he definitely hit the spot. Of course we will never know if he says his pro-Kremlin remarks out of political conviction (to which he is entitled) or because of his current business interests (to which he is also entitled) but there is one thing for certain. Whatever he says can reach the masses easily. And the issue isn’t really whatever we think about his competence to talk politics but that when he and others praise Putin for his actions in Ukraine, they make loud judgments over issues by which they are not the least affected… Or, more exactly, if they are affected it is not in the way the people in Ukraine are affected. Depardieu is a Russian citizen, and being there has commercially benefitted him greatly. As long as he remains the friend of the Boss, this isn’t expected to change significantly.

Mistakes get made

by fpman

“There will be a review into the way we verify photos downloaded from Facebook.”

That is what editor-in-chief of The Age, an Australian paper, promised when it became clear that along with the Sydney Morning Herald they both printed Thursday’s front pages with the photo of an innocent man whom they presented as the perpetrator behind the 2014 Endeavour Hills incident.

Sending a lynch mob to anybody’s address is pretty bad,” of course, regardless of whether it is the “right” or the “wrong” address. It is still the more frustrating that two papers with considerable readership mistook an innocent man for a violent person who attempted to kill two policemen with a knife. Even worse, the media, somehow unable to think reasonably, keeps referreing to said violent person, the one who actually stabbed two policemen and was shot eventually, as a “terror suspect.” How they cannot tell the difference between a suspect and a dead assailant who, once shot dead, was found to be in possession of an Islamic State flag, is as puzzling as the question of how they end up printing the wrong photo from Facebook to have something to put on their front pages.

But things get worse than this.

The innocent man happens to be a certain Abu Bakar Alam, no other than the 19-year old grandson of Hakim Taniwal, the former governor of first Khost and then Paktia province in Afghanistan (he was a government minister, as Minister of Mines, in between his two stints as governor). Hakim Taniwal was a brave Afghan-Australian who returned to his country after 2001 to take a position of responsibility there and was killed along with a nephew in 2006 by a teenage suicide bomber. Even his funeral was bombed by Islamist insurgents. You can read about him here, here and here.

Abu Bakar Alam is thus exactly the kind of guy from the kind of family whom you are not interested in alienating when a considerable part of the other person’s – the dead assailant’s – community reacts to the shooting of a person who stabbed two police officers in this way.

The Patrimony’s statement on Alina Kabayeva’s recent appointment

by fpman

Alright, alright, so we’re a little late on this one, but let us get this straight…

nuttyprof2“So we’re a little late, right, but… here it’s coming!”

Alina Kabayeva, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged girlfriend has just been appointed chair of the board of directors of the National Media Group (NMG) in Russia.

Putin and KabayevaPresident Putin, allegedly smiling at his alleged girlfriend (photo by Sergei Chirikov, AFP/Getty)

This is relevant, given that there is a great variety of Russian media these days, including government-owned media, Gazprom-owned media, and NMG-owned media along with what independent media there is.

NMG is, for example, one of the owners of Piervy Kanal (Первый канал), with a 25% share, alongside the government. As the name may imply, Piervy is television channel no. 1 in Russia, including in terms of the number of viewers.

That here at the Patrimony we are only reporting this now, two days late, is not due to the Russian NMG having a share in the ownership of this blog. They don’t have a share.

End of statement.