27 December 2014

Mark Adomanis


On February 11th 2014 Forbes published a blog by Mark Adomanis.  It was a hatchet job on Victor Shenderovich.  Shenderovich is one of the best modern Russian writers.  He is also a publicist whose sharp political satire has been known to land a few punches on Putin and his gang.

Adomanis critiqued a post by Shenderovich, which drew parallels between this year's Sochi Olympics and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Shenderovich said that while he liked a young Russian figure-skater, there will likely be a price to pay for this enjoyment.  Totalitarian states quite often use major sporting events for propaganda purposes, which they then use as a launching pad for invasion.  Written before the annexation of Crimea, his article was nothing short of prophetic.

That is not to say, one can't criticize what Shenderovich - or anyone else - writes.  Except that what Adomanis wrote for Forbes contained outright lies.  Let's take the title:

"Enjoy Julia Lipntiskaya's Performance?  A Leading Russian Oppositionist Thinks That Makes You a Nazi."

Here is a shortlist of lies in this heading:

1. Shenderovich is not a "leading Russia oppositionist" (sic).  Sure, his articles are critical of Putin, but he is not even a politician; he is a writer.  As such he is not really an "oppositionist" which make the point that he is not "leading" mute.

2. At no point did Shenderovich state in any way whatsoever that enjoying Lipnitskaya's performance makes anyone a Nazi.  On the contrary, Shenderovich clearly stated that he himself enjoyed her performance.  Being Jewish, he is hardly likely to call himself a "Nazi".

The hatchet job by Adomanis was one piece within a slew of similar attacks on Shenderovich in the wake of his post, except that most of them were published by Russian government-owned media.  In fact, his Forbes post was almost instantaneously translated into Russian and republished by RT as a "proof" that western journalists also take issue with Shenderovich.  This whole campaign was implemented within the overall framework of persecution against Shenderovich, who has been banished from the Russian TV for several years and whose (non-political) books cannot be published in Russia while theatres are being pressured to drop his plays.

Was this an honest mistake by someone who does not know anything about Russia?  Well, Adomanis, while born in the US, has East European background.  He also studied Russian politics at Harvard (!) and claims that he speaks fluent Russian.  Prior to Forbes, he worked for RT, which just happens to be Russian state-owned propaganda vehicle.  But the plot thickens...

Today Russian hackers published emails stolen from the government's unofficial propaganda agent.  In these emails Madam Potupchik is reporting day-to-day "achievements" on promoting Putin's agenda across various social media outlets as well as mainstream publications to her handler, a senior manager in Putin's administration.  In her February report, Potupchik states that on February 11th she and her team "worked in across blogsphere and on Twitter on criticizing Shenderovich for his post against Lipnitskaya".

During Soviet times KGB used to plant "agents of influence" within respectable western publications.  They were often translated by Pravda and other Soviet publication to influence internal  public opinion against such "targets" as Andrey Sakharov and Pasternak.

Is Forbes letting itself to be used?