Yesterday was a record day for this blog. I received over 200 page views and nearly half that many in unique ip visits. Wow! Are those stats impressive, or what? I’m going with the “or what” option. Not that I really care. I’ll be here typing away even if no one shows up. If no one else is interested, I’ll pretend the universe, in general, is and overlook the specific stats.
But if I were living in Russia, I should be concerned with my stats…or more specifically with my page views because our friend Vlad is cracking down on Bloggers and their respective blogs. If you’re a Blogger in Russia, your freedom of expression is greatly curtailed if the number of views you experience exceeds 3,000 per day. Once you surpass that threshold, you’re subjected to the same oversight visited upon larger, mainstream truckling publications. All in the interest of professionalism, of course, so long as you appropriately refer to Ukraine as “Ukraine” versus ‘the Ukraine” and say nothing of substance beyond the borders of what’s permissible and approved. Consequently, you will be noted and rewarded for your cooperation in publishing nothing at all, but publishing it with the grammatical acumen of a fastidious actuary (redundant, I know, but you get the point…I hope). It certainly wouldn’t have anything to do with controlling the message and therefore controlling independent dissent.
Don’t you just love the smell of Russian Personal Liberty in the morning? I know Monica Perez does. She’s a defender of it, afterall, and….…..I suppose that’s why she and so many others like her have taken such a keen interest in the unfolding fissiparous strategy in Ukraine. Putin’s personal liberty is being trampled by the “Jews”, “Niggers” and “Gays” in the West, or better known collectively as the Liberals in Monica’s circles, and Monica and many other hard “Right” zealots, not to mention a fair share of hard “Left” zealots, feel compelled to come to the aid of the innocent schoolboy Putin and defend his trampled personal liberties. If he wants Crimea, by gosh by golly he should have it in the name of personal liberty. If Putin wants all of Ukraine, then by all means he should have it in the name of personal liberty. If Putin wants Germany, well, the same sentiment applies. See, “Russia Stands For Freedom” and therefore Putin and Russia are the sanitizing cure for the aforementioned infection euphemistically referred to as Liberals. And here you thought it was truth that would set you free. Silly you, there is no truth. It’s all lies, remember? In truth’s place is Putin, and it is he and his Russia who/that will set us free. Cracking down on Bloggers is part of that abolitionary process.
Here’s what techdirt (love this name) had to say about Putin’s latest maneuvering concerning internet freedom:
Russia Orders Bloggers To ‘Register’; Outlaws Anonymous Blogging, Continues Clampdown On Social Media
As we’ve reported, Russia has been steadily trying to bring the Internet under control with ever-more stringent measures. After tackling general Web sites through powers that allow them to be blocked more easily, it now seems to be the turn of the bloggers, as this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency on a recently-approved law explains:
The law introduces a new term: “Internet user called blogger.” Bloggers will be obliged to declare their family name and initials and e-mail address. Those authors whose personal website or page in social networks has 3,000 visitors or more a day must have themselves registered on a special list and abide by restrictions applicable to the mass media. In other words, registration requires the blogger should check the authenticity of published information and also mention age restrictions for users. Also, bloggers will have to follow mass media laws concerning electioneering, resistance to extremism and the publication of information about people’s private lives. An abuse of these requirements will be punishable with a fine of 10,000 to 30,000 rubles (roughly $300 to $1,000) for individuals and 300,000 rubles ($10,000) for legal entities. A second violation will be punishable with the website’s suspension for one month.
Clearly those onerous conditions are designed to make any blogger think twice or three times before publishing anything at all controversial or embarrassing for the authorities. The article notes that the new law may be challenged before Russia’s Constitutional Court, and that there’s a huge loophole in the form of blogs located overseas, which are not covered by the legislation. The fear has to be that the Russian government will now move on to blocking them too. Moreover, not content with intimidating independent blogs, the Russian authorities also seem to be tightening their grip on VKontakte, the Russian Facebook. As Ars Technica reports:
Pavel Durov, the founder of Vkontakte (VK) — the largest social network in Russia — said on Tuesday that he fled the country one day after being forced out of the company, claiming that he felt threatened by Kremlin officials.
In a post on his profile page on Monday, Durov explained that he was fired from his position as CEO of VK and that the so-called “Russian Facebook” is now “under the complete control” of two oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.
His removal is probably connected with his longstanding refusal to censor content on VKontakte:
Durov explained that after seven years of relative social media freedom in Russia, his refusal to share user data with Russian law enforcement has set him at odds with the Kremlin, which has recently been trying to tighten its grip on the Internet, according to The Moscow Times.
VK’s former CEO says that despite his multiple refusals of Kremlin requests to censor his site in a similar fashion to how it filters print and TV news, the site — which boasts 143 million registered users globally, 88 million of whom are based in Russia — is now effectively under state control.
What’s sad here is that, as we’ve noted ruefully before, in the wake of revelations about NSA and GCHQ spying, the West is no longer in a position to criticize this kind of censorship and surveillance. As the latest moves indicate, the Russian authorities seem intent on taking full advantage of that fact.
What’s ironic about this recent Russian legislation is, were America, or the West in general, to implement such draconian measures, the likes of the heralded and coveted author of The Vineyard of the Saker blog would be forced to not only register and state his name, address and telephone number, but he would also have to change the entire theme and sentiment of his blog from one of anti-American pro-Russian to pro-American anti-Russian.
Maybe that’s the true purpose of The Saker’s blog and others like it. It’s created by provocateurs to ultimately serve as pretext for shutting down dissent in the West following on the heels of Russia’s lead. I know Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis has a fetish about identities. If he takes notable negative exception to something you’ve posted and you do so anonymously, he will call you out and ask for your name, rank and serial number. Why would that be important to the Colonel? It’s what the person is…what they represent by their words that matters most, not their personal identity.
It’s easy for a former head of human intelligence to reveal his identity without repercussions but for us proles, we don’t have the luxury of special forces kill squad comrades at our disposal if someone says something we find offensive and we no longer want them to walk the Earth. For the record, I don’t feel that way, meaning I welcome disagreement and I don’t begrudge anonymity and by no means would I ever aspire to do physical harm to someone who didn’t bow in my presence and suck my ass for all the world to see. But believe me, there are quite a few out there who like the idea of silencing their dissenters. The bullpen is currently overflowing with these tyrants who are champing at the bit to reap revenge and torture their infectious enemies. They feel the time is close and their calcified hearts pound furiously in anticipation.
But wait, there’s even more irony. There’s always more, remember? There’s an infinite supply, in fact. There is no such thing as Peak Irony like the vaunted Peak Oil. In fact, there’s too much irony which is not necessarily a good thing. But it does make for an endless supply of material to cover even though no one really gives a shit. Despite the tremendous abundance of it, most people choose to ignore it like they ignore the air they breath. Most people are uncomfortable confronting their ironical contradictions. Not me. I consider it a sport, so in my best John Madden (must click link) imitation, here’s some more of that ubiquitous irony:
Durov, Activists Adjust Accordingly As Kremlin Cracks Down On Internet Rights
Where does the ousted CEO of Russia’s most popular homegrown social network go to crowd-source ideas for a new place to do business? The competition, of course.
“We are choosing a new home,” Pavel Durov posted on April 24 on a little-used Facebook account he has held since 2006, the year he launched what would become his profoundly successful Russian-language analogue, VKontakte (VK). “A country that will allow us to develop our projects with privacy and freedom of speech in mind.”
The 29-year-old Durov announced on April 22 that he had left Russia after he was forced to sell his ownership shares in VK, which now rests in the hands of two pro-Kremlin oligarchs, Alisher Usmanov and Igor Sechin…..
VK’s popularity, due in large part to a vast database of pirated movies, music, and games, also rested on its design, which provided users with an easy opportunity to build tight-knit communities at a time when the post-Soviet real-life social fabric was badly frayed. Together with blogging sites like LiveJournal, VK is widely credited with kick-starting a renewed interest in local activism, serving as a coordination hub for charities and community relief efforts.
Most importantly, it served as a virtual town hall, allowing the political opposition to build up a public base online. It was reportedly two of those communities — supporters of anti-Kremlin blogger Aleksei Navalny and Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests — that proved Durov’s undoing, when he refused to hand over user identities to the Federal Security Service (FSB)….
It remains to be seen, however, whether Facebook, Google, and other foreign firms may eventually see their presence in Russia scaled back or brought under Kremlin control. The State Duma on April 22 passed tough new restrictions on social-networking sites, including a law that obligates all companies engaged in the transfer of electronic messages to register with state communications bodies, and store information on Internet providers located on Russian territory….
Free-speech advocates like the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) say the latest measures are a fresh attempt by Moscow to “silence Kremlin critics.” Khalai says her access to Google email (Gmail) account has already become erratic and that a once-popular Russia-based network, Odnoklassniki, has become overrun with pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukraine spam. “It’s like we’re going back to 1937,” she says. “To ban these types of things in our modern society is just savagery.”
So, let me get this straight. Putin essentially seizes control of the Russian version of Facebook, VKontakte, and in response to this its former notable users including the creator of the social network move their online presence to, in Putin’s words or at least what can be inferred from his words, the CIA-created and controlled Facebook. Are the FSB and the Western intelligence services working together? You’d certainly think so considering the irony I just highlighted. It will be interesting to see what Putin does about the presence of Facebook and Google in Russia. Will he scale it back and require greater Kremlin control, or will this part of the story dissipate never to be mentioned again and by virtue of that, Russia outsources its all-seeing eye, at least when it comes to social networks, to Western intelligence who will inform him with periodic briefs?
The quote from the article above didn’t mention the famous Russian activist journalist (a real journalist unlike the NYT hacks who type from a script), Oleg Kashin, but it should have. I watched a documentary last week created by Kashin called Putin’s Kiss. It was intriguing. You should check it out when you get the chance if you haven’t already seen it. It does a credible job of revealing the oppression of dissent and opposition in Russia. Freedom of expression in Russia is the main character in this documentary and it is accomplished by investigating the life of a woman by the name of Masha Drokova who was indoctrinated at an early age by Putin’s Youth Movement group, Nashi, and became one of its leading members before becoming somewhat disillusioned. The film covers a lot of material but it’s worth it for its highly informative content. Here’s the YouTube:
You have to love the name Nashi. It sounds an awful lot like Nazi, or maybe it’s just my active imagination. The documentary reveals how Kashin was beaten to within inches of his life, and of course, nothing can ever be proven so those responsible will never be charged and brought to justice. That’s the way it goes in Russia. In the spirit of personal liberty, if someone says something you don’t like, you can beat them to death or close to death…or leave them in a pool of blood in a lonely stairwell somewhere with a bullet in the back of their head. That’s worth defending, isn’t it? If only we could have that here in America. We need this kind of medicine for our pernicious infection in the West.
Here’s an excellent review from NPR. Per the link:
Now, what makes Putin’s Kiss interesting goes beyond Masha’s personal rise and fall. For starters, it offers a fresh glimpse into how Putin’s Russia actually works. We see why Putin, who always looked to me like a ’60s James Bond villain, enjoyed years of popularity. Masha grew up watching him bring order and prosperity to a country that had melted down after the fall of communism. He seemed like a savior.
At the same time, we see how Putin, an ex-KGB man, has created his own version of democracy. He calls it “sovereign democracy,” an oligarchy that uses everything from the police to street thugs to groups like Nashi to keep down anyone who might oppose him. Putin has created a Russia where you can do most of what you want — just so long as you don’t question who’s running it or how.
And because bad things can happen to those who do ask questions, it’s hard not to marvel at those who stand up against the system. Most are not world-famous martyrs like the imprisoned oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Instead, they’re like the heroes of Valery Panyushkin’s recent book 12 Who Don’t Agree — a gripping page-turner I highly recommend. It’s about a dozen down-to-earth men and women who, for various reasons, have gotten fed up with Putinism. They oppose his rule — and pay the price in beatings, harassment, loss of jobs and social ostracism.
Masha’s fate is less melodramatic, which is part of what makes Putin’s Kiss so revelatory about what’s happening in Russia right now. You see, Masha is no radical, no saint. This young woman who starts out the movie by kissing her idol ends it in bewildered disillusionment, standing on the street holding a sign demanding that the authorities investigate the beating of her friend Oleg Kashin. Like so many of her fellow countrymen, Masha knows that something has gone badly wrong, even if she’s not sure how to put it right.
Call me whatever you like, but I prefer a hard-hitting exposé like that versus the inkhorn bonnyclabber that’s Kunstler’s weekly gospel. The latest this week from Kunstler here promises to stay within the bounds of permissible. Sure, Jimmy can turn a phrase, but it’s always the same old thing with another increasingly transparent shade of lipstick. Peak Oil and financial fraud and incompetency are always the culprits for everything. Doesn’t JHK ever get tired of repeating himself? Apparently not. He does have a couple of favorite words he uses every week now, or every other week; fundament and cloaca. It’s an inkhorn way of describing not-so-pleasant openings/orifices. Unca Jimma’s preoccupied with naughty evacuating orifices as are the Nashi street thugs in Putin’s Kiss who shit on the hood of the opposition leader’s car as intimidating retribution for disagreeing.
Anyway, even though Kunstler receives more than 3,000 views of his blog daily, I’m sure he’d have nothing to worry about should the laws in America follow Putin’s Example (versus Putin’s Kiss). Bonnyclabber is the expectation, so Jim’s preemptive and ahead of the curve. He’s even provided his name and personal information in obeisance to a law that’s not even on the books yet. Yet. There’s still time.