The Guardian’s Pussy Worship

From their latest Editorial / anti-Putin rant, via Mercouris. It is not with the ideological rhetoric that I have an issue with; it’s The Guardian, after all. Nor am I especially interested in defending Pussy Riot’s prosecution (my own views on the matter jive with Kononenko’s). I do however have an issue with the The Guardian explicitly misrepresenting or outright lying to support its agenda – a modus operandus that is now all too common to it and makes a mockery of the “facts are sacred” values it claims to uphold. In this “fisking”, I will only highlight the most egregious violations of basic journalistic standards.

“Their protest is not made of slogans and placards, but is crafted from art, dance and performance. Putin and his henchmen know how to deal with the former – the hundreds of thousands who have spilled into the streets in the last eight months – but their handling of the these women is much less assured.”

The Protests for Fair Elections got at very, very most 100,000 at the biggest such rally, the one on Prospekt Sakharova in December – a count made by Russia’s most liberal mainstream newspaper. (Other estimates ranged 60,000-80,000). That is, they numbered in the tens of thousands. If they want hundreds of thousands, they had better look elsewhere… say, Spain.

“The trial takes place in the same courthouse where alleged fraudster and billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former boss of the Yukos oil company and Putin’s political enemy, was tried.”

Not an alleged but a CONVICTED fraudster, in a judgment ruled sound by the ECHR.

“The treatment meted out to these ordinary, playful, even harmless young women and mothers has shocked and outraged ordinary Russians.”

April poll, Levada: 47% of “shocked and outraged ordinary Russians” think 7 years is an adequate punishment; 32% think it is excessive; and a mere 10% do not think they should be criminally prosecuted at all.

April poll, VCIOM: How do Russians look at Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer”? Hooliganism – 46%; sacrilege – 21%; political protest – 13%; PR – 10%; 4% – encouragement of hatred towards religious groups; 1% – art. In other words, only 14% of Russians agree with The Guardian’s interpretation. 86% think Pussy Riot should be prosecuted.

July poll, Levada: 36% approve of the prosecution of Pussy Riot, 50% disapprove.

July poll, FOM: 34% of Russians think that several years in prison is a just sentence, whereas 37% disagree. If they were asked to write a sign a letter in defense of Pussy Riot, 28% say they would and 51% say they wouldn’t.

Based on the above polls there is no consensus on what to do with Pussy Riot but most certainly the case has no shocked or outraged many Russians. For that matter very significant minorities consider that a prison sentence of several years would not be out of place. Whether or not one agrees with or is horrified by that is quite irrelevant. What IS relevant is that The Guardian has cardinally misrepresented Russian social attitudes to its readers in order to push its own partisan agenda.

Why does The Guardian so often conflate its own left-liberal views and biases for that of the “ordinary people” it pretends to speak for? (This is a rhetorical question)

“… brought him, until as recently as 2010, approval ratings of around 80%. That is no more. His ratings have plummeted.”

Does this look like a “plummeting” approval rating to you? (chart via Mark Adomanis via Levada Center)

“Resentment towards the political elite, the widening gap between the immensely rich and the poor, the deteriorating social security system, the collapse in oil prices and what Forbes has called “a stampede” of investors out of Russia – an outflow of $42bn in the first four months of 2012 – means the economy is flagging.”

Russia’s Gini index of inequality was 41.6 in 2011. This is virtually unchanged from the 38-43 range is has been in since 1993. Wrong.

Russia’s GDP grew 4.9% in Q1, and is estimated to have increased by 4.0% in Q2. (For comparison, the UK is in an outright double-dip recession).  Russia’s industrial PMI for June 2012 is higher than in Brazil, China, and all G7 countries bar Canada. On what basis then is the Russian economy “flagging”, especially in the context of near-recession in the Eurozone and an appreciable slowdown in China?

One can take issues with several other characterizations in that paragraph. Oil prices have hardly collapsed (they are still higher than in any year bar 2008 and 2011); it is unclear what exactly The Guardian means by “resentment” or “deteriorating” (certainly it is unlikely to be backed by statistical data if the other claims are anything to go by); and the points about capital outflow as usual do not go into the structural specifics of said outflow (hint: A large portion of it is European daughter banks in Russia recapitalizing their mothers in the Eurozone).

But the complaint is not about those claims shoddy as they mostly are. It is about the two outright, demonstrable LIES in this paragraph.

“… the new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations to carry a “foreign agent” tag”

“The new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations THAT ENGAGE IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES AND RECEIVE FOREIGN FUNDING to carry a “foreign agent” tag.” Fixed.

As per the best Western traditions, as pointed out by Mark Chapman.

Well, who has to register in the United States, under FARA? Persons who are acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi political capacity. Quasi-political? Isn’t that a little vague? Well, perhaps they’re a little more specific in the Frequently Asked Questions section. Here, we learn that “foreign principals” means “…foreign political parties, a person or organization outside the United States, except U.S. citizens, and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country” (emphasis mine), and that the purpose of the Act is “…to insure that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws“.

Why is The Guardian so contemptuous of even the most accessible facts when they go against its own narrative? (This is a rhetorical question)

Comments

  1. slavixtube says:

    Good post Anatoly, thanks. Unfortunatly Guardian is lying about Russia just as much as most western msm. Facts do not matter when they do not help to build desired narrative.

    >>“The new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations THAT RECEIVE FOREIGN FUNDING to carry a “foreign agent” tag.” Fixed.

    Let me fix that for you.

    “The new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations ENGAGED IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES and RECEIVE FOREIGN FUNDING to carry a “foreign agent” tag.” Fixed.

    AK: Thanks. The fix is, erm, fixed. :)

    • Another winner and I’ll bet that it took you at least ten times as much effort to refute this rubbish as it took the writer to write it. Once again, you have shown that a fool can ask more questions (string together more memes-of-the-moment) than ten wise men can answer (refute with actual data).

      But, here’s the question? Is this sort of thing MALICE or INTENTION?

      Personally I am a strong believer that one should not attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity but I cannot avoid noticing that all the “stupidity” points in the same direction.

      So is all this slipshod crap about Russia the consequence of laziness, ignorance and deadline pressure, or is there an actual plot/design/intention/campaign/whatever to blacken Russia?

      • Dear Patrick,

        Of course I don’t defintely know the answer to your question though it is one I too often think about. I’ll give you my view for what it’s worth.

        The author or authors of these editorials and articles certainly know that many of the facts that appear in these editorials and in these articles are untrue. The inaccuracies and falsehoods are simply too many and too great to be explained in any other way. There is therefore a definite anti Putin agenda and to that extent there surely is malice. It is however based on a sincerely held though in my opinion frankly paranoid belief in Putin’s wickedness, one which unfortunately is shared by many people here. This belief is so strong as to make the author or authors of these editorials and articles utterly reckless about the falsehoods that appear in them. Their presence presumably is justified as serving some greater cause or truth, namely the exposure of Putin’s wickedness, which as I said the author or authors of these editorials and articles sincerely believe in. One is reminded of Churchill’s famous quip that in war the Truth is so precious that she must be constantly attended by a bodyguard of Lies.

  2. An entirely excellent post Anatoly. I completely agree with all you say.

    The Guardian has a right not to like Putin and a right to criticise him and to do so in a strong and vigorous way. It has no right to distort and misreport the facts, which is what it is continuously doing.

    I would make one point, which is that on this occasion the writer of the editorial was careful to give no figures in the editorial. What this surely shows is that the writer knows that the figures do not support his case. In fact as you show they refute it. This in turn means that he knows that what he is writing is untrue. C.P. Scott must be spinning in his grave seeing what his beloved newspaper has come to.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Interesting how several of those CiF commentators that support the Guardian Pussy Riot comment have acquaintances in Russia who assure them what shithole of a repressive regime Russia is and how so many Russian citizens support those nice, artistic girls. No prizes for guessing that very many of these acquaintances might be prone to taking mass protest-strolls about Moscow, to lounging around the Garden Ring strumming their guitars, to assembling around courthouses in order to welcome the release of Navalny and others of their ilk who have spent a few days in the jug. None of these acquaintances, I dare say, would be representatives of the majority of the Russian population, who find the antics of the Pussy Riot “politicized artists” collective somewhat distasteful and disrespectful. And no mention, of course, of the fact that it was the Russian prosecution service that finally demanded that the trial of the alleged hooligans take place today, having become exasperated with all the shilly-shallying that has taken place on the part of the defence lawyers in in their presentation of their case whilst at the same milking every opportunity for making the most politically out of the charge and the trial.

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        I had not realised that the trial only began today at the insistence of the prosecution. It was the right move, which called the defence’s bluff and which finally forced the defence to make its case clear with the result being the admission we saw this morning. Needless to say this admission could and should have been months ago saving everyone an immense amount of time and trouble. As I explain in my comment below all this posturing and delay has done is keep the girls in gaol when they would probably by now be free whist damaging the girls’ prospects of avoiding a prison sentence.

        Bluntly if lawyers had behaved like that in the UK or US the Court would have sacked them (as it has the right to do sine they are technically offficers of the court) and invited thsacked the girls to appoint new ones.

  3. The news this morning is that on the first day of their trial the three girls have finally admitted that they were physically present in the Cathedral during the concert. They have also conceded that they committed an offence (though they say that it should have been treated as an administrative offence not as hooliganism) and they have offered what Itar Tass says is an apology though on careful examination it is nothing of the sort.

    http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c32/484122.html

    This admission makes meaningless all the months of pre trial manoeuvres in which the girls and their lawyers were denying that they were present in the Cathedral. Only a few days ago the London Times wrote an editorial on the Pussy Riot case which took seriously their denial that they were present in the Cathedral when the concert took place. One wonders what the editorial writer thinks of their admission now.

    Also by admitting that an offence was committed the girls have confirmed that they are not adopting the defence adopted for them by Amnesty International and their western admirers that they were entitled to do what they did as an exercise of their right of free speech under Article 10(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights. Please note: any such defence of the girls you now read in the western media or on the part of assorted worthies such as Amnesty International, Sting, Madonna, Red Hot Chilli Peppers etc, is not being made by the girls themselves in their defence and never has been. They could not previously make this defence because up to now they were not admitting that they were present in the Cathedral so they could not claim a defence of free speech for actions they were not admitting they ever made. Now that they admit that they were present in the Cathedral the girls are also admitting that what they did was an offence albeit only an administrative offence. This is an admission that they were not entitled to do what they did so the defence that they were entitled to do what they did as an exercise of their right of free speech under Article 10(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights does not apply.

    The only defence the girls are now making is the defence of proportionality, that the penalty prescribed under the charge of hooliganism is disproportionate to the offence committed. This is a valid defence and one to which Article 10(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights applies.

    Where the defence is one of proportionality this creates the classic situation, as I have argued previously, for a pea bargain in which an admission of guilt and an apology is traded for a lower sentence. If the girls had made their admission and offered a sincere apology right at the start of this case we would have been spared all the nonsense of the last few months. The trial would by now long since be over, a lenient sentence could have been agreed.and the girls would almost certainly by now be free.

    There is no reason why the Court would not have agreed to impose a lenient sentence as part of a plea bargain. There are (or were) ample grounds for mitigation given that the girls are (1) young and inexperienced and therefore could argue that they did not fully understand the upset what they did would cause (2) have no previous history of serious criminal convictions (3) did not cause material damage (4) did not act for material gain (5) can validly argue that they did what they did because they were incensed by the Patriarch’s support for Putin in the election campaign and (6) because two of them are mothers with children. I understand that sentencing practice for the offensive of hooliganism is flexible so the Court has wide discretion as to the sort of sentence it can impose once it has taken the admission, apology and plea in mitigation into account.

    The question is whether the outbreak of sanity we have seen this morning has come too late. The trial has now started and the apology offered is much less than fulsome and the mitigation has been seriously damaged by the arrogant and disruptive conduct of the defence up to now. Significantly there is no promise from the girls not to do the same thing again whilst a further bad sign is that the girls’ lawyers have renewed their pointless call for the Patriarch to give evidence at the trial. Since the Patriarch was not present in the Cathedral when the offence was committed he is not a witness and there is therefore no sense in calling him. I understand that the defence is also persisting in its foolish argument that the prosecution is somehow politically motivated, which makes no sense in the light of the admission made this morning and which can only further damage the girls’ mitigation and antagonise the Court.

    Let us hope however that the admissions and comments made this morning do represent a sea change and a dawning realisation that the defence tactics adopted up to now whatever their political impact have been from a legal point of view disastrously counterproductive. In that case it is just possible even now that a line may be drawn under the whole affair. I am not holding my breath though.

    • Thanks for this, explains a lot (I also had the impression that defence is useless – why would they want Putin/Patriarch to testify?). Only I was certain that the girls are not charged with hooliganism per se but hooliganism motivated by religious hatred – which sounds to me like a grave offense and shouldn’t apply to their case.

  4. Moscow Exile says:

    Dear Alexander Mercouris,
    The judge presiding over the PR trial is the same one who only recently extended the period of remand imposed on the PR defendents to January of next year. This caused such a furore in the West that I am sure the Russian prosecution finally decided enough was enough and ordered the trial to commence on 30 July, having become sick and tired of the defence making spurious appeals to the court, which appeals all having been rejected. Nevertheless, on the opening day of the trial, PR defence once again, according to a report in the Moskovskyi Komsomolets, requested that the Patriarch appear at the trial to give evidence. The defence wish him to enlighten the court as regards Russian Orthodox Church canon law, it seems. This request has already been refused by the court.
    MK, a daily similar, in my opinion to the UK Daily Mirror, reported today that there were present outside the court where the PR trial is taking place, demonstrators who were protesting both for and against the “artists”. However, MK reports that the journalists present far outnumber the demonstrators. The trial has been declared an open one, and all are allowed to witness it: that is why it is taking place in the same courtroom were the fraud steer Khodorkovskyi stood trial – it is a big place with ample room for an army of journalists. The judge, however has forbad photographs and video recordings to be taken, a prohibition against which – you’ve guessed it – the defence immediately lodged an appeal.
    It seems that the defence, having finally been forced to present its case in court, is now determined to make the trial last as long as possible – all in the interests of its clients of course.

  5. Here in the meantime is an article by Natalia Antonova in the Guardian on the Pussy Riot case (she also touches on Navalny as well).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/30/pussy-riot-russian-court-system

    I actually like Natalia Antonova and it is interesting to see how in the comments section she gets into a fight with a Russophobic troll. Good for her. However her article is completely wrong. The Pussy Riot case shows no crisis within the Russian court system. What it shows is appalling conduct by the defence as I have discussed previously. Also it is totally wrong to judge the conduct of a court before a case is decided. By way of example, seven years is the maximum sentence for hooliganism permitted by the law. We do not yet know that that is the sentence the Court will impose if the girls are found guilty and any talk of the sentence being excessive is therefore completely premature.

    I have almost come round to a decision to write a post on the Pussy Riot case explaining what the legal issues are. I am afraid it will be geeky and dull and it was not therefore my intention to write such a post. However for my own peace of mind I am now sorely tempted to do so.

  6. The Guardian is going stark raving bonkers. They have published another editorial on Pussy Riot. That is two editorials in as many days. There was also a long article yesterday and today’s article by Natalia Antonova. I have never known anything like it. Talk about obsession.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/30/pussy-riot-trial-editorial

  7. donnyess says:

    CBS posted an article claiming that half the people oppose the trial.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501714_162-57483024/a-glance-at-trial-of-feminist-anti-putin-rockers/

    I’m more inclined to believe that about half are indifferent leaning toward some sort of minor punishment. I don’t think that Russians approve of wanton attacks on the spritual well being of the populace. The western media understand the power of organized religion as an agent of influence so they attack the Russian orthodox church. Patriarch Kirill AFAICT does not advocate murder and mayhem in foreign nations.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-08-22-robertson-_x.htm

    If I may tender my one word of advice to the Russian criminal court regarding those 3 girls…HAMMER!

    • Moscow Exile says:

      At the moment I’m living way out in the sticks (in that Russia that is “Third World”, as a contributor to another thread recently stated) and I’m willing to bet that more than half the folk living in this neck of the woods have never heard of “Pussy Riot”.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    According to today’s MK, the PR defence has now lodged a complaint that the trial is being rushed through (remember, today is only the second day of the trial); a third witness has already given evidence today.

    The defence counsel has claimed that he has only had two hours sleep because his having to get up early and the trial lasting until the evening.

    A spokesman for the Russian prosecution service countered by saying that a trial can go on until as late as 10pm if necessary.

    The defence has claimed that at the present rate of knots that the trial is making, it will be all over bar the shouting next week.

    Cleary, that is something the defence does not want. After all, this is supposed to be a “show trial” is it not?

  9. Meanwhile the Guardian has published yet another article about the case this time from Masha Gessen. Even some of my British friends who are not interested in Russian questions and who do not like Putin are starting to say that it looks obsessive especially as all the articles and editorials say the same thing.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/31/pussy-riot-russians-new-hope-putin

    Anatoly got it exactly right in a comment the Guardian let him post on Comment is Free. The reason the Guardian is so obsessed with the Pussy Riot case is because it panders to all the fixations of the left liberal Guardinistas who write for and read the Guardian: militant feminism, hatred of Putin, mistrust of Russia, loathing of Christianity and of the Christian Church masquerading as something called “secularism”, hostility to high culture and deification of pop culture. As Anatoly also rightly said in their cultural arrogance the Guardianistas cannot understand that most people in Russia do not think as they do.

    • But the three women do personify the essence of the protests: they have no articulated political agenda, they offer no detailed critique of the regime; they are just very loud and very expressive about wanting an end to the stifling rule of Putin and his cronies. They have been in jail for five months and face years more for this: being loud, irreverent, and very, very clear about what they want.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Gessen throwing in her two penn’orth of criticism as regards the PR case would be right up the street of of many of those Russians that dislike PR, as a common “accusation” made against PR members by Russian commenters in the Russian popular press is that they are lesbians.

      And before the liberal-left Guardianistas start voicing off their bile against the homophobic mob that supports Putin, Mother Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, as I have pointed out elsewhere, a common accusation hurled against Putin by “opposition” supporters is that he is, to use the Russian term, a “pederast”, namely a male homosexual.

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      @ Alex, AK

      The impression I got from AK’s quotation of that part of Masha Gessen’s article where she contradicts herself is that the Pussy Riot women were doing what someone told them to do. True rebels would have an idea or vision, however vague, confused, hare-brained and second-hand, of the type of society they wish for after overthrowing Putin. To me they’re no different from those Free Syrian Army rebels and mercenaries who go from Iraq to Libya to Syria to wherever shooting up villages and towns because they like to cause chaos. I’m not comparing PR’s actions with the FSA actions (those are far more horrific) but the intended effect of both is to soften up Western audiences to accept an invasion of Syria and oppose Russian efforts to assist that country.

      The shock tactics that PR used in the cathedral and which Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had photographed and put up on the link AK mentioned in a past post (don’t worry, they caused me no upset, just a lot of snickering and I saw AK’s disclaimer) are ones performance artists used 30 – 40 years to shock audiences. Given that there are Internet stories about how the CIA threw money at abstract expressionist painters in the 1950s/60s in an effort to turn Americans away from socialist realist art, I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow the NED was behind these PR women, especially now as they have admitted to being in the cathedral at the time of the stunt and have apologised for their actions. It’s almost as if they’ve just sobered up or come out of a trance.

    • Maybe the Grauniad is starting to think it went too far:
      check this out

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/west-hypocrisy-pussy-riot

      Interestingly, from the several dozen comments I’ve read, more seem to agree with Jenkins than not.

  10. A typical piece of fulmination from Ed Lucas in which however he refers to the Pussy Riot performance as “scatalogical” and “blasphemous” thereby (given the nature of the charge) actually handing the case to the prosecution if he was a witness, which alas he isn’t.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/9441701/President-Vladimir-Putins-cruel-tyranny-is-driven-by-paranoia.html

    PS: Not everybody in Britain supports Pussy Riot. The conservative Daily Mail whose website is more popular than the Guardian’s has conspicuously remained silent about it. Sometimes silence speaks louder than a thousand words.

  11. Alexander, how’s this for more fulmination? More garbage from one of America’s most notorious propaganda networks – ABC News (Their coverage on Syria and the Iranian nuclear issue would make Goebbels turn in his grave). Can you believe all the sheer disinformation and fabrications in this article?

    http://news.yahoo.com/putin-rolls-back-freedoms-ups-efforts-intimidate-opposition-135553753–abc-news-topstories.html

  12. Same old crap, counting Russian companies funnelling profits to their Cypriot holdings and then returning them to the country as ‘capital flight’. What if they counted Google’s Irish subsidiary the same way for capital flight from the USA.

  13. The Independent: “An opposition movement which is growing ever more sophisticated… spray-painted a sixty five-metre phallus on a drawbridge.”

    • The article concerns a certain “Navalyn?” Who the heck is that, ;)

      Well, the chick author looks cute in her ushanka. One wishes her well, and better luck in the future!

      Is that a parody? I had a few drinks tonight, but that must be a joke?

  14. Finskiy Drug says:

    There are idiots in the Western media who describe Pussy Riot as politically important. If those girls are the saviours of Russia, then you will need all the help that Saints Boris and Gleb, Aleksandr Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy, Seraphim of Sarov, Aleksandr of Svir and a few others can provide.

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  1. […] how it was wrong for America to invade a sovereign nation and shove our values down their throats. By screaming for these balaclava-clad hooligans to be freed, aren’t liberals shoving their values down the Russians’ throats? They’re not […]

  2. […] nekaj mesecev (pravzaprav let) smo lahko  priča intenzivnemu pranju možganov s strani trobil množičnega konsenza “civiliziranega sveta”, ki gre nekako tako: poglejte grdega Putina, ki uničuje vse in […]

  3. […] Unfortunately for Pussy Riot, that court of public opinion did not find in their favour either. […]