Staunton, February 16 – Russians who denounce almost anything they dislike as a manifestation of fascism are in danger of becoming like the little boy who cried wolf, Moscow commentator Ekaterina Vinokurova says. They will be ignored when real fascism appears or possibly not even recognize it themselves.
In an article on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal on Friday, Vinokurova says that the events of the last two weeks in Russia “completely follow the logic” of the story. “Every day from one side of the barricades or the other comes the cry ‘Wolves!’ [and] the other side begins to shout that the wolves are exclusively on the first side” (svpressa.ru/society/article/82237/).
She gives three examples: the accusations against the Dozhd television channel that it was promoting fascism by briefly reporting a poll on the Leningrad blockade, the attacks on Duma deputy Irina Rodnina for photo-shopping a banana into a picture of the Obamas, and the criticism Viktor Shenderovich received for comparing Putin’s Olympics with Hitler’s.
Whatever one thinks of any of these cases, the heated exchange of charges of fascism are without foundation, Vinokurova says. “Yes, we already have the complete right to compare the current regime with McCarthyite America ... we can talk about authoritarianism and dictatorship, but all the same not about a degenerate Hitler.”
Meanwhile, while these exchanges were taking place, other things were taking place, she points out, that did not produce such cries of “wolf.” An admiral killed himself because he couldn’t get a prescription filled for a painkiller. He blamed the government but he didn’t cry “wolf.”
Moreover, in Russian orphanages, hundreds of thousands of young people are “rotting alive, “many of whom will never shout ‘Wolves!” because they will never learn to speak in a normal fashion. And many pupils are not learning that Stalin was “not simply an ‘effective manager’ but also an authoritarian leader, the architect of the GULAG and the man responsible for the fact that there are people who were repressed in almost every Russian family.”
Loose talk about fascism not only devalues the term and desensitizes the population, Vinokurov argues, but it has the effect of distracting attention from real problems and real threats to the lives and freedoms of Russians. People who hear the charge “fascist” ring out ever more rarely respond to it – and won’t if it really appears.
And she concludes that the constant invocation of fascism on any and all occasions “can lead only to one thing: If suddenly after a certain time, real fascists, those who will put yellow stars on Jews, appear and gather force, then no one will listen even the combined cry of the United Russian supporters and the opposition.” They will have shouted “wolf” once too often.
But there is an even more disturbing aspect to this trend, although it is not one that Vinokurova speaks about. That is the possibility, indeed, the likelihood that some in the Putin regime are only too pleased to have people talking about fascism rather than real problems because that will distract attention both from the problems and those responsible for them.
That this is what the regime is in fact doing is suggested by Irina Pavlova, a Grani commentator of enormous insight. She says that the frequent use of the charge of fascist is the results of a longstanding “special operation of the Kremlin,” which is interested in damning any outburst of ethnic nationalism or even civic nationalism as fascist in order to discredit it (rufabula.com/articles/2014/02/13/questions-for-the-ukrainian-opposition).
That is especially clearly on display now in Russian commentary about Ukraine, Pavlova continues. And she points out that Moscow is clearly interested in promoting such ideas about the Maidan. Portraying Ukrainians as opening the way to fascism is from Moscow’s point of view the best way to discredit it not only in Russia and Ukraine but in the West.
That is the message, she says, that “the television channel ‘Russia Today,’ the branches of the Russian Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris (Natalya Narochnitskaya) and in New York (Andranik Migranyan) and Western agents in local mass media have been occupying themselves with all this time.”
Recently, Pavlova concludes, Moscow played its “trump card” in this regard: it began to put out the word that the father of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich had been “an accomplice of Nazism.” At a time when many have already learned to cry wolf, this is the clearest example yet.