Friday, December 18, 2015

A Small Difference with Big Consequences – Russian Talk Show Hosts Stand; Western Ones Sit

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – The shape of the table at which Russian leaders receive their subordinates and the fact that the accused in Russian trials are always shown behind bars even before they are convicted are just some of the small and often unnoted differences between Russia and the West that have a major impact on how Russians see the world.

            Now, Aleksandr Gnezdilov, a theater director who is also a senior member of Yabloko, has pointed to another of these, one that may be equally important. He points out in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that Russian talk show hosts almost always are shown standing while Western ones almost always are sitting (

            The director points out that actors or television personalities who are standing act more dramatically and even aggressively than those who are sitting and that this is one of the many cases when, as Grigory Pomerants put in 40 years ago, “the style of a polemic is more important than the subject of a polemic: subjects change, but style creates a civilization.”

            And Russian talk show hosts stand because “someone who is sitting is stiffer and less emotionally free” and thus is less likely to take extreme positions and more likely to be restrained in his expressions. “But is this really a bad thing” when it comes to politics, Gnezdilov asks.

            He argues that those talking politics ought to be restrained and even “stiff.”  That allows people to interact and discuss things more readily than when all are standing. In that event, the conversation descends into a shouting match and encourages the kind of aggressive attitudes that soon spread to viewers.

            This has a particular impact on foreigners who are put on Russian television. However good they speak Russians, they are not suited to deal with these standing hosts who move and speak in an aggressive manner. Indeed, they are often intimidated into silence or into what appears to be deference to the hosts or even agreement, something that also carries a message.

            The director cites the words of a Japanese character who observes that “when brave people assemble and begin day after day to argue about their dreams, in the end they begin to believe that they can easily overthrow everything in this world with ease.”  That is what Russian television hosts project by their behavior. 

            And it is clear evidence that it is “the style which influence content,” even if few are paying attention to their relationship.

            “The roots of this aesthetic are in the revolution, in Stalinism and in the cruelty of the social Darwinism of the 1990s. But all the same its birth was marked by [Putin’s use of the phrase] ‘drown them in the outhouse.”  That kind of “cult of force” has been promoted by television hosts and now has left Russia on the brink of a major war.

No comments:

Post a Comment