Staunton, April 19 – The difference between outrageous satire and simple reality is rapidly breaking down in Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Today, Maria Zakharova, the official spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry not only accused the United Kingdom of being “the world record holder” as far as genocide is concerned but of being complicit in the murders of Rasputin and Paul I.
These accusations about murders that occurred in 1916 and 1801 are on the official site of the Russian ministry (mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3178301) and have already attracted attention (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3477116.html and newsru.com/russia/19apr2018/zakharova.html).
In Soviet times, communist propagandists sometimes made outrageous claims such as that “Popov invented baseball,” but these were quickly dismissed for the absurdities they surely were. Tragically, as the line between truth and falsehood is obliterated in many countries and as the media rewards the most outrageous suggestions, that is less likely in this case.
But it says something profoundly disturbing that the official spokesperson for the foreign ministry of a nuclear power should engage in such outrageous and baseless suggestions and ever expect to be taken seriously again. The histories of these two murders, one a hundred years ago and the other more than two hundred, are well-documented.
Unfortunately, there are people in Russia and the West who will say that this is one version of what happened and that it must be put alongside all the others instead of being rejected for what it is, an outrageous lie about the past to weaponize those events for a current political struggle.
And it highlights something else: the Western media in some sense has brought this on itself by confusing balance with objectivity, insisting on reporting all sides of stories as if they were equally worthy of attention rather than approaching claims with some measures of the truth they contain or not.
There are limits to this, of course. Few would suggest that Nazis should be given equal time when people are talking about the Holocaust; but tragically, one can be certain that many in Russia and some in the West will now insist that Zakharova’s outrageous claims be treated as one among many.