Thursday, October 25, 2018

Russian Elite Ignores Media Exposés Because State is Strong and Society is Weak, Davydov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – In Western democracies, when the media expose wrongdoing among the elite, the regimes are forced to respond because the state is ultimately dependent on the strength of society; but in Russia, Ivan Davydov says, the state is so much stronger than society that it simply ignores anything the media come up with.  

            Indeed, the chief consequences of such exposés like the one Novaya gazeta just did on Yevgeny Prigrozhin, the editor of the New Ethics project says, is silence, laughter or lawsuits against the authors and their outlet by those against those who crimes have been documented (

            Indeed, the repeated failure of the Russian authorities to respond as their Western counterparts would to the watchdog role of the media is “a history of the clash of a weak society with strong powers that be.”  In Russia, “society reacts” but the authorities don’t because they don’t have to.

            It is obvious way, Davydov says. In the existing political system of Russia, “the powers that be are in no way dependent on society. And even if the electoral machine sometimes suffers losses as in September of this year in the gubernatorial races, this is still not the basis for asserting that global shifts have begun.”

            Sometimes, he continues, people say that “in Russia the institution of reputation doesn’t work. But this isn’t true. It works perfectly; it is simply the case that it isn’t the citizens who decide who is worthy and who is a thief, a bribe tacker or a murderer.” Rather it is the state which chooses which facts to recognize and which to ignore.

            That leads to “the sad conclusion that the media and their analogues … cannot fulfill one of their main functions: they do not work as an instrument of societal self-defense not because their work isn’t of high quality … but because the powers have the strength to ignore the media and the consumers of their production.”

            Those officials or elites close to the Kremlin who do suffer in any way after media attacks, Davydov says, in fact had lost their standing before those attacks or behaved in response to those attacks in ways that the powers above them judged to be a problem for themselves and the system.

            This of course doesn’t mean that investigative journalism isn’t necessary. It heightens the awareness of society not so much about the particular problems it exposes but rather about the fact that the powers that be have divorced themselves from society but expect to be paid alimony.

            The more Russians understand that reality, the better the chances for change, Davydov says; and that makes such media exposes important, even though they don’t play the role that some of their authors and others expect on the basis of the experience of media in other countries.

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