Sunday, October 20, 2019

Freer Parts of Russian Media Actually Helping Putin by Making Evil Banal, Baymukhatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 17 – Most commentators view those portions of the media which remain relatively independent of the Putin regime as its enemies, Sergey Baymukhametov says; but in a paradoxical way, by their coverage of repression, these outlets are making such evil actions banal for Russians and thus unwittingly laying the foundations for more of it.

            Fifty-five years ago, when covering the trial of Adolph Eichman in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt introduced the concept of the banality of evil to explain why apparently quite ordinary people can and will commit horrific crimes if they come to believe that they reflect the accepted way of doing business in their country.

            This has the most direct relationship to what is taking place in Russia today, the Moscow commentator says. It is connected “with the term ‘banality’ or more precisely with “banalization,” the ways actions people would earlier have found abhorrent come to be viewed as normal (

The powers that be in Putin’s Russia “do not like freedom of speech or freedom of the press. But …” they may be its beneficiaries. Any one report by the independent media of crimes by the state may generate anger; but the steady flow of such reports, Baymukhmetov suggests, may create the sense that this is the way things are and must be accepted as such.

“With time, what is taking place becomes the background, the norm, the ordinary,” he continues.

.           “Let us remember the 1930s.  There was a civil war in Spain between the republic supporters and the fascist. All Soviet people Ollwed events in that distant land and supported the republicans.  There was a serious battle at Huesca.  In the end, it fell to the Francoists.  At the same time sweeping arrests were taking place in the USSR.”

            At the time, Baymukhmetv says, the following anecdote circulated in Moscow. “One citizen asked anther: ‘Have you heard that they’ve taken Huesca?’ To which the latter asked in return: ‘Have they taken his wife?’ –as ‘a member of the family of a traitor to the Mtherland.’ And his children as well.” 

            In short, something entirely ordinary, “nothing special.”  And that is “one of the forms of the banalization of evil: the habit of living alongside evil and not devoting particular importance to it, let alone actually taking steps to oppose it.” Thus, by repeating so often about repression, the freer Russian press actually is helping to create conditions for even more of it.

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