Things have been a bit quiet here since I’ve been working on several other projects- Article pitches, videos, a podcast, fundraising, etc.  I did manage to find a couple interesting articles though.

The first is about how the Kremlin started to reach into social media. In addition to being generally informative, it also really struck a chord with me:

“When I visit the United States, I’m often asked how bad is it to live in Putin’s Russia. Knowing that I work at an independent television channel (www.tvrain.ru), the people asking me this question probably expect horror stories about the daily nightmare I endure under the pressure of a totalitarian regime.

Responding can be awkward, because I have to disappoint such expectations, as I’m not able to portray my life in Russia in such simplistic, black-and-white terms.

Many aspects of living in Russia are strangely difficult to explain to someone who’s never experienced life here. There is a huge gap—a canyon of hypocrisy—between what’s official and what’s real, and you’re supposed to know what you can’t say aloud. (Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film “Leviathan” is largely about this phenomenon.)

For instance, you can’t say Russia has no independent media; I work at an independent TV station, after all. But the Devil is in the details, and, in this case, we’re hopelessly outgunned. What’s happened in Russia would be like Fox News taking over the airways in the US, booting MSNBC from cable TV, and reducing liberals to broadcasting online from a small private apartment in Brooklyn.

This farce is the same with elections (where competition is fake), the courts (where justice is a lie), and mass demonstrations (where participation is obligatory).”

Indeed, indeed.  The second one is even more interesting to me, if only because it comes from one of the Kremlin’s paid internet trolls and gives us a fascinating glimpse about what goes on behind the scenes at a troll-farm. I found this passage especially telling:

The workers are divided into three categories, says the former worker:

1) “They pay me and I could care less, I don’t even know what goes on,” many of these people have families, loans to pay, etc.
2) “Yes, I know this is a pro-Kremlin troll factory but the hell with the mental anguish — they pay me and that’s enough;
3) “I am waging an information war against the fascist junta!” — the last category is fewest in number.

Note that actual believers are the minority. No surprise there. Whereas the English-speaking comment trolls attack American and Western foreign policy, Russian-speaking trolls mostly attack Russians who complain about conditions in Russia. This leads to a sad irony, because the people attacking their fellow citizens on the internet realize that their government would much rather pay people like them a rather unimpressive salary than just take that same amount of money and spend it on fixing the problems people are complaining about. As I’ve said before, the government actually has an incentive to keep Russia backward and less prosperous, if only because it means there’s a huge pool of students, pensioners, and other people in dire straits who will be willing to do anything for relatively small amounts of money or gifts. It’s the foundation of the system.

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