So it seems the Kremlin has already begun its mudslinging campaign against anti-corruption blogger and presidential candidate (for now) Alexei Navalny. Of course it seems a bit early and quite frankly unnecessary in a country that hasn’t had a free election in many years if it ever had one at all, but given Navalny’s role in prompting last month’s mass protests you can understand why the powers that be are starting to take him seriously.
As is laughably predictable at this point, the video compares Alexei Navalny to…get ready for it…HITLER!!!
That’s right, they skipped over the old “foreign agent” child’s play and went full Hitler, something usually reserved only for Ukrainians. A few minutes into the video called to mind something I wrote in the early days of this blog, when Russian Nazi-labeling went nuclear. As for the reaction to the video well, the like-to-dislike ratio says a lot:
Now what, you ask, is the basis for calling Navalny Hitler? Well one of the biggest criticisms of Navalny (often coming from other Russian liberals or their supporters) is his ties to Russian nationalists. His links are rather tenuous and he’s not connected to the most odious groups (unlike, say, the Presidential Administration), but he has participated in the nationalist Russian March and he has hitherto refused to give any sincere apology for this past activity. That being said, the film in question sometimes exaggerates or cherry-picks some of Navalny’s quotes to make him seem much worse that he really is on this issue.
Of course Navalny’s nationalist leanings (as well on his weaselly stance on Ukraine) should continue to be targets of criticism, but the fact is that the Kremlin is not qualified to make such criticism.
First of all, Navalny’s sin when it comes to nationalism is a simple product of populism. There’s a large demographic in Russia, especially in Moscow, that is receptive to nationalist ideas of various strains. But why does that demographic exist? Where did all these Russians get the idea that Russians are the rightful rulers of the country and all non-Russians need to know their place? They get it largely from the Kremlin media and various politicians.
If we ignore for a second the fact that Kremlin-owned press like RT and Sputnik have published the work of anti-Semites and neo-fascists (one of which served as a guest commentator), domestic state media often decries “tolerance” and “multiculturalism.” Even the KPRF, the so-called “Communist Party of the Russian Federation,” once pushed for officially recognizing ethnic Russians as the nation-forming nationality of Russia, essentially giving them a special place of honor.
Most infuriating is the part in the video where it talks about Navalny’s xenophobia during his run for mayor in 2013. The video correctly points out that Moscow has a very diverse, multi-national population. On this particular occasion, multiculturalism and diversity are portrayed as positive. Yet the rest of the time, the Kremlin’s media says diversity is destroying Western Europe. What is more, the Russian government actively aids xenophobic far-right parties in Europe. In other words- the Kremlin actively supports and praises individuals and political groups which espouse views far more xenophobic than those expressed by Navalny. In fact, in my own experience I’ve noticed that many of the Putin-supporters who are so quick to drop the Nazi label actually hold key views in common with the Nazi party or their fascist fellow-travelers. Anyone who knows Kremlin propaganda knows that in their parlance, “Nazi” has nothing to do with fascism or the beliefs associated with it; it simply means you oppose the Kremlin.
This is why it’s so hard to take these morons seriously anymore, and this is why the video garnered so many dislikes and negative comments. The whole gay Hitler one-two punch works great on elderly people in provincial Russia, but it’s become nothing more than a joke to the younger generation of Russians who prefer Youtube to the traditional tube.
But hey- you’ve got to give them a hand for trying to make this election interesting at least. Now it’s only a matter of trying to predict what the next anti-Navalny video will allege. Will they keep pushing the Hitler meme, possibly trying to link Navalny to Russian WWII Nazi-collaborator Andrei Vlassov or perhaps Hitler himself? Or will they change things up by accusing Navalny of being gay or working for the US State Department? Stay tuned!