Friday, June 28, 2013

Unwise "dissidents" of today's Russia, and other whistleblowers

My Vladimir Putin news feed is filled to the brim with Snowden reports, and I can't help but think about dissidents in general. Once, there were great dissidents in Russia. We had Andrei Sakharov, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and Boris Pasternak amongst the long list of illustrious individuals. More recently there was the late Anna Politkovskaya, and of course, I would count my favourite, Yuri Shevchuk, amongst the contemporary dissidents. But when people are asked to name more contemporary Russian dissidents, we get Pussy Riot, Aleksei Navalny, and Boris Berezovsky.

Seriously, Russia? Even your dissidents have declined. You have a bunch of irrelevant, irreverent punks, a whistleblower with an inflated ego and unrealistic political ambitions, and finally, a greedy, filthy rich, little crook.

I have written a post about Pussy Riot and one on Berezovsky, and I think I don't need to elaborate how little respect I have for these two in particular. What seems disproportionate is the amount of paranoid, anti-Russian rhetoric in the Western media. I think it was putting the label "dissident" next to Berezovsky's name in the headlines that riled me. I think the right label should be "fraudster" or at the very least, "oligarch"... I might even let "tycoon" slide. I am so fed up of the Russia-bashing in Western media, that I have taken to reading news and Twitter feeds in Russian in addition to my usual news feeds in English--which takes considerably more effort, but there is only so much Putin is assisting the traitor Snowden and Putin "stealing" the Super Bowl ring I can stomach.

Then, we have Aleksei Navalny. Navalny is such a class act, crying corruption, corruption everywhere, and then announcing his ambitions for presidency. Presidency? You, Navalny? I fear for Russia then. But I'm not worried seeing Navalny becoming Russian President. Like most of the opposition movement, he is restricted to his Moscow base. But Moscow is hardly representative of Russia. According to a poll by the independent Leveda centre, he isn't that well known, much less popular. This could be because other regions mostly receive their information on public TV and radio, rather than from online media.

I don't find RT to be truly independent (the Fox News of Russia, really), but so far this is the only critical news segment on Navalny that I can find in English: Great White Hype: Protest star Navalny's dark side missed by mainstream. Navalny's radical and nationalist political ambitions, if fully realised, will be dangerous not just to Putin, but to Russia as a whole. Similarly, Putin's nationalist streak is veering the country close enough to this cliff--and it is absurd that the anti-Putin Navalny is aspiring to lead Russia towards the same path to doom.

Now, back to the other dissident that's crowding the Russian headlines: Snowden. Of course everyone has become paranoid about their "privacy" and what not. But the fact is, I don't believe any intelligence agency has the energy or manpower to spy on everybody all at once, even if they have the technology, which means, Average Joe or Ivan Ivanov would have little to worry about. In fact, I don't think this "invasion of privacy" is any more pervasive than old-fashioned methods of snooping. It's snooping, for chrissakes. You need to be a worthy target first before they decide to snoop on you. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time and energy.

So when Snowden flew off to Moscow to confuse and confound the hell out of the USA, Russia, and China, I wondered if all this was really necessary. He could have remained anonymous and spared the journalists, diplomats, and not to mention, heads of state, all this stress, and also, make it easier for future whistleblowers. Even Putin saw little value in Snowden's intelligence and was trying to shrug off the problem, calling the whole affair akin to "shearing a pig--lots of squealing but little wool", and delegating the responsibility of sorting it out to his FSB head. Well, I'm sure the FSB already has similar systems in place for snooping on their own people--what more could they possibly need? But no doubt, Russia is sympathising with Snowden, if not to piss the Americans off, or as some form of revenge. After all, Julian Assange has lots of airtime on RT, including his own show. Giving Assange airtime on RT would be one way to spite the West.

I suppose it's all relative. The US and Russia will consider different people to be dissidents. Granted, people like Navalny and Snowden are brave men, but I really do wish they were wiser, for everyone's sake. 


Владимир said...

"I think it was putting the label "dissident" next to Berezovsky's name in the headlines that riled me. I think the right label should be "fraudster" ..."

Cheryl-Ann Tan said...

Well it appears that someone took the trouble to translate a snippet of this post and posted it on for discussion.
I don't think I had so many people discussing any of my blog posts, so I'm pretty excited.

This isn't meant to be a serious blog, I mean, come on. I write it to vent, when my feathers are ruffled, or after painting another stupid Putin portrait. This time was the sheer amount of Russia-bashing in the media that got me. But in order to defend Russia--I think it will help if there were decent dissidents... and thus, this blog post.

Just to clarify, I simply a Singapore citizen living as a student in Australia, and I probably don't intend to stay for long. I'm still not too familiar with Australian culture and their politics--but I've only been here for a little more than one year. (I'm learning, though!) I have far from assimilated into Aussie culture.

My career is mostly tied up with Russia and Russians, and I did for awhile tried to break away after several years of dealing with this business, and living in Moscow (I had family there), but alas, russia keep pulling me back, and the fact that Singapore has a small--but growing--community of Russians means that they want all the help they can get, and often the responsibility falls on a small circle of people, of which includes me. When we first started there were only 400 Russians living in Singapore, in a city population of 4 million people. Now there numbers are in the thousands--but still very small compared to other immigrants.

I have absolutely no ties with China except for the fact that I studied Chinese in school and that my family are 3rd/4th generation immigrants to Singapore. So it won't be accurate to call me Australian-Chinese. But I suppose that's just a label.

So anyway, that's about me and the motivation behind this blog.

Cheryl-Ann Tan said... is down! :( Was writing a post and it wasn't available by the time I was trying to submit the post. Grr. Fortunately I managed to save a copy of the text.