How do you smear someone you wish to marginalize?
Photomontage is one of the oldest tricks and is back in fine form in Russia. This week a newspaper article written by supporters of the ruling United Russia party created a fake photo showing popular blogger and protest organizer Alexei Navalny in a meeting with exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky is wanted on criminal charges by Russia.
The article, published in a Yakaterinburg area newspaper, falsified a charge that Navalny had met with Berezovsky and receives money from the self-exiled Russian to protest against the Kremlin.
The real photograph featured Navalny along with Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire who owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team and is also running for the Russian presidency but was doctored by a group purportedly connected to United Russia in order to discredit Navalny’s protest work. ”Alexei Navalny has never hidden that Boris Berezovsky gives him money for the struggle with Putin,” was the headline under the doctored photograph.
It didn’t take Navalny and his followers long to have some fun of the piece and soon they had produced more fun personalities and fake captions. Ultimately this reflects badly on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
While doubtful that he had anything to do with the intended smear campaign, this is yet another example of an online piece going viral only to become an embarrassment to Mr. Putin, rather than smearing Navalny as had been intended.
Those who support Mr. Putin’s bid for President in March should call upon those running his campaign to act more aggressively in reining in such pranks from the process. At worst a classic Stalinist styled smear. At best; childish, foolish. and extremely amateurish. This was nothing short of silly and makes it difficult for an ever-growing cynical public to take United Russia and by default, Mr. Putin, seriously.