Will Russia’s leadership be left behind by social media? It is a fair question as the old-new president of Russia doesn’t own a PC, doesn’t have a laptop, iPad, or even a tablet for that matter. So does it matter that the leadership of Russia is so far behind on simple technology while the average middle class citizen is light years ahead?
Across Moscow these past weeks countless “citizen journalists” have whipped out cell phone cameras, iPad cameras, and every size camera from small to sophisticated and from budget to professional. While true that the owners of these high-tech gadgets have a certain Russian leader to thank for the ability to earn and buy them as members of a growing middle class, it seems at times as if those at the top have forgotten that the Soviet Union no longer exists and Brezhnev has been gone for a really long time.
In a country that ordered ten Air Force jets to fly over Moscow to disperse clouds at six o’clock on the morning of the Victory parade, the attitude to any problem is right out of the old Soviet playbook, “fix” everything with a law or executive order and in the meantime arrest anything that moves. That old and outdated response was seen in action this week as the executive branch tried to rein in social media and networking. It didn’t work.
Number one: a new law was introduced into the Duma that prohibits the press from taking and storing photos without permission. This idea will allow wayward media members to be imprisoned, but it won’t stop average citizens from taking and posting thousands of YouTube videos and blog photos of OMOH troops beating the hell out of kids and helpless women. Bad idea.
Number two: Force credentialed journalists to wear bright coloured cloth or plastic vests. That way police can tell the difference between a professional journalist and a citizen blogger. We’d suggest yellow for domestic journalists and blue for foreign media, that way when police burst into a cafe and arrests folks who are in the midst of breakfast they can be neatly sorted when hauled out to the holding cell buses.
Oh, we see that authorities are already on that one.
Number three: This week the government introduced into the Duma a new law on defamation. Someone would be a criminal if they published, broadcast or posted negative information about a public official, or perhaps a policeman who’d kicked the crap out of a pregnant woman, for example.
Number four: The sentences and fines, maximum of 15 days and equaling about $66 US dollars are very light for an organizer of a rally who allows the rally to get out of hand. But the new proposal of three to five years and a fine of $49,ooo (USD) is stiff for a true volunteer citizen rally.
This new law is designed to do one thing: Allow authorities to arrest and prosecute every rally organizer and send them to jail for a lot longer than 15 days. In fact, we fully expect to see Alexei Navalny end up imprisoned as is Mikhail Khordorkovsky today. Were he were to be honest and transparent as stated in the inauguration speech, this is the old-new president’s real intent.
This week it seemed that Russia’s leadership was determined to hammer the above laws thru parliament (much more important than attending the G8, etc) as soon as possible.
Old fashioned thinking will not stand up to modern technology. Perhaps it’s time for someone go out and buy an iPad. Now true, it’s not as sexy as shooting a lion in captivity or diving down to retrieve some old pots that the FSB has placed in a simple and convenient spot to be “discovered,” but who knows the fun one could have “tweeting” about having lunch with Lukashenko or emailing a new “Start” treaty draft to Obama while driving into work on those deserted streets along New Arbat.