I’ve found a new example of a media-affiliated organization clumsily pranking itself–Vladmir Putin’s political operation. According to this New York Times article, in trying to discredit Alexsei Navalny, a blogger critical of the Russian’s regime, Putin and corrupt media allies made an absurdly bad alteration of a photograph that included Navalny, pasting in beside him the imprisoned oligarch, Boris Beresovsky. In reality, Navalny’s counterpart in the photo had been Mikhail Prokorov, a declared candidate in the coming elections versus Putin. Unlike the unfortunate Mr. Beresovsky, whose reputation has been sullied by years of official accusations against him, the very tall Mr. Prokorov, principal owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, is well-regarded by much of Russian society.
Since the discovery of the clumsy forgery, with the original photographer Alexey Yushenkov quickly confirming that his photograph had been altered, Putin’s critics have been unrestrained in their mischief. They’ve made mirth, and much political satire, placing such characters in the picture beside Navalny as Stalin; a space alien; Napoleon; a very buff and nearly naked, strongman; and of course, Putin himself.
In the days of the old Soviet Union, a critic like Navalny would have gone underground after being targeted by the oppressive regime, but no longer. Indeed, he felt free to make these telling remarks to the Times:
“Contemporary technologies, the contemporary information society, are barriers to such primitive approaches,” he said. “You publish something in a regional newspaper. Within an hour, it is on the Internet. Quickly, the real photographer is found.
“’The general effect of all these actions led to more people learning that Putin and his team are just swindlers and fraudsters.’ A real-estate lawyer by profession, Mr. Navalny rose to prominence through his LiveJournal blog, which has been read by more than a million people, and through Web sites intended to get the masses involved in reporting on official corruption. He coined the epithet “the Party of Swindlers and Thieves,” in reference to Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, a phrase adopted by protesters.
As I wrote last week in Media Organizations Pranking Themselves, News Corp. and the New York Times compounded errors made in their name before going public with their responses, thus piling avoidable mistakes one on top of another. In this instance, Putin and his gang were blinded by their own arrogance to the fact that the fakery done in his name was transparently, laughably, bad.