February 2, 2016


Is liberalism the future for Russia? (ANDREI ARKHANGELSKY 2 February 2016, OpenDemocracy)

[I]n the last three or four years the word 'liberal' is once again in fashion, thanks to our government's propaganda machine. At first, 'liberal' occupied a similar space to the word 'intellectual', which suffered frequent swings between positive and negative connotations during the Soviet period. Initially the word 'liberal' carried similarly fluctuating associations: one of us, but not one of us; a semi-alien. Then the word acquired a suspicious tinge, which lasted until the end of the 2000s, when it gradually began to represent the worst of everything, and eventually became a synonym for 'enemy'.

In its current incarnation as a propaganda tool, however, the word 'liberal' means, essentially, 'an alien'. It is simply a person's nature; they can't help it. This development can be best illustrated by the many menacing slogans that rang out last month at a mass rally in support of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's leader.

Here, liberals were the target of the worst invective: "Liberals far away are no threat, but when they're close, watch your back!"; "Liberals of all kinds are hoping for crises, protests and deaths", "Liberals dream of crucifying our country; they have sold all our sacred values to the West"; "If you're smart you won't become a liberal; you'll avoid them"; "No snivelling, liberal - your end is nigh!"; "A great country has no room for liberal trash" among other war-cries.

In other words, if we were to deconstruct this hatred of liberals, it would turn out to be simply a hatred of The Other. I think it is no coincidence that the word is often found next to the phrase 'fifth column': the idea being to conclusively discredit it.

But everything else has happened spontaneously, without any plan. For example, as I write this article, I am listening to the economist Mikhail Delyagin speaking on the popular Moscow Calling radio station. Delyagin answers almost every question put to him: "Why have things come to pass?"; "Why is the rouble falling?"; "Why is there so much thievery?" with the words, "The thing is that the liberals ...'"

A bit earlier, presenter Vladimir Solovyov on his morning show on Vesti-FM was saying despairingly, "Our liberals are still behaving as though we were still in the 1990s, although things have changed completely..." And on the Komsomolskaya Pravda channel the host is rebuking government economic specialists: "liberals in the government have brought the country down, but the president hasn't noticed". This subject, by the way, is just about the only issue on which it is possible to 'disagree with our president' in the loyalist media.

And this is what you hear a hundred times a day, seven days a week. Liberals, liberals, liberals... At the same time, on the same stations, they are also being described as a "pathetic bunch". And suddenly, thanks to this endless repetition, they have turned into a "powerful force".

The propaganda machine, in other words, has fallen into its own trap. For a long time, responsibility for all the woes of Russian history has been laid at the feet of the liberals; they have been its eternal scapegoat. But now this goat is unexpectedly acquiring authority. There is talk of "liberals and their friends in the west"; that liberals "are increasing the pressure"; liberals are on the attack. The intimidators are afraid of their own demons.

Posted by at February 2, 2016 3:40 PM