One of the abiding mysteries of Western commentary of Russia is the extent to which Western media believe the nonsense they publish about Russia.
My own belief is that most of the time they do believe it, but every so often something comes up which makes me wonder.
I was thinking of this when I was reading the latest paranoid reflections of Maxim Trudolyubov in The New York Times.
In a long tirade about Vladimir Putin’s wicked “hybrid war” against the West, Trudolyubov inserts this remarkable sentence:
“By using its total control over the Russian news media to sow confusion in the West, Mr. Putin has managed, in the words of the journalists Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, to “weaponize” information.”
“Total control”? If Putin really does have “total control” of the Russian media, then how come Maxim Trudolyubov – a person of extreme anti-Putin views and the author of this piece – is himself a part of it?
For those who do not know, Trudolyubov was from 2003 to 2015 the editor of the opinion page of Vedomosti – Russia’s leading business daily, which until just a few months ago was partly owned by The Financial Times.
Though Trudolyubov no longer has that position, he still works for Vedomosti as an editor at large.
The New York Times was of course perfectly aware of this when it signed up Trudolyubov to write his regular opinion pieces for the newspaper.
Their flavour can be judged from their titles, which include gems like “Sheikh Putin of Syria”, “Russia’s Latest Fake Election” and “Is Russia the New Iran?”.
The reason The New York Times signed up Trudolyubov is of course precisely because of his anti-Putin views, and because he is known to be a leading anti-Putin Russian liberal opposition journalist writing for one of Russia’s most important and prestigious newspapers.
As for Vedomosti, it still provides Trudolyubov with a platform for his pieces – including a Russian version of the same nonsensical “hybrid war” piece he has just published in The New York Times.
It is inconceivable The New York Times does not know Trudolyubov is simultaneously publishing the same pieces in Vedomosti that he is publishing in The New York Times. It is in fact a certainty that his contract with The New York Times allows him to do this.
How then can The New York Times let him say with a straight face that Putin has “total control over the Russian media?”
Should The New York Times not at the very least be telling its readers that pieces Trudolyubov is publishing in The New York Times are also being published by the leading business newspaper in Russia?
Or might it be worried its US readers might change their views of Russia if it did – in which case one is left wondering who is actually waging “hybrid war” – and against whom is it being waged?