On its long-brewing, headlong path into the bosom of authoritarianism, Russia under Putin's command & control, has been shedding reliably, one by one, all the vestiges of democratic governance that his government purports to be embodying. The blueprint for this process relies on a two-pronged strategy of (A) power consolidation and (B) suppression of dissent. Democracy has been furtively appropriated, meticulously reworked as a mechanism of executing both strategies in a "democratic" and therefore lawful and palatable manner, and shamelessly turned into a virginal veil over the harlot of Moscow.

 

The plan for power consolidation, after in effect 14 years of Putin's continuous leadership as President or Prime Minister and de facto ruler of the United Russia party, is blatantly evident. The political dominance of Putin's party throughout all this period is sustained and complemented by the government's sustained efforts to extinguish any form of political dissent that threaten its prevalence. Confrontational oligarchs face legal indictments and arrest warrants (see Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky & Boris Berezovsky), opposing critics of the regime can be barred from running and even whole antagonistic political parties can be banned to accomplish the undisputed victories in local and national elections that the regime requires for legitimacy. All of the above are of course executed in the name of the law and good governance.

 

Hand in hand with these political tactics, the regime also works on stifling the voices of the opposition. The consolidation of Russian media into the Kremlin's sphere of influence and the successful machinations to close down every independent broadcaster attests to an orchestrated plan of suppressing dissent. The recently switch off of Voice of America's radio transmissions in Moscow is just another step towards absolute control of the media landscape and the dissemination of information. Of course in the age of the internet and the ubiquitousness of social media, this task is harder to achieve, but fear not, Putin is a determined man with an apocalyptic vision. The abrupt firing of the Russian Facebook's CEO for refusing to toe the government line of censorship and snitching attests to this, as well as the 2012 establishing of the opaquely-defined "Internet Blacklist" governed by the ominously titled " Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications". This piecemeal approach of incremental internet censorship & media muzzling in the name of decency, lawfulness and crime prevention (as opposed to more blatant versions in countries like China and North Korea) is consistent with Putin's stealth methods under the business-as-usual cover.

 

The clampdown of political dissent in an authoritarian master-plan of monopolizing power inevitably trickles down to encompass the liberties and rights of civil society. These are after all the launching pad for any reactionary or rebellious initiative against authority. The trick as discussed above is to impose any kind of restriction and to curtail people's freedoms not with an iron fist but with a gloss of national imperative and paternalistic regard for the citizen's own good (at least for the majority of citizens). NGOs are therefore re-labeled "Foreign Agents" and it is thus the government's duty to control them in a valiant effort to maintain national sovereignty. Likewise, laws banning "gay propaganda" and in effect outlawing the right of any person to be publicly different, are enacted in the name of "protecting" the majority (esp. the "innocence" of children) but of course their aim is to both scapegoat this particular minority for society's grievances at large and, more nefariously, establish a precedence of zero tolerance towards nonconformist behaviors. In the same spirit of morality and conformity, the Lower House of the Parliament has just passed a bill banning swearwords from films, plays, concerts and shows. Control of both behavior and language are prerequisites in any dystopian attempt for the control of thought. The proposed amendments by the same body to further curtail the freedom of assembly is yet another step towards a society of absolute acquiescence.

 

Apr.24, 2014 | RUSSIAN GLAS•NOT

Russian Democracy: The Veiled Harlot of Moscow