Instead Pomerantsev focuses on a group of apparent outliers, using them to tell the story of today's Russia. Among these figures are a gangster who loves movies, a model who committed suicide and a lawyer whose death in prison epitomizes the Kafkaesque nature of the country's pretense of a justice system. Yet in Pomerantsev's telling, they aren't outliers at all; they're characters playing parts in the Kremlin's script.
Putin's tough-guy talk also appeals to Vitaly, a small-time gangster. When Putin first came to power in , anointed by an ailing Boris Yeltsin, the question on everyone's lips was: "Who is he?
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As one personality on state-run television puts it, "We all know there will be no real politics. But we still have to give our viewers the sense something is happening. Politics has got to feel like At first, he is drawn in by Moscow's chaos, with its fresh and gaudy wealth, wild parties and intense personalities. He embraces the world of Moscow's extremes, working for a network called TNT, producing shows with titles like "How to Marry a Millionaire.
Russians' ability to adapt to their environment no longer seems admirable. In response, he is met with coos from the higher-ups at the network and suggestions that he concentrate on positive stories. Russian television isn't meant to mirror reality, it's meant to shape it. And no one at TNT - no one in the country's leadership - needs to explore anything controversial.
Putin was keenly aware of how his critics once used the pluralistic, and politicized, television media of an earlier era to attack him; the first sign of his autocratic tendencies was his crude move to bring major television channels under state control. Some wondered if this was an aberration, but Putin soon used the same methods to steer everything from the oil industry to unruly oligarchs into the Kremlin's fold.
Putin has now fully established control over the media. A vast majority of Russians still get most of their information from television, and the three major channels are either owned directly by the Kremlin or by state-owned companies. Each week, a Kremlin official directs their coverage. Major newspapers have been cowed. Russia's only independent television channel - TV Rain - is facing enormous pressure to shut down. That - and the question of how the Kremlin distorts reality - is no longer a question for Russians alone.
The crisis in Ukraine has been fought just as much through the telling of its narrative as through its deployment of weaponry.
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Russia has directed its propaganda campaign to devastating effect, not only at home but through international ventures like the television news channel RT formerly Russia Today , which continues to expand, most recently opening an affiliate in South America and announcing a London-based version to focus exclusively on Britain.
It's an information war, and the reality into which the Russians in Pomerantsev's book have been indoctrinated is the Kremlin's latest export. The international audience is an entirely different one, however. And, despite its keen observations, what Pomerantsev's book lacks is deep background for that audience.
Readers of "Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible" aren't given a clear sense of why the Kremlin is deploying its propaganda so forcefully does the author mean to imply, perhaps, that it's simply a matter of power for power's sake? In a sense, this makes the book feel truly post-Soviet: There's no mention of Russia's long and tortured history with authoritarianism.
Yet this tactic also raises a multitude of questions about why another chapter in that history is being allowed to unfold. A particularly telling quote comes late in the book, from the British judge who presided over one of the most dramatic trials in modern Russian history, the London confrontation between the exiled oligarch-turned-critic Boris Berezovsky and the Kremlin favorite Roman Abramovich: "I found Mr.
Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be molded to suit his current purposes. I gained the impression that he was not necessarily being deliberately dishonest, but had deluded himself into believing his own version of events.
Fake television news shapes what Russia's million citizens are allowed to see. Publishers Weekly Review This debut from television producer Pomerantsev vividly describes the decade, starting in , that he spent in Vladimir Putin's "New Russia" pursuing a film school degree and TV work.
Along the way, it reveals the complex truth about 21st-century Russia, with all of its new possibility, wealth, power, and corruption. Born in Kiev but raised in England by exiled Russian parents, Pomerantsev decided to move back to his native country, partly because he felt like he had "always been an observer looking in at Russia" and "wanted to get closer.
Highlights of the narrative include Pomerantsev's experiences producing a TV documentary called How to Marry a Millionaire A Gold Digger's Guide , interviewing gangster-turned-movie star Vitaliy Djomochka, attending a lecture by Kremlin propaganda mastermind Vladislav Surkov, and sampling the excess of Moscow nightlife. Sometimes horrifying but always compelling, this book exposes the bizarre reality hiding beneath the facade of a "youthful, bouncy, glossy country.
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