Saturday, January 13, 2007

The "Empire of Lies" Strikes Back

A certain Alexandra Poolos from ABC News came out with a stark indictment of the Russian media, which she titled "Russian Media Called 'Empire of Lies'". The meaning of the strange title is clear to anyone who reads enough of similar exposes, such as the unfortunate yours truly: It simply means that Alexandra Poolos really-really wanted to start calling Russian media names, but since she also really-really needed to appear "objective", she had to search long and hard to find someone willing to do that for her. And she did, which she immediately put in the title of her piece. This isn't her own opinion. Really-really.

For starters, the credulous reader will find out that, apparently, "while the world buzzes with disbelief and fascination over the poisoning and death of a Russian ex-spy, the story has captured scant attention in Russia." Of course, the overly truthful Alexandra Poolos, the great exposer of liars, probably doesn't even realize that Litvinenko was never a spy, and this label she applies to him actually makes her out to be a liar. But let's give the poor soul the benefit of the doubt and assume this was the result of simple incompetence, rather than an attempt to deceive. Instead, let's find out the extent of the "scant attention" captured by this story in Russia. Really, it's not a complicated exercise. For print media, there is a very convenient web site called, which indexes a large chunk of Russian newspapers and other periodicals, including all the mainstream ones. Searching for "Litvinenko" produces over 800 articles in the past month and a half (931 total hits), including ones in the government-owned "Rossiiskaia Gazeta". Such scant attention, really, only some 15-20 articles every single day, even if you discount for false hits. Not being satisfied with that, I proceeded to call upon Russians in a couple of Internet forums, as well as contact my acquaintances by email and IM, asking them whether there was much about Litvinenko in the news on TV, including the government channels. All replies indicated that indeed, the Litvinenko affair was mentioned "on all main channels in the news, on multiple occasions". Some even solicitously asked if I was right in the head to even be asking questions with such obvious answers. Well, I'll have to readdress this concern to Alexandra Poolos, on whose behalf I'm doing this. One great recommendation was to check the news archives (with the actual footage of the news programs) of the government-controlled Channel One. Searching in their archives for "Litvinenko", I found out that the story appeared 42 times in their news between 1 November 2006 and 13 January 2007. On some days, such as December 1, among others, it was the very first and the most important news item in the broadcast. Video clips of the broadcasts can be easily viewed on the same site. Scant attention, indeed. And this claim wasn't even hard to verify -- all you needed was an Internet connection and a desire to be honest. Clearly, Alexandra Poolos lacks one of these, and something tells me it's not a problem with her Internet connection.

Our fearless exposer of lies and liars, Alexandra Poolos, further maintains that if you "ask any seemingly cosmopolitan Russians on a downtown Moscow street about their take on the international scandal, [...] they will most likely shrug and suggest that the former spy Alexander Litvinenko poisoned himself just to make Russian President Vladimir Putin look bad." Well, from this I can only assume that Alexandra Poolos never actually bothered to "ask any seemingly cosmopolitan Russians" anything of that nature. Because the polling agencies, those who actually ask such questions as part of their job, came up with somewhat different results. For example, the independent Levada Center conducted a poll between December 8-12 and found that 20% of Russians believe Litvinenko was killed by his former business partners, 15% -- by Boris Berezovsky, 10% -- by Russian special services, 8% -- by western special services, 8% -- he accidentally got poisoned while smuggling radioactive materials, 1% believe it was a suicide. The same poll also asked why Litvinenko was killed. Only 19% of Russians believe it was done to make Russia (14%) or Putin (5%) look bad. Other theories included revenge for something Litvinenko did (15%), due to dangerous information he possessed (14%), in order to create a political emergency in Russia to enable Putin to run for the third term (4%). Thus, Alexandra Poolos's alleged "most likely" replies are possible only from the 9% of respondents who believe Litvinenko killed himself, and the 19% of respondents who believe it was done to damage Russia or Putin. And these two sets don't even necessarily intersect, which would make the number of people who espouse the "most likely" view rather tiny.

It is obvious from the above that Alexandra Poolos believes these "seemingly cosmopolitan Russians" are deceived just because their opinion does not correspond to the one true opinion espoused by our fearless exposer of lying empires, which no doubt is that Putin personally did it, or if not, then it was the KGB on the orders of Putin, or if not, then it was the KGB without the orders of Putin, who is obviously a weak ruler, or if not, it was still Putin's fault somehow. But what are the opinions based on right now? Due to the obvious failure of the Scotland Yard to identify a motive for Litvinenko's murder, the only opinions possible are based on the simple principle of "qui prodest?" -- or "who profits?" -- and nothing else. Seeing how much Russia and Putin actually managed to profit from the affair, only one logical conclusion can be reached. And the fact that it differs for Russians compared to one Alexandra Poolos, it simply means that your average Russian is more intelligent, more logical, and more honest that your average Alexandra Poolos.

After that, we find out about Alexandra Poolos's source for the bizarre allegations above. A certain Jazz Ayvazyan went to London "a week after the story broke in early November." Well, I hate to rain on your parade once again, dear Alexandra Poolos and Jazz Ayvazyan, but the Litvinenko story did not break in early November. Litvinenko was allegedly poisoned on November 1. But there was nothing in the mainstream British media about the story until November 18, when it was claimed that Litvinenko had been poisoned with thallium (which later turned out to be completely false). No surprise there, since Berezovsky, who orchestrated the coverage of the Litvinenko affair, needed some time to retain the services of Tim Bell's PR agency. In contrast to the western media, who needed the Berezovsky PR money to start them rolling on the coverage, the Russian media was already reporting on Litvinenko's poisoning on November 11. As well as the statement from the London police that they know absolutely nothing about Litvinenko's poisoning on November 13. Thus, if you wanted to know anything about Litvinenko before November 18, you had to be in Moscow, not in London. Or at least have Internet access. Of course, further in the article our Jazz Ayvazyan confesses that he had "stopped watching Russian channels and replaced them with Discovery kind of entertainment". No wonder Jazz Ayvazyan doesn't know anything about the Litvinenko affair! After all, the Discovery Channel is the true "empire of lies". Can you imagine, the liars haven't said anything about Litvinenko?!! Good job, Alexandra Poolos, on exposing your own sources as incompetent and/or deceitful. Now I am starting to believe that you are truly out to set all liars straight.

Unfortunately, I should wrap up here, even though there is much to be said about every single claim in the article of the ever honest Alexandra Poolos. However, unlike the brave reporter being reviewed, I'm not paid for this. And since I am taking care to research and verify what I write with facts, I work somewhat slower than your average Alexandra Poolos, who I'm sure can fantasize much faster than I can do research, so she can proceed to the next topic, where she can expose another bunch of dastardly liars. Let's just hope that those "liars" don't decide to verify Alexandra Poolos's claims, like I just did. Because who knows, maybe they will not be as mild-mannered and soft-spoken as I am.


Yegor said...

Here is a link, where you can find some facts about journalists of Nezavisimaja Gazeta breaking journalist's ethiсs, that show the whole incompetence of this newspaper.

Andy said...

Hi Fedia. I just wanted to congratulate you on your new blog. I've just posted a brief intro to you over at Siberian Light.

Seesaw said...

Congratulations from me too. Will link you to the Red Pen.

Fedia Kriukov said...

Thanks. Next time I get to updating the template, I'll have to figure out how to link your blogs here. :)

La Russophobe said...

I realize that English is not your first language, so let me provide you with a little help on the word "spy".

It means: "to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes, to search or look for intensively."

That is exactly what Litvinenko did when he worked for the KGB. Apparently you think "spy" involves foriegn countries, but it doesn't.

I suggest you apologize for accusing someone of being a "liar" who in fact was not, and look at yourself before you speak.

Fedia Kriukov said...

Well, gee, LR, what happened to the most common defintion of a spy: "a person employed by a government to obtain secret information or intelligence about another, usually hostile, country, esp. with reference to military or naval affairs."

Even though police work involves activities that can be figuratively described as "spying", no one in their right mind would ever seriously refer to policemen as "spies". Except LR, apparently.

The reason why so many western journalists refer to Litvinenko as an "ex-spy" is not because they use the term figuratively. It's because stories about "spies" sell more issues. It's an example of deliberate falsification for marketing purposes.

La Russophobe said...

You are a card-carrying maniac! I guess you live on some island somewhere, totally detached from reality. In other words, I guess you're Russian.

Plenty of large corporations use spies to spy on their rival large corporations. Coke, for example, spies on Pepsi. It has nothing whatsoever to do with other countries. I guess you haven't heard about it. I suggest you try to read a bit more, you may learn many interesting facts and improve your inteligence.

It's bizarre in the EXTREME for you to refer to Alexander Litvenko as a "policeman." He WAS NOT and that is an OUTRAGEOUS LIE. He was employed by the KGB and he engaged in activity which is not public record; you have NO IDEA of the extent of his activities, just as nobody knows what spymater Putin was doing in Germany. Because the KGB is SECRETIVE, you see, and doesn't tell the truth about what it does.

There is nothing in the reporting you mention that claims Litvinenko engaged in international espionage against foriegn governments. What the reporting says is merely that he worked for the KGB as an agent, spying on people. That is what he in fact DID. In that capacity, he made many contacts and gained much information which could make him a threat to Russian security, and above all he gained a background which enabled him to speak with authority about the agency and its operations. That was the only point being made by those who call him a "spy."

It's really amazing that you would dare to call him a "policeman" while attacking someone else for calling him a spy. Your term is AT LEAST as inaccurate as the term you accuse, making you a totally ridiculous hypocrite. You obviously don't have any standards whatsoever, only the desire to launch a propaganda attack on anyone you deem to be the enemy of Russia.

It's really sad and pathetic, a perfect encapsulation of why Russia is such a failed and doomed nation. With friends like you, she needs no enemies.

And for your information, I listed the number one definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Fedia Kriukov said...

LR, thank you for a very entertaining rant. For the record, I'm of Ukrainian origin, not Russian.

Mitja said...

haha excellent LR, so you suggest an FBI Agent is a Spy? Read this Lines propperly again: spying on people. That is what he in fact DID. In that capacity, he made many contacts and gained much information which could make him a threat to American security, and above all he gained a background which enabled him to speak with authority about the agency and its operations.

poor bitch, go back to school

La Russophobe said...


Are you the kind of Ukrainian who favors reducing (a real Ukrainian) or increasing (a Russian by another name) Russian influence in Ukraine? Do you support Yushchenko (you're a Ukrainian) or Yanukovich (you're a Russian)?

You've attacked a foreign reporter for stating that there has not been much reporting on Litvinenko in the Russian media WITHOUT LINKING TO ONE SINGLE STORY in the Russian media. Can you link to a story in a state-controlled which reports on the allegations that the Kremlin was behind the killing? Your blog is the most pathetic excuse for information in the blogosphere, and that's really saying something. You're one of the biggest hypocrites, and morons, I've come across. You don't even know the meaning of words like "ethics" or "journalism" all you care about is your sick, demented propaganda and your amazing hubris. You really do think you're cleverer than all the Western media put together, don't you? What a lunatic! No wonder Russia is such a mess!

MITJA: The fact that you think the FBI and police on one hand are in any way similar to the KGB on the other proves you are utterly demented. Did the FBI build concentration camps and murder millions of Americans in them? Did the police blow up churches, whitewash their interiors, and kill their priests? All people who are employed by the KGB are spies, while only some police or FBI fit that bill. PEOPLE WHO SPY ARE SPIES. Sorry if you find that confusing, you ridiculous fool.

La Russophobe said...

39% of the people who responded to the poll you cite had no idea who might have killed Litvinenko or didn't even know who he was. I'd say that's pretty clear proof that the author was right and YOU are wrong. Why didn't you mention that fact?

Only 1 in 10 polled said the Kremlin might have been responsible. I'd say it's clear who the "liar" is here.

It's you. Did you think nobody would actually read the poll you cited, or what?

Anonymous said...

... Searching in their archives for "Litvinenko", I found out that the story appeared 42 times in their news between 1 November 2006 and 13 January 2007...

You've certainly also noticed that the first of those 42 appearances is dated November 24, have you not?

Fedia Kriukov said...

anon: Litvinenko was mentioned on Channel One on Nov 24, in other Russian media as early as Nov 11. How is this relevant to the fact that Alexandra Poolos was less than truthful about the "scant attention" received by reports on Litvinenko in the Russian media?

LR: First, I must congratulate you on trying to restrain your ranting this time. Second, I cited the poll with a link specifically so people who are interested could check for themselves. Congratulations on this achievement of yours -- it only took you two days. Third, you appear to claim that since 39% of Russians can't/won't answer the question about who killed Litvinenko, that makes Poolos's claim that Russians "most likely" believe Litvinenko killed himself to spite Putin correct. I'm sorry, but I don't think such idiotic leap of logic deserves a reply.

Anonymous said...

Litvinenko was mentioned on Channel One on Nov 24, in other Russian media as early as Nov 11...

What do you think took Channel One so long?

Anonymous said...

lr: what does building concentration camps and blowing up churches has to do with the classical definition of being a spy?
There is a list of FSB activites which can be found at wiki, there is only one activity which can be classified as "spying"- counterintelligence, afaik Mr. Litvinenko never was involved in this kind of activity.
And of course did the FBI build concentration camps( won't mention native americans...),in order to avoid such lapsuses you should study the history of your new host country better,my immigrated friend

La Russophobe said...


It's rather pathetic that you critize me for "rants" and then call me an idiot. Aren't you afraid of looking like totally ridiculous hypocrite?

Anonymous has shown you that there was ZERO reporting on Litvinenko until he actually perished. You ignored that fact, and now try to sweep it under the carpet. You still have yet to post a link to any report in state-controlled media recognizing that the Kremlin could be responsible for the killing. That's because you are an outrageous, and ridiculous, propagandist and a liar. Worse, you are a hypocrite for calling others liars. Youare a classically naive and ignorant Russphile slob who still thinks he can fool the Western dummies, just like the USSR did. And where is that entity now, I wonder?

Your data shows that a gigantic number of Russians feel they lack sufficient information to form an opinion about Litvinenko. That's because of a total lack of reporting in Russia. You have not linked TO ONE SINGLE STORY in the Russian press about him.

An overwhelming majority of Russians (over 80%) either know little/nothing about the killing or think Litvinenko himself was to blame for it. Less than a fifth of Russians think forces outside Litvinenko's circle killed him, and half of those believe it was Western forces who were responsible. Less than one in ten Russians polled believed that the Kremlin itself was responsible for killing one of its most vocal critics.

I'm not the least bit suprised that you can't see that your own data obliterates your own babbling. It was exactly the same with the Soviet fools, and so it goes in Russia.

Fedia Kriukov said...

LR: you're ranting again... Try to behave in a slightly more restrained manner. Also try to stay on topic and not request irrelevant information.

anon #1: no attempts at Socratic method in this blog, please. If you have a claim to make, formulate a thesis and don't forget to include supporting evidence. Will save everyone time and avoid misunderstandings.

Anonymous said...

The claim for now is that you appear to be avoiding the question prompted by your own evidence: what do you make of the fact that the main Russian TV channel said nothing at all about Litvinenko until Nov 24?

Fedia Kriukov said...

It is my policy (which I sometimes don't follow, but nevetheless) to disregard all questions unrelated to my original post in this blog. If you want to get my opinion on something irrelevant to the present discussion, you need to put forward your own thesis first, rather than waste my time with silly questions (I might or I might not reply to your thesis). If you want to claim that your question is relevant, you need to prove it by quoting from my post and demonstrating how your question challenges that quote. Is this procedure clear to you now?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Sir. You wrote, and I quote,

"One great recommendation was to check the news archives (with the actual footage of the news programs) of the government-controlled Channel One. Searching in their archives for "Litvinenko", I found out that the story appeared 42 times in their news between 1 November 2006 and 13 January 2007. On some days, such as December 1, among others, it was the very first and the most important news item in the broadcast."

It caught my attention that, deliberately or not, you failed to mention the actual date of the first broadcast. So I repeated your search and found out that it was Nov 24, which is almost two weeks after the story broke elsewhere.

This is very relevant to at least two issues at hand: your integrity and the adequacy of the Litvinenko story coverage in the mainstream Russian media. Hence the same question again: what do you make of this two-week delay?

Fedia Kriukov said...

Dear anon, don't be lazy, get a nickname (select "Other" when posting).

The problem for you here is that my post is not about my integrity or adequacy of the Litvinenko coverage in Russian media. It is about the inadequacy of Poolos's claims. Therefore, your question will be ignored until you finally start to at least attempt to make a point, instead of expecting me to do so.

But incidentally, I do think that Litvinenko coverage was more adequate in Russia than in the West, by a wide margin. It's a different discussion, though, which will begin only if you start treating the subject more seriously than simply asking random silly questions.

Also, sorry about my integrity. I guess it'll never recover, since I also forgot to mention that there are only eight planets now in the Solar system. Among many other details irrelvant to the quality of Poolos's article.

Anonymous said...

From LR:

"Are you the kind of Ukrainian who favors reducing (a real Ukrainian) or increasing (a Russian by another name) Russian influence in Ukraine? Do you support Yushchenko (you're a Ukrainian) or Yanukovich (you're a Russian)?"

That is one of the stupidest things I've seen this year from LR, but the year is still young.

Among other questions it raises, one would have to ask, "What does it make supporters of Tymoshenko?"

anon#1 said...

One question, three increasingly verbose non-answers. I'll give it one last try:

How do you, as a self-appointed spin doctor for the neo-Soviet Ministry of Propaganda, explain the fact (of your own discovery) that the biggest Russian TV channel didn't report at all on the Litvinenko affair until after his death?

Fedia Kriukov said...

Anon#1, I'll give you one last chance as well: formulate your claim in the form of a thesis with supporting evidence, rather than a disingenuous leading question, and we might have a discussion.

Or tuck your tail between your legs and run away.

Either is fine with me.

P.S. I think LR has already established a monopoly on having hissy fits with accusations of "propaganda". Come up with something more original.

anon#1 said...

On to the next question.

As has been said, Channel One began reporting on Litvinenko on Nov 24. Here are a few excerpts from broadcasts of that day:

Первоначально врачи рассматривали версию о его отравлении, однако позже практически исключили ее. В официальных сообщениях говорится, что смерть пациента наступила по необъяснимым причинам.

Известие о странном заболевании Литвиненко совпало по времени с визитом в Лондон заместителя Генерального прокурора России Александра Звягинцева. В ходе этой поездки было подписано соглашение, в котором британские власти взяли на себя обязательство содействовать экстрадиции подозреваемых, скрывающихся на территории страны.

Константин Косачев, Председатель Комитета ГД по международным делам: "Очевидно то, что господин Литвиненко состоял в тесном взаимодействии и сотрудничестве с некоторыми бывшими олигархами, включая господина Березовского, которые были в последние годы лишены возможности за наворованные деньги покупать коррумпированную власть, и, очевидно, не могут с этим смириться. Очевидно, что речь может идти о целенаправленной акции, направленной против современной России".

Владимир Путин: "Смерть человека - это всегда трагедия. И я приношу свои соболезнования близким господина Литвиненко, его семье. Между тем, насколько мне известно, в медицинском заключении британских врачей нет указаний на то, что это насильственная смерть. Значит, нет и предмета для разговора подобного рода..."

В тот момент, когда Владимир Путин делал это заявление на пресс-конференции еще не было известно о том, что возможной причиной смерти Литвиненко могла стать радиация. Уже после того, как завершился саммит в Хельсинки стало известно, что врачи обнаружили в организме Александра Литвиненко следы радиоктивного изотопа "полоний-210".

Pathetic if you ask me, so the question to you is: how would you rate such reporting out of 10 (0 being awful and 10 being perfectly adequate)?

Fedia Kriukov said...

Dear anon#1, after you chose to tuck tail and run when asked for a serious discussion on the first question, I don't think you're in a position to go to the next one. Try again. From the beginning. Seriously, with theses and supporting evidence, not with snide one-liners of your average anonymous asshole.