Like two lesbians banging themselves against a fence, liberal parties fail to get invited into the Russian home
Perhaps the liberal parties in Russia and their highly-paid Western advisors need someone to explain to them why babushkas are not easily rallied to their banner by underage lesbians cavorting across their television screens. Instead of listening to experts steeped in faddish and decadent Muscovite culture, maybe they should take into account the Russian heartland and adjust their techniques accordingly. As an interview with the leadership of the liberal Union of Right Forces (SPS) makes clear, it is as if Hollywood were suddenly running the Republican Party's election campaigns.
Setting aside that Vladimir Putin is the most liberal leader Russia has ever had and that his chief critics in Russia (the ones people listen to, not fringe journalists martyred by media pundits half a world away) often assert that he is too Western, we would like to offer SPS and the Russian Democratic Party (Yabloko) some free advice. Sure we aren't as well paid as their experts from the aid agencies, foundations, foreign do-gooder associations, and Eurasianist shops, but we think our mutual ideological friends need to hear the truth--it will not only set them free, but maybe get them elected too. (Then if they do well, maybe they can be as maligned as President Vlad.)
You're Out of Touch
Is it true that transvestites are coming to Russia to help Union of Right Forces, an organization which thinks of itself as a political force in coming local legislative elections? Is it true that with transvestites, Union of Right Forces--or should I say, with the help of transvestites--Union of Right Forces wants to conquer hearts, but most importantly the votes of our voters, first of all of the youth, in the coming elections?
-- Andrei Karaulov, Moment of Truth
Recently, SPS hired the Swedish pop group Army of Lovers to compose their party's anthem and to help them rally support. To be sure, Army of Lovers is a great pop group, however, it should also be noted that even Mtv has refused to air some of their more risque music videos. It is also not much of a stretch to understand why songs like the not-so-popular-with-the-orthodox "Crucified" and the transsexual odyssey "Give My Life" might not find much favor among the ninety percent of the population that lives outside M-land and P'town. So while the other cities in Russia wait to become progressive and have their very own gay ghettos and pride parades, perhaps the liberals should start with something a little less offensive--the "Macarena" might be available and the royalties will probably be less steep.
"Obsession": Yes, those are men, except for when they zoom in on their unmentionables--oh, and vote for me!
Liberals have also decided to sign up faux teenage lesbian duo, t.A.T.u. (the first Russian pop group to gain worldwide success). Mistaking the group's popular showing and subsequent controversy at the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest for genuine grassroots popularity, SPS might have forgotten that a Russian citizen must be at least eighteen years of age and not a felon. The group's producer, Ivan Shapovalov, sort of summed up the problems with the SPS strategy when he commented on the origins of t.A.T.u.:
I saw that most people look up pornography on the Internet and of those, most are looking for underage sex. I saw their needs weren't fulfilled. Later, it turned out, I was right. This is the same as my own desires. I prefer underage girls.
"Not Gonna Get Us" (or our votes): Lesbians, school girls, lesbians, school girls--We're the Party of Education!
Perhaps, next the Russian liberals can have their Beltway consultants contact some of their friends in New York and London and set up a campaign tour of Siberia with Piss Christ and Mapplethorpe.
You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Election is About You, Don't You?
Meanwhile, Putin is faulted for consolidating parties to achieve a majority to pass his legislation and Yabloko and SPS continue to fail to work together. Even after the Ukrainian Orange coalition met its demise largely over personality conflicts and double-dealing, Yabloko and SPS continue down the road of separate but equal and have achieved nothing.
In the last nation-wide election in 2003, both parties failed to achieve the minimum percentage needed to be represented in the national parliament's proportional seats. Now with the requirement even higher they will of course fail to meet that (barring a "Sexual Revolution" of course). Combined, their totals would have put their numbers above reproach and less susceptible to vote fraud. Their recent alliance during the Moscow municipal elections was successful and should be a precedent for those who wish to win. The subsequent collapse of the Commission on the Unification of Democratic Forces is even more depressing than that of Ukraine's Orange Coalition as it occurred even before they had any spoils to bicker over.
Simply put, voting for either Yabloko or SPS is akin to voting Libertarian in America. Sure, Republicans and Democrats might not be perfect ideological fits for most people, but it is largely understood how pointless it is to go to the ballot box just to flush your vote down the toilet for a Green candidate. Moreover, an attempt to appeal to the youth vote in Russia is as big a waste of time there as it is in America since the youth demographic turnout is consistently paltry and fickle. (Plus, the Kremlin's Nashi youth are so much more amusing--if not disturbingly so...)
The music video of t.A.T.u's "All the Things She Said" depicts staid and reserved conservatives on one side of a chain-link fence looking on in astonishment while two soaking wet school uniform-clad lesbians throw themselves against the other side of the fence. While it might be a powerful social commentary, a winning campaign strategy it is not--just ask the Cameroonian national running for Mayor of Tver on the SPS ticket.
"All the Things She Said": Catchy--like AIDS.
Dare to be Stupid
Yeltsin looked good on a tank, Dukakis did not. Politicians should go with their strengths and capture the moment. The average Russian has a vehement hatred for the reformers of privatization. Most will recall the years as a time when they worked really hard, harder than they ever did before (or have since) and they received nothing. They do not believe that it was their fault they had such a rough decade, they blame the reformers and the reforms.
There is a strong sense that an individual cannot survive (let alone turn a profit) without a social network. Russians also have yet to see a link between individual freedom and economic progress. Yet, Putin has succeeded in establishing many liberal reforms. His secret has been to note that (rightly or wrongly) Russians are by and large predisposed to paternalism and communalism. When Putin speaks he phrases ideas and plans in terms of social guarantees and historical references to get his point across. So while he talks about reconstructing the foundations of Russian society that were demolished in the Nineties, upon critical observation he is really building something from scratch (just like South Korea, Chile, Taiwan, Singapore, and others have).
As the liberals, especially SPS, have failed to make their ideas popular, they have come to rely increasingly on cheap tricks and other gimmicks to attract attention. As a Muscovite friend recently remarked, "Even Yavlinsky [of Yabloko] is smart enough not to join the really crazy radical liberals [SPS]...Putin is going in a liberal direction, but he shows the people a Russian map."
Andrei Karaulov is a host of Moment of Truth, a popular news magazine television show. This clip is an unedited master of one of his recent shows. Boris Nadezhdin, the guest of the show, is Presidium Secretary of the liberal political party Union of Right Forces. The video was uploaded on Youtube.com on February 28, 2007. Here is an English transcription of the video clip which is in Russian:
Andrei Karaulov [0:00]: For those in our TV audience who don't know what Army of Lovers is, [0:03 -- Army of Lovers music video on the screen] I want to say that it's a band of transvestites on the stage, a pop band whose shows are prohibited in many European countries, but might come to Russia. Is it true that transvestites are coming to Russia to help Union of Right Forces, an organization which thinks of itself as a political force in coming local legislative elections? [00:30] Is it true that with transvestites, Union of Right Forces--or should I say, with the help of transvestites--Union of Right Forces wants to conquer hearts, but most importantly the votes of our voters, first of all of the youth, in the coming elections?
We posed this question to the leadership of the party itself.
Boris Nadezhdin [0:55]: Well, I honestly don't even know where this topic came from, about the Army of Lovers...
Andrei Karaulov: On your website, there's advertisement--
Boris Nadezhdin: Honestly, I don't understand--
Andrei Karaulov: They are coming, Union of Right Forces is financing--
Boris Nadezhdin: Such silly ideas definitely don't belong to the federal leadership of the party. However, I do admit, that such things can happen in some of our regions, yep.
Andrei Karaulov: About that t.A.T.u. concert in Krasnoyarsk, under you banner -- "Union of Right Forces"...
t.A.T.u. concert video clip [1:19]: Union of Right Forces! [t.A.T.u starts singing old anthem of the former Soviet Union] Unbreakable Union of freeborn Republics, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta...
Andrei Karaulov: It was indeed a famous concert, with all the consequences. It was aired live from the stadium, there were six or seven strokes and heart attacks.
Boris Nadezhdin: Who had?
Andrei Karaulov: Grandmas (babushkis) did, who saw all this.
t.A.T.u. concert video clip [1:37]: [after making out with each other] What's up girls? Let's go! [two girls from the crowd start making out on the stage] Whoa! Yeah!!! [1:43] C'mon guys. [Two guys start making out on the stage]
Andrei Karaulov: As the result of the heart attacks, one person died. This is the truth, Boris.
Boris Nadezhdin: Yep. A horrible story.
Andrei Karaulov: And not one of you ever apologized. Not one! At least you could've said "Sorry guys, got too excited." Moreover, now you have the Army of Lovers.
Boris Nadezhdin: Well, Andrei, grandmas who don't like to watch band t.A.T.u. [2:01 - t.A.T.u. girls start taking their clothes off on the stage], I understand them, I share their dislike--
Andrei Karaulov: They weren't getting strokes because of t.A.T.u.. They were getting them, because t.A.T.u. girls were making their sons and grandchildren kiss each other on the stage.
t.A.T.u. concert video clip [2:12]: [crowd singing along with t.A.T.u. song "Malchik-Gay" (Gay Boy)]: Gay-boy, gay-boy, be more impudent with me, don't blush from being embarrassed, gay-boy, gay-boy...
Boris Nadezhdin: I think there are TV programs which grandmas shouldn't be watching. They should turn on TV [showing with motions how a grandma would turn on a TV], see something in there, and turn it off.
Andrei Karaulov: If this is the ideology of the Union of Right Forces, then say, "We'll do the Army of Lovers, t.A.T.u., we won't apologize, we'll just say 'you don't like such kind of things, then leave the concert or change the channel.'"
Boris Nadezhdin [2:38]: Well, this is correct. [Army of Lovers video back on the screen]. Television, one more time, comes to every home.
Andrei Karaulov: I agree. Grandma turned on the TV, saw her grandson on the stage, and died. Grandson is kissing another guy! [Army of Lovers video on the screen].
Boris Nadezhdin: If a grandma saw her grandson kissing another boy on the stage, I think this grandson should be spanked. That's what I would've done, if, God forbids, had it happened with my child. However, I think it's not a reason... And overall, this news clip about t.A.T.u., Army of Lovers...
Filming crew member: [behind the screen] It's continuing...
Boris Nadezhdin: ...and foreign bands like that -- they often perform in Moscow, even in Red Square someone did, Moiseev, or someone -- I don't really remember -- someone provocative like that.
Andrei Karaulov: I just want to understand, what are you trying to accomplish? Why, when there are some elections, in Moscow Oblast, like today for example, or in Krasnoyarsk, when this concert took place.
Boris Nadezhdin: On March 11th, we'll have elections over a huge territory, including Moscow Oblast, and a little bit later Krasnoyarsk Krai. We don't even think about using anything like t.A.T.u.--
Andrei Karaulov: I'd think that should be enough, enough of dead people.
Boris Nadezhdin: It's life's irony, I personally know t.A.T.u. very well, and one of them is a daughter of one of my classmates [3:38 - t.A.T.u. girls are making out on stage]. I know their family very well.
Andrei Karaulov: Did the father worry when the girls were kissing?
Boris Nadezhdin: Are you talking about my buddy?
Andrei Karaulov: Well, did he worry or not?
Boris Nadezhdin: They don't take it as a serious problem. This is her character she plays. There are different things, you know, like a Swan Lake - they love some birdies there, some animals--
Andrei Karaulov: Who do they love in Swan Lake?
Boris Nadezhdin: It's a kind of art. Or, Scarlet Flower [Alen'kiy Zvetochek], for example, as well...