In the Eighties, lots of folks who regarded themselves as true Reaganites often said that The Washington Post should more properly bear the title of "Pravda on the Potomac". Indeed, the paper's vicious anti-Ronny rhetoric, as well as its views on some other policy issues, were stylistically pretty close to Pravda in its heyday.
Ironically, with the collapse of Communism "Pravda on the Potomac" became a common epithet for The Washington Post not only among the people on the right but on the left and center as well. A recent Google search on this entry provided 13,100 links including articles and sites representing practically the whole spectrum of American politics.
The old Pravda, founded by Vladimir Lenin, is virtually out of business these days, as its pre-1991 staff has gone through multiple splits; it is but a blimp on Russia's political radar. However, in this zero sum game of today's politics, some Western papers have appropriated the old Soviet style of journalese and are now extremely Pravda-like in tone and vocabulary. Unfortunately, yet another flagship of American journalism, The New York Times, has also joined this dubious club, so that it might well be dubbed Pravda on the Hudson.
One could cite as many examples of Pravda-type rhetoric on NYT pages as one would wish. To save space, I will focus use on the latest editorial "Small Minds in the Kremlin" of June 19, 2009 (David Johnson's Russia List June 19, #44).
I cannot say much of the size of Kremlin folks' brains, these being too distant from the circles I move in. However, individuals who produce over and over again such gems as "brutal Russian invasion of Georgia," or "Moscow regularly bullies Ukraine and other neighbors and has even used its gas supplies to push around the Europeans," as The New York Times editors do, the latter wouldn't score high on any IQ test, that's for certain.
It is common knowledge that it was the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili who started this bloody mess, by ordering the well-prepared and indiscriminate shelling of South Ossetian civilian targets and killing Russian peacekeepers who were stationed in South Ossetia under a UN mandate. The leading German magazine Der Spiegel, to cite just one source, has stated unequivocally that the latest European Union special commission's report on the conflict squarely blames Saakashvili for initiating the hostilities.
Then again, if asking Ukraine to pay market prices for gas instead of stealing it when it flows through its territory from Russia to Europe is called "bullying", then the whole free market idea is total nonsense. In that case, instead of Hayek and Friedman, we should all be studying Marx and Lenin for political economy, and declaring the Somali pirates' to be victims instead of thieves.
A few months ago I asked a good friend of mine who knows a lot of folks at The New York Times to help generate some publicity in that paper for my pet project, the Liberty Prize, which is awarded to outstanding American and Russian cultural figures trying to promote cooperation between the two countries. My friend did his best but was flatly turned down. One of the top guys at NYT said, quite bluntly, that the paper's current policy on Russia is to "place it in the shit house," and the Liberty Prize idea does not fit this agenda.
So, our winners -- the world-famous ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshhnikov, Guggenheim Director Thomas Krenz, Librarian of Congress James Billington, and editor-in-chief of the New Yorker magazine David Remnick -- were never mentioned by the NYT on that occasion. Ridiculously, Misha Saakashvili, whose resignation is daily demanded by tens of thousands of Georgians, including dozens of his former ministers and ambassadors, is featured in the paper more prominently than any Hollywood star.
No wonder NYT has over a billion dollar operating deficit and may go belly up as it follows good old Pravda on the road to oblivion.
Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.