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Grigory Yavlinsky

Television: Yes-Yes-No-Yes

The New Times, February 18, 2002

Recently television has been transformed into a powerful instrument used to manipulate public opinion. This began approximately in 1993, after the unforgettable referendum "Yes-Yes-No-Yes" and the events by the White House (Ed. shooting of parliament). By 1996 television had already been transformed into a weapon exploited by Boris Yeltsin to ensure election for a second term of office.

In 1999 television was transformed into even more than a weapon, becoming a sharp grinder manipulated by political technologists to change the views of people in their own interests. Television played a decisive role in the election campaigns of 1999 and 2000. It was used to create the military hysteria in autumn 1999 culminating in the broad-scale military actions in the Northern Caucasus.

You can hit any target with the help of electronic media. It is highly likely that this experience will serve as the cornerstone for the new dangerous direction of dirty politics called "management of people's choice". This is prone to the creation of totalitarian systems with a democratic facade, the so-called "Potyemkin villages" (Ed. During the trip of Catherine the Great to inspect Russian provinces, Prince Potemkin created fake facades of villages passed by he Empress, thereby masking his incompetent management and stealing), when all the traits of the civil society seem to be present: a Constitution, parliament, courts, etc., - they will only function as required by a couple dozen people close to power.

In the classic totalitarian system, which was for a long time embodied in the Soviet Union, everything was performed more openly. There was a single Central Television. The present system adjusts the democratic institutions to its needs, instead of eliminating them.

This happens with television. Today the state does not nationalise television channels, and leaves them as private in name, but ushers through them the same propaganda. The change of owners of NTV in spring 2001 and TV6 in winter 2002 with all their trials, suits and financial disputes, had a single goal: to impose state control over these federal channels.

People certainly feel that they are being manipulated. While not everybody may realise this, most of them feel this is happening. The manipulators also realise that there is limited potential and that the political chicanery will one day stick in their throat. This means that they have to find something to make eople watch television. This is the underlying reason for the serious moral degradation of television.

Television demonstrates behavioural patterns that are strange to the national perception, Western cultural standards that are far from being the best, a cult of violence, low instincts - not even passions.

All this hinders maintenance of morals in society, especially of the new generation. Political manipulation is ensured, backed by low-quality entertainment, which is easier to swallow. Public morals degrade much more rapidly than ethics. It is difficult to roll a stone up a hill, but it is easy to push it down.

Why are such policies destructive for our country? This path will lead to the irreversible backwardness of our country. Fooled, disorientated, incapable of comparison, analysis and independent thinking, people are unable to create a 21st century economy.

People who open a newspaper and cannot understand which article has been paid for and which has not, which information is a provocation and which is true - such people are unable to make discoveries and create new technologies, they are unable to raise our country to the level of leading world countries. They are deprived of such a possibility, when electronic media are used for mercenary political goals.

There is no contradiction: what authority would not need educated and morally developed people! Our authority is established on exports of natural resources, and is quite satisfied with this authority. In Japan they would have to either create the Sony industry or die. In Holland - to learn to cultivate tulips. But in Russia they could always export another tonne of oil and thus "resolve the problem". This does not require any new technologies. This requires 'tame' people.

But to transform the people tame requires a transfer of the mass media under public control and the creation of real public television. There are examples: in the United Kingdom and Germany.

There is no possibility to introduce paid television in Russia - let us leave the commercials, but limit them to inter-programme blocks, as is the case at German Public Television. The financing problem can be resolved. It is much more important to develop an efficient mechanism of public control over the mass media.

P.S. Today, on February 18, 2002, the third meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly devoted to freedom of speech will take place.

* Allusion to the TV promotion of "correct" answers at the national referendum on the adoption of the RF Constitution in 1993.

See also:
Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

The New Times, February 18, 2002

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