Today, the Washington Post published two seemingly unrelated, but spiritually linked, articles.
The first explains why it’s so difficult to debunk popular myths. A conventional wisdom holds that people absorb information in a deliberate manner. But multiple scientific studies have shown that, quite to the contrary, the brains can be easily manipulated into believing that false information is true. One way of doing so is to frequently repeat the false information. Clever manipulators are aware of the fact and take advantage of it.
The second article is a nice proof of the conclusions of the first. By criticizing Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika for the troubled investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Peter Finn is trying to prove that solving the murder had never been a goal of Russian authorities, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Making his point, Finn employs one of the favorite tricks of Western mythologists: ascribing to Putin something that he had actually never said.
Here is what Finn writes about Putin’s reaction to Politkovskaya’s death:
"On the day Politkovskaya was buried, Putin dismissed her work as ‘extremely insignificant.’ He said her murder bore the hallmarks of a provocation orchestrated abroad and designed to undermine Russia’s reputation."
I’ve already had a chance to argue that an interpretation of what Putin actually says largely depends on what a Western mythologists wants to say about Putin. Let’s review again Putin’s exact words about Politkovskaya (according to the transcript of his joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden on October 10, 2006):
" First of all, I would like to say that no matter who committed this crime and no matter what the motives behind it, it was a horribly cruel crime and it cannot go unpunished. […] This journalist was indeed a fierce critic of the current authorities in Russia. But, […], I think, her impact on Russian political life was only very slight. She was well known in the media community, in human rights circles and in the West, but her influence on political life within Russia was very minimal. The murder of someone like her, the brutal murder of a woman and mother, was in itself an act directed against our country and against the Russian authorities."
Does a native English speaker Peter Finn not know the difference between "very slight" or "very minimal" and "extremely insignificant"? Did a professional journalist accidentally miss "horribly cruel crime" and "the brutal murder of a woman and mother"? And which part of the Putin’s quote makes Finn believe that Putin was implying "a provocation orchestrated abroad?"
Over the past few years, the Western coverage of Russia has become nothing but a myth-creating process. It’s a shame that a gifted journalist like Finn is becoming one of the mythologists.