Black PR vs. Black PR?

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As the Power Vertical’s Robert Coalson explains, this is the way the game is played.  Anyone familiar with Russian politics over the last 20 years, if not the last century, will not be surprised United Russia hatchet-men hired “spin doctors” to spread black PR against opponents of UR power broker and Saratov deputy Vyacheslav Volodin.  I’m impressed that their smear arsenal included such creative tactics such as hiring a student to throw animal shit at journalists and paying homeless to stage rallies in support of opposing candidates.  I’m sure if someone digs deep enough they will probably find a few Nashists on the payroll.

The revelations come from Sergei Pochechuyev and Igor Osovin, who have detailed their service as political hit-men in their soon to be published book, The Black PR Practitioners Of The White Bear (Chernye piarshchiki belogo medvedia).  The two authors, who write for the aptly named, claim that in 2007 alone they managed a 2 million ruble black PR cash box to smear whoever they were ordered to smear.  Last Thursday, on Volodin’s birthday in fact, the two broke ranks and held a samokritika and promotional, er, “sensational” press-conference where they confessed their sins.  To beef up the accusations, as well as their confessions, the conference was accompanied by flowcharts and graphs showing the connections between Pochecheuyev and Osovin and their alleged employer, UR Duma deputy and Volodin right-hand man Nikolai Pankov.  They also presented documents detailing the expenses for their nefarious black PR plans.

According to Coalson and a report on the duo in the Moscow Times, Pochecheuyev and Osovin have come forward out of a “crisis of conscience about their work.”  Yeah, because, like that happens.

Nikolai Pankov quickly responded that the accusations were “absurd” and called Pochecheuyev and Osovin “provocateurs.”  He promises to see piarshchiki in court.

Given that as Coalson correctly states this is how the Russian political game is played, shouldn’t we ask whether this latest revelation is black PR about black PR?  The question is apt considering that in politics in general, and in Russian politics in particular, the devils always outnumber the saints, and the latter usually don’t appear out of nowhere, and certainly not out of some “crisis of conscience.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt Pochecheuyev and Osovin’s claims for one millisecond.  I’m just suspicious of their sudden conversion to the politically righteous. Even the possibility they are just currying fanfare to sell books doesn’t cut it.  The Russian politico-conspiro-tell-all book market just isn’t large enough.

My guess is that someone somewhere has decided that Volodin and Pankov need to be taken down or at least humbled a bit.  Perhaps some of the local potentates are sick of getting screwed and have decided to do some of the screwing.  Maybe someone is aiming a scope at Volodin from above waiting to blow a hole is his fontanelle.  Who knows?  But I do know one thing, so far this story smells exactly like the black PR the two authors claim to be known for.  And given how anti-corruption is now all the rage, what a better way make a good show than to beat Volodin and Pankov with their own sticks.  As for whether this is really the case, we’ll have to be patient.  If this scandal fades away, then we can conclude that Pochecheuyev and Osovin are really the latest versions of St. Augustine.  If the scandal sticks, then that will suggest that something more sinister is afoot.

Russian elites continue to cannibalize themselves.  Don’tcha love it?  I know I do.