Another day, more news.
But for some the news is the news itself. As I suggested on Monday, it was only a matter a time, like seconds, that much of the Western media would be blaming Russia–which really is a metonym for Putin, Putinism or what have you–for the attacks. I won’t spend so much time on identifying the metanarrative or metacommentary on all of this. Others have been this already: Mark Adomanis, A Good Treaty, and Peter Lavelle. I don’t agree with every bit of the metacommentary, but I do support the general thrust of their arguments.
One comment I will make is the controversy over what, how much, and when Russian federal television broadcast news of the attacks. This is one angle many in the English language media have sunk their teeth in. Frankly, I think this issue is being totally overblown. Still, I believe asking why Russian state-owned television didn’t provide immediate sustained news coverage is totally valid. From my understanding most of the criticism of the Russian state-owned media from inside Russia is one of quality not quantity. For what it’s worth SRB commenter Pyotr has drawn up the following timeline of Russian news coverage:
7:56 – 1st bombing
8:13 – Business FM, Kommersant FM radio report
8:15 – Ekho Moskvy, RSN radio report
before 8:20 – TASS wire
8:22 – Approximate time of the coverage start for Russia 24
8:30-8:45 – RT report (the fastest TV channel to report and the source of the info and coverage for Rechkalov’s “vrazheskie golosa”)
8:36 – 2nd bombing; by this time there is no doubts that terrorist attack is in progress. After this time news segments for Channel 1, NTV and Russia 1 have updates on bombings.
8:40 – several bloggers mentioned that Russia 1 and Channel 1 had running caption about bombings at this time.
8:45 – CNN report
8:55 – Russia 1 reports bombings
9:00 – Channel 1 dedicates the majority of the regular news segment to the bombings;
9:30 – Approximate time of the coverage start for over the air in Moscow REN TV
10:00 – news segment in which NTV reported bombings
But enough of that. I’m sure there will speculation until the end of time as to why Russian state channels didn’t fully break with their normal programming.
It appears as if some Russians are turning to sources of information and organizations that are more forthright and effective, i.e. the internet and themselves. RIA Novosti reports on a new initiative, podvezu_msk, begun by Russian internet users to organize free rides for those who don’t want to take the metro. (h/t Gregory Asmolov of RuNet Echo)
The story tells about Natalia Koroleva, an employee at RIA Novosti, who discovered how people were organizing rides through Live Journal. A post from LJ user shmeyerzon particularly attracted her attention because he was offering free rides to those on his route home.
“From the moment I read this post it already had over 200 comments. People wrote their routes and also offered to take passengers themselves. I don’t have a car, but decided to help by providing a means and created the community podvezu_msk as a way for those interested to offer help. I wrote the first post and listed its address as a comment on shmeyerzon’s site,” Koreleva explained.
At first nothing happened. Everyone continued to write on ru_metro, someone even complained that no one was writing on the community, but continued to offer his help there. After two days almost 200 people read the community. They energetically offered each other help. The community’s participants even thought up their own signs which to put on their windshields in order to recognize each other Koroleva says.
Well, Russians are doing their thing, and President Medvedev is doing his . . .
Dima did his imitation of Barack Obama by making a “surprise visit” to Dagestan on Thursday. Apparently mimicking Putin was also in order. Dima, suavely dressed in all black–which the Moscow Times reminds is the typical Putin style–seemed to finally understand the symbolic value of “tough talk.” Reports the Moscow Times:
“We have twisted off the heads of the most odious bandits, but it looks like this is not enough,” Medvedev told a meeting of leaders from the restive North Caucasus republics in Makhachkala.
“Perhaps the list of measures — and not only for our country, but in general — should be broadened to become not only more effective but also harsher and, if you wish, more brutal to prevent terrorist attacks,” he said.
“Twisted off the heads,” “odious bandits,” “harsher,” and “more brutal” is what the narod like to hear. And I can totally understand Medvedev’s reasoning in adopting this tone. It shows that he’s on the job. Remaining “intellectual” Dima is too soft for the circumstances. He must become “awesome” Dimitry. Like I said the other day, Dima is more of a tishaishii tsar–gentle, reserved. But the current circumstances require him to become a groznyi tsar (awesome and mighty). Image is everything in our postmodern times.
But it wasn’t all flashy toughness. Dimitry also stressed what is now being called his Five-Point Anti-Terrorism Plan. In addition to delivering “sharp dagger blows to the terrorists,” Medvedev also said that there needed to be economic development, education, culture, and the strengthening of moral and spiritual components in the region. “We are larger. We are stronger. The people’s fate is behind us and most important, the truth is behind us,” he added for good poetic measure.
Was it really necessary for someone to yell “You’re alive? Bitch!” and hit Lyudmila Alexeyeva over the head as she laid flowers for victims at Park Kultury? She’s an 82-year old woman for chrissakes. If she’s really that irrelevant, then leave her alone. Police have “declined” to say whether the man would face charges.
Speaking of pranks, the economic crisis has apparently taken a toll on April Fool’s Day. The Levenda Center discovered “a broader downturn in public humor.” In lieu of the bombings, the Moscow Times announced it would refrain from it’s yearly April Fool’s joke story. Thankfully Kevin O’Flynn didn’t get the memo (if there ever was one in the first place) and wrote one on how Naomi Campbell planned to join United Russia.
Here’s a April Fool’s joke that isn’t funny at all from Moskovskii komsomolets:
It became known to MK that the body of a young woman was discovered around 11 a.m. on Ostashkov highway not far from the off ramp to the village of Lipki outside of Moscow. According to information from eyewitnesses, was thrown out of an black foreign make car with dark tinted windows. The car darted away. Security forces were afraid to touch the body for some time, fearing that it was mined (fifteen years ago there was such a case in the Mytishchinsk district where a criminal blew up an operational group by rigging a corpse with a grenade.) However this was found to be untrue and explosives were not found on the body of the victim. It’s notable that the criminals dumped the body 800 meters from the central school of the Moscow FSB Border Institute . . .
The victim was dressed, as described by one of the field investigator “in accordance for the weather in the spring”–a light jacket and pants. There were no signs or attempts of a violent death on body of the girl, however on the bend of her elbow experts found needle tack marks. There was a mobile phone and two pamphlets in Arabic in her bag. Her identity papers said that the girl was Tamila Bogadinovna Alieva from Kizlyarsk district [in Dagestan].
The mark from the needle suggested that she had recently died from a drug overdose. This, however, does not exclude the theory that [the criminals] injected her or murdered her from a overdose of heroin. According to one theory, the girl was a suicide bomber and was eliminated “because she was no longer needed” by the coordinators of a terrorist attack. Or that chekists came close to discovering them and now the terrorists covered their footprints by getting rid of their “unused” suicide bombers.
Kommersant reports that the “black widow” who blew up at Lubyanka has been identified. The woman was 17-year old Dzhennet Abdurakhmankova from the village of Kostek in Dagestan. Kostek is a hot bed for Islamist activity. So much so Kommersant says that “In the Caucasus they say, “If Kostek is won over, you achieve peace.” Apparently Abdurkhmankova had quite a rap sheet attesting to her “addiction to extremist activities.” She joined the fight at 16 after she met Umalat Mahomedov on the internet and then began hanging with militants who had a great influence on her. As of now it’s unclear what transformed her from militant to suicide bomber, though Kommersant theorizes that “after the death of her husband [earlier this year in an anti-terrorist operation], she came under the influence of Wahabbi ideologist Said Buryatskii, who convinced her that it was necessary to sacrifice herself to avenge her husband.”
The Park Kultury bomber has yet to be identified.
Kavkaz Center writes about the Kremlin’s reluctance to take Doku Umarov’s claim of responsibility seriously. “We are well aware that this may be a PR campaign.” Gennady Gudkov, the deputy chairman of the State Duma’s security committee told Ekho Moskvy. “Using the incidents, he could show that he has some might, or it may be that is is really
responsible. Now the terrorists and their circle are to be exposed, whether they are or not related to Umarov.”
Kavkaz Center notes: “Curiously, before the video statement by Doku Umarov was made available in YouTube, the Russian secret services were claiming, without any evidence for it, that Dokku Abu Usman is responsible for the bombings.” The article then bashes the BBC for its constant use of the phrase “someone claiming himself Doku Umarov” in their reports on the video communique.
On person who is taking Umanov seriously is the Guardian‘s Luke Harding. Harding looked into Umarov’s justification for the Moscow bombings: the cold execution of four Chechen youths by Russian security forces in February. Harding reports:
When the shooting started Adlan Mutsaev and his friends were in the woods picking garlic. They had arrived in the forest earlier that day, together with a group of neighbours travelling in a battered coach. The plan had been straightforward: stuff their sacks, enjoy the countryside, and then head back home to the Chechen town of Achkoi-Martan.
Without warning, Russian commandos hiding behind a hillock opened fire.Adlan, 16, was with his brother Arbi, 19, and their friends Shamil Kataev, 19, and Movsar Tataev, 19. Shamil and Movsar were both wounded. Adlan was shot in the leg, but managed to hobble into a ditch. He hid. Arbi also attempted to flee, but men in camouflage fatigues caught up with him.
According to the human rights group Memorial, Arbi was forced to drag his two wounded and bleeding friends across the snow. Shamil begged for his life. But the solders were impervious. They placed a blindfold over Arbi’s eyes. And then they opened fire: executing Shamil and Movsar on the spot. At least two other garlic pickers suffered the same fate: Ramzan Susaev, 40, and Movsar Dakaev, 17. According to his relatives, Dakaev had pleaded to be allowed on the trip with the others. Wearing a bright green fleece, he took a photo of himself in the woods with his mobile phone. It shows him proudly posing against a craggy backdrop of cliffs and trees covered in snow. A little over 48 hours later his body was discovered.
The misfortune of the four garlic pickers was to have unwittingly strayed into a “counter-insurgency operation” conducted by Russian forces in the densely wooded border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. The soldiers, apparently looking for militant rebels who are waging their own violent campaign against the Russian state, came across the unarmed group, brutally killing them amid the picturesque massif of low hills.
And the spiral of violence continues. It is no wonder. It all reminds me of something Frantz Fanon wrote in the Wretched of the Earth about reciprocity of violence:
[The colonized] of whom [the colonizer] have never stopped saying that the only language he understands is that of force, decides to give utterance by force. In fact, as always, the settler has shown him the way he should take if he is to become free. The argument the native chooses has been furnished by the settler, and by an ironic turning of the tables it is the native who now affirms that the colonialist understands nothing but force.
Image: Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / Reuters