A Russian journalist who covers Putin writes an open-letter to American media warning them about Trump – ‘Welcome to the Circus.’
Earlier this month, Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who writes about “propaganda fake news and Russian state media,” penned an open letter to American journalists, warning them what to expect from a Trump presidency.
He began, writing: “Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now.”
Continuing, he writes that “Putin always comes off as an omniscient and benevolent leader tending to a flock of unruly but adoring children” at his “carefully choreographed” press conferences.
“Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook,” he cautions.
“I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.”
Below, are Kovalev’s four warnings, paraphrased for brevity.
Welcome to the era of bullshit
As with Trump, “facts don’t matter” to Putin. “You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason.” He will always “wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him.” He loves to “drown out questions he doesn’t like [with] dull, unverifiable stats, figures, and percentages.” [See Kellyanne Conway getting obliterated by NBC’s Chuck Todd for attempting this sleight of hand B.S. on Saturday.]
Putin Trump “always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids, platitudes, examples of false moral equivalence, and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him.”
Don’t expect any camaraderie
Kovalev warns that it is each journalist for himself in the
Putin Trump era, that “The only currency in this market is whatever that man on the stage says. Whoever is lucky to ask a question and be the first to transmit the answer to the outside world wins.”
“If your question is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t expect a rival publication to pick up the banner and follow-up on your behalf,” he continues, adding that: “It’s in this man’s best interests to pit you against each other, fighting over artificial scarcities like room space, mic time or, of course, his attention.”
Expect a lot of sycophancy and soft balls from your “colleagues”
Continuing, Kovalev writes that softball questions are “a mainstay of
Putin’s Trump’s press conferences.” Favorite questions include: “Mr. President, is there love in your heart? Who you will be celebrating New Year’s Eve with? What’s your favorite food?”
There are also questions “choreographed well in advance,” designed as opportunities for him “to shine.”
Another type of softball questions is hyperlocal issues that a president isn’t even supposed to be dealing with. Mr. President, our road is full of potholes and local authorities aren’t doing anything about it. Mr. President, our tap is leaking. Mr. President, how about a chess club in our village. This is a real opportunity for him to shine. He will scold the local authorities and order to have a new road built. All of this, of course, has been choreographed well in advance.
You’re always losing
Kovalev warns that
Owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. … If you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.