Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Podrabinek’

August 2013

Not Stupidity, but Malevolence

Institute of Modern Russia

Critics of the current Russian regime often call its actions “stupid” and detrimental to its own image. According to author and analyst Alexander Podrabinek, however, what looks like government “stupidity” is actually a well-thought out strategy.

It is nice to think of your adversary as an idiot. It makes you feel better about yourself and reassures you by trivializing the threat: what foolishness did he or she think of this time? The same holds true when the adversary is the government. We fume about the Russian government doing this or that. How can it be so stupid? Does it not realize that it is undermining its own position and the image of the country? What we fail to appreciate is that the government understands everything it does; we just don’t understand its real motives. We judge the regime’s objectives, logic, and morals by our standards, when its own standards are completely different. Many of our troubles come from this lack of understanding.

Many of the government’s initiatives damage Russia’s image and result in international scandals. Prison sentences for members of the punk band Pussy Riot mobilized protests by top figures in the European music industry. Laws directed against homosexual propaganda have elicited fierce criticism of the Russian government from all corners of the world. The government’s insistence on protecting the law enforcement mafia in the Magnitsky case drew the world’s attention to a new instrument of government influence that violates human rights.

And we continue to wonder: What does the government think it is doing? How can it fail to foresee the possible consequences of its actions? Unfortunately, we just don’t understand the government. It very likely weighs its actions in advance and expects consequences. As much as we would like to think otherwise, it is anything but stupid. It simply has different objectives. In the Pussy Riot case, the government wanted to demonstrate that Russia is a religious and fundamentalist country, rather than a secular one; that the sentence handed down in the farce trial was a reflection of the people’s will; and that individual freedom pales before the power of the inferior mob.

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