- Lesson 1: If someone turns up dead, Putin did it
- Lesson 2: Disgruntled former aides are always reliable sources of information
- Lesson 3: It doesn't matter where they are, protests are always about Russia
- Lesson 4: If you're stuck, revert to the trusty Hitler comparison
- Lesson 5: Sweeping and vague statements are a clever way to win people over
- Lesson 6: If all else fails, give someone cancer and/or mental health problems
As a reader of things on the internet, you'll no doubt be aware, that journalists covering Russia have a different job to do than journalists covering, say... pretty much anything else.
You might be thinking hey, that sounds fun, maybe I'll try it -- but you'll need a crash course in the basics first. So here's a quick overview to get you started:
Lesson 1: If someone turns up dead, Putin did it
Let's begin with the recent death of Russian actor and Putin-critic Alexei Devotchenko. The man was found "in a pool of blood" in his Moscow apartment earlier this month, having died in clearly tragic circumstances.
You must remember, as a member of the media covering Russia, that this is an opportune moment to chime in with thinly veiled accusations, irresponsibly linking facts that in all likelihood have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. There is no need, in the aftermath of a tragedy, to wait for facts or details to emerge.
It is your duty, first and foremost, to plant the right seed in the mind of the reader. If you're not sure what the right seed is, look to your overlords in the White House for guidance.
The Telegraph, to no great surprise, passed this test with flying colors. In a stunning implication of correlation-causation, the story begins:
A well-known Russian actor who was a vocal critic of the Kremlin has been found dead in suspicious circumstances at his home in Moscow.
There are no exceptions to this rule. You must leave your readers with no other option than to ask: That horrible Putin, what has he gone and done now?
Lesson 2: Disgruntled former aides are always reliable sources of information
Next up: Sourcing experts. It's always important to source reliable experts on Russia to help lend credibility to your story. This will be an invaluable tool in your arsenal.
For example: Let's look to Sergei Pugachev, the disgruntled former Putin aide who has been on a whistle-stop tour of western publications for the past couple of weeks.
He's been imparting all sorts of critical nuggets, including the fact that Putin, among other things, always travels with well-sharpened pencils, really quite enjoys watching television, and enjoys intimidating people in Stalin's dacha.
But hey, don't we all?
He also doesn't really do "planning" and pretty much flies by the seat of his pants where foreign policy is concerned. Hell, he could wake up tomorrow and just invade Poland. He's a go-with-the-flow kinda guy, you know?
Anyway, as the Financial Times and Time magazine have clearly demonstrated, former oligarch fraudsters are venerable and trustworthy sources of information -- so long as they adhere strictly to the narrative you are trying to perpetuate.
The moral of the story here is this: It doesn't matter how legally or politically complicated a story is, you should always feel free to ignore the bits that don't jibe with your agenda.
Also, some advice for other disgruntled former Kremlin aides and friends: If you're looking for your fifteen minutes, call up a western newspaper, claim to be a Russian dissident and hey presto, all your crimes will be forgotten. You will be joyously welcomed into the fold -- and find yourself above it the next morning, no doubt.
Lesson 3: It doesn't matter where they are, protests are always about Russia
This is a particularly important one, because it's with dedication to this line of reporting, that you will be able to swiftly incite violent protests in any number of other European countries when your masters in the White House think the time is right.
Here it is: When an Eastern European city holds protests (about things like internet taxes) that can loosely be tied to anti-Putin sentiment (but not really), you must report it immediately.
But -- and this is crucial -- when the friendly-with-Russia prime minister of such a country says that he is under "great pressure" from the United States over energy-related matters, you must remain completely silent.
No one needs to know this.
Yes, this tactic could eventually encourage violence in any number of European cities, but it really doesn't matter because hey, as our unwavering ally Victoria Nuland would say..."fuck the EU!", right?
Lesson 4: If you're stuck, revert to the trusty Hitler comparison
Don't ever question the legitimacy of this comparison. And feel free to overuse it to the point of sheer ridiculousness.
People love it. It's so scary and exciting. Despite what they'll tell you, a lot of people seemingly want to feel like something truly horrific is about to happen to the world.
Feed that desire.
Lesson 5: Sweeping and vague statements are a clever way to win people over
If you're writing about someone you don't like -- perhaps in an article accompanying your publication's list of the 72 most powerful people in the world -- make sure you include sweeping statements and lump the entire planet into your own worldview.
For example, if you personally think Putin is a really bad guy on every front, tell the reader that everyone agrees with you. This is a great way to get the masses assuming that your allegations are a foregone conclusion.
Lesson 6: If all else fails, give someone cancer and/or mental health problems
I know what you're thinking...this is a bit extreme, isn't it?
Not at all. If you're having a crisis of conscience at this point, just remember: You're fighting for world peace and all the good guys are on your side.
So, if you're running out of reasons to explain someone's behavior and you don't like the boring explanations (for example, that they just disagree with you etc.) feel free to say they have cancer and imply that they are fit for locking up.
One or the other. Or hell, why not both? You need to make it really clear that your opinion is the only valid one, so everyone else simply must be crazy and deluded.
Using the presence of a serious disease -- no matter how scant the evidence -- can also be a really handy way to speculate on the 'real' reasons for someone's behavior. People on death's door, especially Russian people (obviously), can be unpredictable -- and with this approach, you can even fool your readers into thinking you might be a tiny bit sympathetic.
You might be wondering, but what kind of cancer should I choose? Spinal? Pancreatic? But look, don't even waste time on the trivial details. Just pick one and run with it.
As we've already covered in Lesson 1, details and facts are irrelevant.