Posts tagged ‘Russia’


Russian mass media believe it’s the Putin right that counts

06.03.2012

Vladimir Putin has won the first round in the presidential elections in Russia by such a margin that he won’t need to face rivals for a second-round run-off. But the one place where he scored less than half of the vote was in Moskva, the most educated and affluent city in the nation. Turnout was also low in the capital.
   Putin’s win was, to some degree, one that was helped by the Russian media, which are largely celebrating the victory today. Its mainstream media reach most of the country, and blogs and independent media are largely, as with most countries, centred in the cities. I’m no expert on Russian politics—my only claim to any real knowledge of Russia is that my late mother spoke Russian and I knew the Cyrillic alphabet at a young age—but put in my context, it does seem opposition to the mass media’s angle wasn’t readily accessible outside the main centres. And what I know has come, too, from mainstream media—views of the protests in Moskva, 100,000 strong, by reporters working for occidental news outlets who might not be disposed to a Putin win.
   What we witnessed in Russia is not a phenomenon that’s foreign to any of us. An educated public always seeks more information, and is exposed to a greater variety of views as a result. They are interested more in dialogue, having grown up with a BS-meter built in and a healthy cynicism toward marketing and spin. They seek engagement more than a populist angle propagated by institutions—because they believe those institutions have their own agenda.
   Larger urban populations also spur a greater variety of thought, enough to get people questioning. See an Occupy protest? You’re prompted to ask what the motives are behind it, especially in cities like Wellington where I would venture that most of us either know someone who participated, or is connected with someone by one or two degrees of separation. And if that person we know is someone of good character, then we’re less likely to believe the idea that there is a “protester class”, one that stirs up trouble constantly just because it’s antiestablishment. They may have had good motives to protest. You don’t accept that they’re a bunch of troublemakers.
   The fact that rural populations reflect mainstream media viewpoints has nothing to do with them being less intelligent, but it is to do with their being less exposed by virtue of the digital divide. It’s why I’ve always believed in the bridging of a digital divide, either across socioeconomic classes, regions or even countries. When I ran for office, I discovered that a great deal of the cost of getting the internet, for instance, to rural communities is actually not as high as some would have us believe. For the most part, it’s been a lack of will, and perhaps a lack of desire to get more people into a dialogue, and expose them to a greater variety of thinking. But I believe the demand is there, and I believe we humans are naturally inquisitive.
   Certainly, the distance from dissenters, such as those in the Moskva protests, has allowed a TV-rich, but not necessarily internet-rich, Russia to get one, largely popular, message across the nation. Internet penetration is between 40 and 50 per cent, but broadband is only 30 per cent—versus 70 per cent in cities like Moskva and St Petersburg. Is it any surprise, then, that Vladimir Putin is popular in rural Russia, while the loudest voices complaining of vote-rigging are in the cities?
   I make no judgement on whether Vladimir Putin is right or wrong for his country. On that I blame my own distance of not having too many Russian friends (despite actually having my own Vkontakte page). I have not engaged with them on this issue. However, I credit Putin’s victory in part to pro-Putin mass media, and that should signal to us, in any country, that it’s our duty to seek alternative viewpoints when it comes to casting a vote that will decide our own nation’s agenda for years to come.

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Posted in internet, marketing, media, politics, publishing, technology, TV | No Comments »


Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, media, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

02.11.2010

I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
   As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
   On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
   He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
   So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
   Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
   ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
   No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
   But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
   These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, leadership, politics, TV, UK | 1 Comment »