from the a-personal-threat dept
I've always kind of known that Vladimir Putin was a bit of a bastard. Between his hypocrisy on government snooping, to his horrific record on matters of artistic and political speech, and his absolute willingness to destabilize his neighborhood in favor of having Russia pick up some territory that didn't belong to it in the form of Georgia and Ukraine. That said, two recent actions by Putin are starting to make me think this guy might just be as bad as everyone says.
The first is what appears to be an entirely childish attempt to stifle supposedly naughty language in the arts.
Any new film containing obscene language won't be granted a distribution certificate, so there's no chance of seeing it at the movie theater. And copies of books, CDs or films containing swearing can only be distributed in a sealed package labeled "Contains obscene language," a Kremlin statement said. According to state news agency ITAR-Tass, individuals caught using foul language face a fine of up to $70, while officials can be fined up to $40 and businesses nearly $1,400. They face a higher fine and a three-month suspension of business for repeated offenses.As of the time of this writing, it's unclear exactly what will constitute "obscene" language, though the Russian government has helpfully noted that they'll be the ones judging such obscenities with an "independent examination," which is likely to be just as "independent" as you'd suppose. Given the fact that Russia has found the LGBT community in the past to be oh-so icky-icky, you'd have to imagine that language dealing with their community will be on the list, alongside some of the hallmark swear words, like religiously offensive language, f-bombs, and-
Er, thank you, Mr. President. My problem with this should be obvious: I love swearing. Seriously, I use the f-word as a verbal comma. But putting me aside, the idea that a developed nation's leader could think so little of his own people as to make it the state's responsibility to protect their delicate little ears is beyond silly. Restrictions on free speech are one thing, but when you're restricting the only speech that makes logical sense as a reaction to the very restriction on that speech, things have gone recursively wrong. Because if your first reaction to someone telling you that you can't swear any longer isn't "Well, shit," then you have a problem.
But if you thought that Putin was going to get blasted for this motherly move online, you may not know that he also signed into law the requirement for bloggers with even modest readership to register with the government and ban anonymity on their sites, which we were among the first to report about a few weeks back:
Russia has taken another major step toward restricting its once freewheeling Internet, as President Vladimir V. Putin quietly signed a new law requiring popular online voices to register with the government, a measure that lawyers, Internet pioneers and political activists said Tuesday would give the government a much wider ability to track who said what online.This is, of course, aimed at chilling speech critical of Putin's Russian government, which currently seems to be attempting to scale back the whole democracy thing and inch closer and closer to the days of the Soviet Union. I don't say that lightly. Russia's restrictions on speech, freedom, persecution of minorities, and a clear aim towards expansion of real territory and cultural influence are something right out of the post World War Two era. This might scare some people, but not me.
Widely known as the “bloggers law,” the new Russian measure specifies that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be considered a media outlet akin to a newspaper and be responsible for the accuracy of the information published. Besides registering, bloggers can no longer remain anonymous online, and organizations that provide platforms for their work such as search engines, social networks and other forums must maintain computer records on Russian soil of everything posted over the previous six months.
Why? Because, just like the recent revolution in Ukraine, this kind of thing doesn't work any longer. And, yes, I realize that there are nations out there that still restrict the internet, speech, and freedoms, but they don't go from democratically free back to repression any longer. That whole thing about the internet being the "Wild West" is true in some ways. Putin will never be able to plug all the holes. He'll never be able to tamp down all the critical speech. And, like the former Ukraine government found before him, he will end up finding that the tighter he grips the internet's throat, the stronger it will fight back. It may not be quick, but it will happen.