Readers here will be familiar with the Streisand Effect, by which a topic or information becomes wildly viral due to the very attempts at censoring it. The idea is that by trying to keep Subject X out of the news, the public suddenly is far more exposed to Subject X as a result of news coverage of the cover-up. This story slightly deviates from the Streisand Effect formula, but only in the most hilarious way.
People should know by now that Vladimir Putin is a strong-arm “President” that runs the country like a fiefdom. As such, most if not all wings of his government serve him personally far more directly than they do his constituents. Evidence of this is practically everywhere, especially in how his government and non-government organizations in Russia react to his political opponents. Typically, his political rivals are jailed, silenced, or otherwise tamped down viciously in terms of how much exposure they can get to challenge his political position. A recent example of this concerns presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, whose supporters painted the ice on a frozen river in St. Petersburg with the mildest anti-Putin slogan, reading “Against Putin.” As a result, Roskomnadzor, the government agency featured in our pages for its censorship of websites in the name of literally anything it can dream up, ordered news groups to censor the contents of the message-on-ice in any reporting on the incident.
On Monday, the St. Petersburg-based Business News Agency said it was ordered by a local branch of the state media watchdog Roskomnadzor to remove the photograph of the graffiti from the river.
“We can’t display the protesters’ slogan at the urgent request of Roskomnadzor,” the agency wrote in a text superimposed on the graffiti while keeping the photo of the frozen Fontanka River intact, as seen in a picture tweeted by local activists.
And here’s what the images accompanying the news reports now show.
Роскомнадзор требует от «Агентства бизнес новостей» удалить с сайта фотографию акции штаба Собчак. Ребята написали на реке Фонтанке лозунг «Против Путина». В связи с этим хотелось бы напомнить:
Мы против Путина. pic.twitter.com/UiJHN8PK1M
— Штаб Навального в Петербурге (@teamnavalny_spb) March 5, 2018
Here’s the thing: the reader is now free to imagine any and all anti-Putin messages scrawled in the ice now that the mild “Against Putin” message has been covered up. In addition to the classic Streisand Effect of the public now being way more aware than they would have been otherwise of the general anti-Putin sentiment that exists with these supporters of Sobchak, creative minds across Russia will fill in the censorious blank as to what the message was. Perhaps it read: “Putin impregnated my cow and smells of last week’s borscht”? Perhaps it was just a string of the names of journalists that keep mysteriously dying after criticizing Putin or his government?
The beautiful part is: we don’t know! And this censorship has freed us to imagine anything and everything that could possibly be contained in that message. And, if this writer is any indication, our imaginations can come up with far more insulting messages than “Against Putin.”
And, in case the hints here weren’t strong enough, I very much encourage you to prove me right in the comments section. Regardless, it’s long past time that world leaders learned that these censorship attempts do and will always backfire.
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