The Moscow Times is running this headline today:
Social Conservatives Make American Photographer an Overnight Celebrity in Moscow.
A controversial Moscow photography exhibition that critics say amounts to “child pornography” has been closed down following a protest by conservative activists.
These aren’t social conservatives. We’re on Balchug Island, folks, not on safe ground in Alabama. It’s an astroturfing operation by one of a myriad of activist grouplets on the regime’s payroll. An officers’ organization led by a man who never served in the army, never studied at a military school, and never held a real job. Some other site calls them an NGO. No, they are very much a GO if you understand the meaning and workings of G in Kremlinland.
That does not mean the Kremlin ordered the attack on the exhibition. More likely, the group was signaling its usefulness in the face of possible defunding. Their idea, apparently, was to manufacture moral outrage over Sturges’ photographs: “Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity,” according to Marshall McLuhan (gazeta.ru amusingly misattributed the quote to Victor Pelevin).
The Russian astroturfers could be drawing inspiration from outbursts of moral panic in the US, such as the unending campus-rape hysteria. Anti-rape activists on American campuses are laboring joyfully to destroy due process, no matter its importance to the civilization that made their cozy hermitages possible in the first place. Their plain-thinking Russian counterparts are simply intimidating the educated public in the hope of getting a 10% budget increase in the next year.
I should add, perhaps, that the timing for the Sturges exhibition was unfortunate. In August, Moscow’s intelligentsia was unpleasantly confronted with evidence that a distinguished math teacher at one of the city’s best schools – a legend, more or less – had taken, for decades, an unhealthy interest in boys under his tutelage. Another, less stellar teacher at the same school had a weakness for girls in his classes, although his victims were apparently above 16, the age of consent. Against this backdrop, the exhibition became an easy and obvious target.