Sunday, July 20, 2008

Journalistic Tragedy Shakes Russia

The Russian government has shut down one of the most thought provoking, at least in my small mind, and unconventional sites on the web, The Exile. As reported in it's new form at The Exiled the whole shoddy affair is covered in detail from their new hideout in Panama:

"One month ago, our newspaper The eXile got stomped into extinction by some ham-fisted Russian government officials, who decided that since there’s a new president in the Kremlin who’s talking up some nonsense about a new “liberal era,” what better way to show your boss that you understand what he means by “liberal”—with a big wink-wink—than to shut down the only good thing that Russia ever had going for it.

On June 5, four officials from the Ministry to Defend Russian Culture—one of whom was an FSB lawyer seconded out to ministry—arrived at our radon-poisoned basement office in Chisty Prudy to carry out an “unplanned [ie: ordered] audit” of The eXile’s articles. As the head of the Glasnost Defense Fund NGO told us, we were the first and still only Moscow newspaper to ever be subjected to an “unplanned audit” of our editorial content. What a fucking honor it was.

They came exactly on time, 11am—just like Stalin’s proverbial trains. There they were, all fitted out in their crusty retro-Soviet outfits, subjecting us to a three-hour interrogation about Edward Limonov and the Recession Penis and why did we write the things we write and why do we mock and insult Russia’s great culture and great traditions… The officials were surprisingly polite and by-the-books during the audit, but that didn’t matter, because they still scared the shit out of anyone with an understanding of Russia’s past and present. The Ministry to Defend Russian Culture (since renamed the “Federal Agency for Media and Communications”) is merely the least scary ministry in the extremely-scary Russian state apparatus—so saying that the RosOkhranKultury wasn’t all that scary is like saying that the eyeball-like pits on the sides of a Flecker’s Box Jellyfish’s bell aren’t all that scary compared to its 60 deadly tentacles—which pack the most toxic venom in planet earth’s seas. The slightest contact with one of the box jellyfish’s 10-foot-long tentacles, and you’d wish that you could trade places with one of Mengele’s victims: the box jellyfish’s venom literally sizzles through your flesh like Alien blood, eating its way into your blood vessels, racing through your circulation system like a burning gunpowder fuse, until finally the venom reaches your vital organs and napalms the entire fucking thing like it’s a Vietnamese village, turning your organs into a pot of boiling jelly, and transforming you—brave, chin-up little you—into a screaming, gargling, blood-puking freak—a one-note freak, to be precise—that note being: “PLEASE SOMEONE FUCKING KILL ME NOW! AGGGHHHH!!!!”

So when the four Russian government officials finally left our offices, and we realized we weren’t dead or in jail, at first we were kinda relieved, like, “Hey, we bumped into a Flecker’s Box Jellyfish and all we touched were its slit-eyes, and you know, there’s more to that creature than venom and tentacles.” But then a few hours later we came to our senses and realized, “Um, wait a minute—as a matter of fact, there isn’t much more to that creature than venom and tentacles.” And speaking of venomous tentacles, a Duma deputy (and former Nashi spokesman) Robert Schlegel went on Govorit Moskva radio a few days after the audit and announced, “I don’t have to read The eXile to understand that it is guilty of extremism.”

It was time to get out of the venomous-vermin-infested waters. We’d been spotted by the jellyfish’s eye-like pits. The Flecker’s Box Jellyfish doesn’t have a brain, but it does have four “nerve-nets” connecting the eye-pits to the tentacles. Only a fool would stick around to see how the Flecker’s Box Jellyfish, or its human variant “the Russian government,” will react after it takes a stack of eXile articles for “analysis,” articles which contain lines like “Russian Government is bloody beast eating human flesh” and we “fart in Russia’s face” and “urinate into the president’s mouth.” How does a jellyfish’s nerve-net read lines like that? Does it get angry and want to thrash its venomous tentacles around? Since we don’t want to be the subject of some future Werner Herzog documentary called “Flecker’s Box Jellyfish Man,” we decided to respect Mother Nature and leave the venomous jellyfish to their brainless floating-death world, while we’ll go back to ours. Flee: it’s what our investors did when they pulled a David Copperfield disappearing act on us a week before the auditors rolled into our office…and that’s what we did after the Russian government’s highly-unusual audit of our paper.

And that’s how The eXile died: just as it was born: in sin and in epic glory. We were never like the others: the fake-alternative, fake-angry papers. That’s why our spectacular death has pissed off so many people who never had the nerve to go where we went, and who always wanted to see us snuffed out—quietly, without a fuss. We lived out our name as we lived out everything else. We’re now in true eXile, just as we’d announced from the beginning 11 years ago—and that is why we’ve named the new online webzine that we’re launching today “The eXiled.” It’s now an accomplished fact."

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