Mastering Margarita

In a parallel universe where progress is the enemy, one propagandist rules supreme

Mastering Margarita

Margarita Simonyan. Photo: Simonyan's Telegram channel     

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan certainly isn’t the “dumb broad” she coquettishly claimed to be in a recent yet already infamous episode of her own TV show. She is, in fact, very talented, and as she chooses to deploy that talent to evil ends, she is also very dangerous.

Simonyan has had a brilliant career, becoming editor-in-chief of RT aged just 25. RT is now a huge empire with a budget to match and has offices around the world. It probably isn’t quite as successful as Simonyan says it is, but a failure it certainly isn’t.

According to her official biography, her father was a fridge repairman while her mother ran a flower stall, and even if the family story has been massaged somewhat to make her more relatable to the man in the street, it’s still true to say that Simonyan isn’t from an elite background and had to fight her way up on her own.

Of the three best known Russian propagandists — Vladimir Solovyov, Olga Skabeyeva and Margarita Simonyan, I would rate Simonyan the best at her job. Don’t imagine for a second that this is a world where it’s easy to get ahead — the competition is fierce and this brilliant, intelligent woman has shown herself to be truly peerless at fomenting war and hatred.

I am always sad to see talent serving the devil. But this is the choice she made.

That Russians should heed their propagandists is only natural. Unlike in the West, the authorities in our pseudo-Byzantium don’t inform their subjects of their intentions, and when they do, everyone knows they are lying. But we do have TV. So when Solovyov or Skabeyeva says something, we understand that while Putin isn’t about to nuke Washington, he wants the world to believe he’s at least considering it. The propagandists don’t directly express the Kremlin’s opinion, but part of their job is to anticipate the mood in the corridors of power. Ultimately, Kremlin approval can be inferred from the fact that the propagandists remain on air.

Simonyan and her ilk live in an unusual world in which reality isn’t important but what is said on TV is. It is a world without consequences — you can spout nonsense and even incite murder with impunity. One propagandist recently suggested crowdfunding bounties for contract killers to take out specific Russian opposition politicians. There are no repercussions, you won’t find yourself in court. On the contrary — you’ll be rewarded for it.

With no belief in God or eternal damnation, they are untroubled by pangs of conscience, though the prospect of more temporal judgement in The Hague does seem to bother them a little, which is why Simonyan goes on about it constantly.

The propagandists are becoming crazier by the day as they ramp up the threat level for the entire planet as well as for specific traitors like you and me. They are whipping themselves up into hysterics and wiping entire countries off the map in the process.

And we know why. They mustn’t miss out on a chance to spew bile. They need to out-Herod Herod. For if you say something peaceful — by mistake, of course — then what’s the point of you? I think they must watch their fellow propagandists before going on air and then attempt to outdo them in their vitriol as they threaten the enemies of Russia and Putin with ever more terrible retribution.

I’m interested in whether the propagandists actually believe what they say. Not all of it, of course. They treat people with contempt and assume the plebs will lap up any old nonsense — witness the absurd story that did the rounds in 2014 about the Russian boy who was crucified by Ukrainian soldiers in Sloviansk.

What is sincere, however, is the nastiness in which they revel, as is their belief in brute force and lawlessness and their contempt for intellect and human freedom. Even in the now seemingly idyllic interregnum of Dmitry Medvedev’s reign, for which his slogan “freedom is better than no freedom” is now a leitmotif, Solovyov was already dreaming out loud of restoring the Stalinist military counter-intelligence organisation SMERSH and heading up that august body to restore order in Russia. He wasn’t joking.

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan at the opening of the 20th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. Photo:

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan at the opening of the 20th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. Photo:

In recent days, though, Margarita Simonyan has taken a clear lead against her fellow ghouls. No-one else had even come close to suggesting that detonating a nuclear bomb over Siberia was a good idea. A couple of days after making her absurd comments on her own TV show, she was given the honour of asking the tsar of all the Russians himself a question at the Valdai Discussion Club.

While there was never any doubt about the fact in Simonyan’s case, if Putin meets you, it at least means you’re not in his bad books. The buzz around her words had hardly abated when the emperor himself spoke of Russia’s possible return to nuclear testing. Had she second-guessed the situation, did she know he was going to talk about Russia’s nuclear deterrent and decided to get in there first, or was she just obeying orders?

Saying there would be no harm caused by detonating a nuclear bomb over Siberia to make American satellites fall from the sky managed to shake even those who considered themselves unshakable to the core. 

As well as cynicism and the ability to assert that black is white without batting an eyelid, there is another element to the propagandist worldview, especially in Simonyan’s case. During her recent TV appearance to promote nuclear apocalypse, she joked that a global catastrophe was necessary for her children, who for some reason aren’t allowed gadgets, to no longer feel deprived, as no-one else would have them either. But gadgets are the least of it. Simonyan et al yearn for an imaginary past, for antiquity.

What could make more sense? Progress, after all, is Russia’s enemy. Progress involves reducing a person’s dependence on resources. For example, no-one in developed countries still heats their homes with wood unless it’s for atmospheric effect. But how would forestry magnates react to Russia abandoning wood and transitioning to oil? Definitely not enthusiastically. Every advance in technology — cars using less petrol, energy-saving light bulbs — could be seen as a blow to Russia’s wealth and influence.

Likewise, technological progress in warfare detracts from Russia’s only combat advantage, namely the ability to send hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised people to the slaughter.

Quite simply, Russia’s rulers do not want progress. They just aren’t comfortable in the modern world, a place where they have never commanded any respect. You can dress a monkey up however you like, but people can still see that it’s a monkey. Russia’s leaders are strangers to modern times, and their propagandist loud-hailers know this and duly glorify a fictional version of the past.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.