The recent death of actor William Hurt got me thinking about my favorite among his movies, Broadcast News. Hurt plays a handsome boob promoted to network anchor because the camera loves him. He’s contrasted with Albert Brooks who’s a stellar reporter who breaks into a flop sweat when he gets a big break. Holly Hunter steals the show as the feisty producer torn between two men and styles.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this: the featured image says it all. Yesterday, Marina Ovsyannikova, a feisty editor at Russia’s Channel One burst into the studio during a newscast. It was her Howard Beale moment. She’d been brooding about her role in Putin’s propaganda machine and she finally had enough.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Channel One, burst on to the set of the live broadcast of the nightly news on Monday evening, shouting: “Stop the war. No to war.”
She also held a sign saying: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” It was signed in English: “Russians against the war.”
“Regrettably, for a number of years, I worked on Channel One and worked on Kremlin propaganda, I am very ashamed of this right now. Ashamed that I was allowed to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed the zombification of the Russian people. We were silent in 2014 when this was just beginning. We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned [opposition leader Alexei] Navalny,” she said.
“We are just silently watching this anti-human regime. And now the whole world has turned away from us and the next 10 generations won’t be able to clean themselves from the shame of this fratricidal war.”
Wearing a necklace in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Ovsyannikova said in her video statement that her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian.
“What is happening in Ukraine is a crime and Russia is the aggressor,” she said. “The responsibility of this aggression lies on the shoulders of only one person: Vladimir Putin.”
She urged fellow Russians to join anti-war protests in order to bring an end to the conflict. “Only we have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all.”
It’s Russia, they *can* try to imprison everyone. It’s what they’ve always done be it under the label of Tsarism, Communism, or Putinism.
I’ve often wondered if I could muster the sort of moral courage shown by a woman whose last name I cannot pronounce and whose fate makes me shudder. She knew that she’d be arrested then disappear into the system, but she still went on broadcast news with a sign and a shout.
She’d had enough:
Corruption and repression have long been the only things Russia is good at. They invented the police state in the 1880’s, perfected it in the 1930’s and bureaucratized it in the 1970’s. It briefly weakened its grip in the 1980’s and ’90’s but it’s back with a vengeance.
When I was a young man, a family friend gave me a copy of this edition of this book:
He was a decent conservative in a time when there used to be many, and he hoped reading about Soviet oppression would push me to the right. The book had an impact but not the desired one. It committed me more firmly to liberalism in all things. It did, however, give me an intense dislike of communism and Russian autocracy. These feelings were reinforced by reading the essays of George Orwell who the right has tried to steal but was a man of the left.
I was disappointed when Solzhenitsyn was exiled and turned out to be a right-wing crank, but his writing still resonated with me. His fellow superstar dissident Andrei Sakharov did not disappoint. He was a full-throated supporter of democracy. Sakharov remains a hero of mine after all these years.
Dissident Russian heroes come in all forms. Solzhenitsyn was a bearded ultra-conservative writer. Sakharov was an eminent scientist who turned against the war machine in which he once was a vital cog. Marina Ovsyannikova is an attractive young journalist who felt chewed up and spit out by the Putin regime’s propaganda machine. The three have something in common: the moral courage to take a stand and accept the consequences. I’d like to think I’d do the same, but I still do not know.
The last word goes to Neil Finn with a solo acoustic version of a certain Bowie song: