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17 May 2012

Brief boobs #7: “No commercials and censorship”

Just to make sure the Financial Times does not run away with all the prizes in the Brief Boobs section (see previous post), the Voice of Russia’s entry must be acknowledged too. My attention was only recently drawn to a web article placed nearly a month ago—and still uncorrected, which shows how few people have read it—that says quite clearly that Russia’s proposed public television network will be censored.

     I am sure that that was not what the headline writers intended. I assume they meant to write: “No commercials or censorship”, or “No commercials and no censorship”.
     But the problem with the Voice of Russia is that it is managed by people who, like Soviet industrial bosses, seem to think that quantity is the only criterion of value. It would cost money to employ foreigners—who might in any case be spies—to put the station’s output into the language of the people to whom it is directed. The result is not just embarrassment, as I have often noted before, but misunderstanding. This is a shame, as Russia is a fascinating country which is going through major changes that the world would be interested to learn about if they were described in a way which people might want to read or listen to.
     To show that the headline is not an isolated boob, I will quote a few other floaters from the body of the article. First, there is simple carelessness: government officials will not be allowed “to join the boy” (sic), and “the state will provide financial support for the vhannel” (sic). Less excusably, we read:
Vice-President of the Center for Political Technologies Sergey Mikheev believes that the main feature of the new channel is to make it equally accessible to all political forces”
     That’s all. No full stop, even. A British reader would be inclined to ask, what exactly are “political technologies”? Why must such off-puttingly obscure language be used?
     But the linguistic point is that to say the “main feature” of the channel “is to make it available” is complete grammatical nonsense. I presume they meant to say the “the main aim of the new channel is that it should be open to all.” Or that “the main feature of the channel is that it will be open to all.”
     I re-phrase the end because, of course, any broadcasting channel which is only about politics will be so boring that no-one will take any interest. And the official Russian obsession with force—“How many divisions has the Pope?”—is also a turn-off for people from countries with a more modern approach to life and society.
     But, in the end, the real question is quite simple: why does the Russian state bother putting out this sort of каша (porridge)? Clearly few people read these pieces, or someone would have written in pointing out the obvious mistakes. Why do so few people take an interest? I do not know, of course, but I can guess. For me, the clue is at the top of the piece, under the assertion that the channel will be free of censorship. I see this give-away: “The channel’s editor-in-chief and director general will be appointed by the President.”
     Enough said. No need to read another syllable. Back to the internet, Voice of the World!

1 comment:

  1. Well, may be only way to tell the truth is to pretend to make an error...