The Kremlin apparently thought it would be cute to post a petition on the White House Web site calling for Alaska to be returned to Russia, so they had one of their online propaganda outfits do it.
In true Soviet form, the Russian government thought it would be sending a message about how “dangerous” the White House Web site is because it permits anyone to petition the government for redress.
Yes, what a dangerous concept, that citizens can petition their government for anything.
Apparently, the Russian government can’t afford hiring anyone who speaks actual English.
The “pro-Kremlin communications platform” that posted the petition claims that their intent wasn’t to get Alaska back – because who doesn’t enjoy a good joke about annexing your neighbor two weeks after annexing your neighbor – no, the intent was to highlight how “dangerous” the petition is.
“The objective of the petition is not to bring Alaska back to Russia,” Alexander Zhukov, an assistant to the organization’s director, told the Moscow Times.
“We understand that this is not plausible. Our goal is to show the White House that its petition system is a flawed democratic tool that allows anybody to ask for anything. We are trying to protect the citizens of the U.S. by drawing attention to a tool that is said to be democratic but could be used by terrorists or other people with evil objectives.”
Seriously, think about that for a second. These are people who think it’s dangerous for Al Qaeda to use the White House Web site to post a petition. (Hell, these are people who think it’s dangerous for Jews and gays to post a petition.) That gives you a window in to the Russia body politic, and their concept of the role of government.
I remember when I visited the Russian Far East city of Petropavlovsk in the early 1990s. I was leading an Alaskan business delegation while I was working for the Senator from Alaska. I met with a top local Russian official, and the man couldn’t believe my description of what a congressional aide does on Capitol Hill.
Most of our work, It old him, was constituent services – making government agencies more responsible to the concerns of the state of Alaska, but also the concerns of the individual people. In Alaska’s case, I told him, I did a lot of work on behalf of small pilots and airlines, most with the FAA and the Department of Transportation, but also with the State Department and other agencies.
My friend Marian was translating for us. All of a sudden Marian turned to me and kind of whispered, “he doesn’t believe you.”
I said, what do you mean?
Marian continued, “well, he thinks you must accept bribes or something, or you wouldn’t be doing this kind of work. He says no one in government would just try to help people without being paid off.”
He laughed in my face when I responded that, no, congressional staffers don’t general take bribes to do their jobs on behalf of constituents. He simply refused to believe me.
This notion of petitioning your government for redress is uniquely American. I’m not saying it’s exclusively American, but I’ve never found a country in which legislative officials at the federal level provide the kind of constituent services that we do in this country.
So, I’m not surprised that the Russians think the White House petition site is “dangerous.” Free speech usually is, to dictators.