GOOD

Why I Work with the Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most

When you work for the man that Vladimir Putin fears most, nothing is certain.

When you work for the man that Vladimir Putin fears most, nothing is certain. In the next few weeks, my boss Alexei Navalny may become the next mayor of Moscow, he may go to jail for revealing the Putin administration’s corruption, or he very well may do both.


To Putin’s chagrin, nothing is knowable in advance in Russia today. When he resumed office at the end of 2011, he did not anticipate that people would use their mobile phones to document the profound electoral abuse that occurred. Neither did he anticipate that thousands of Russians would take to the streets in the wake of his victory to protest the outcome. He resorted to old patterns of intimidation and oppression, but the resilience of his critics caught him off guard once again.

Technology has changed the rules. The freedom of the internet has allowed bloggers to speak freely. Some people can organize information and others can interpret it, opening the way for micro-journalists to band together to provide piercing investigative journalism. This is in contrast to our other media, which long ago fell under the toxic sway of government control. It offers limited opinions, few which adequately probe our government, and rarely anything to suggest that a better Russia can exist. Because the internet news comes so much from bloggers and other micro-journalists, it captures a realistic portrait of our nation’s affairs.

I could not have known where my journey would lead me when I first joined Alexei’s team. I had recently graduated from university and was intrigued by Alexei’s work in revealing government corruption. He was not a household name in Russia by any means, but he was in good standing with people who followed the internet news closely. Alexei epitomized investigative journalism, making his reputation launching systematic investigations into government corruption. It was an ideal place for any young Russian who wanted to help her nation move in the right direction.

I joined just weeks before Alexei’s work took off. He received several international honors, including Time magazine's 100 Most Influential; the television news had to address him, and Putin could no longer ignore him. The latter aspect of his fame, however, quickly became a daily challenge for us. We received intimidation as we went about our business. Sometimes the custodial staff in our building would have many new men in the morning; invariably, items around our office would seem somewhat displaced from the day before. Such is not unusual for anyone who criticizes the regime, so we considered it a cost of doing business and proceeded with our affairs.

Alexei dedicated his professional career to publicizing corruption. Along that journey, we had seen it all. Yet even we had to take a step back to believe it when, in summer 2012, the government charged Alexei with embezzlement (intent to steal timber, to be precise) when he advised a governor in 2009. The charges were universally panned as false and politically motivated. They occurred in the context of other unusual judicial happenings in the nation. Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in Russian custody after he discovered systematic tax embezzlement by government and military officials, was also to be tried posthumously during this time. The trial was the first posthumous trial in our nation’s history.

Vladimir Putin was learning the new rules. He predicted that these moves would intimidate, and they did. The dean of Russia’s premier business school, and former presidential economic advisor, Sergei Guriev, was one of the many Russians who fled the nation discreetly to avoid persecution. The eyes of our large nation are always on Moscow; by having Alexei’s trial in Kierov, a town 800 kilometers from Moscow, Putin ensured that no one would have a flash point for rallying where Russian and foreign reporters would see them easily.

Unlike Putin, who never left the KGB mindset, I was born after the Cold War and reject the notion that corruption and oppression are necessities for our government. Alexei has become an icon for accountable governance; if he goes to jail, we know that hundreds of thousands of young people throughout Russia will speak out about where Putin is driving our nation. My generation demands better governance, and Alexei has taught us not to be scared that our biggest barrier is the government itself.

Creative Commons photo of protest in Red Square in support of Alexei Navalny via Evgeniy Isaev.

Articles
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
"IMG_0846" by Adrienne Campbell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In an effort to avoid a dystopian sci-fi future where Artificial Intelligence knows pretty much everything about you, and a team of cops led by Tom Cruise run around arresting people for crimes they did not commit because of bad predictive analysis; Bernie Sanders and other Democratic candidates have some proposals on how we can stop it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

It's fun to go to a party, talk to strangers, and try to guess where they're from just by their accents and use of language. It's called 'soda' on the East Coast and 'pop' in the Midwest, right? Well, it looks like a new study has been able to determine where a Humpback whale has been and who he's been hanging out with during his awesome travels just from his song.

Keep Reading Show less
Science
Governor Grethcen Whitmer / Twitter

In 2009, the U.S. government paid $50 billion to bail out Detroit-based automaker General Motors. In the end, the government would end up losing $11.2 billion on the deal.

Government efforts saved 1.5 million jobs in the United States and a sizable portion of an industry that helped define America in the twentieth century.

As part of the auto industry's upheaval in the wake of the Great Recession, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) made sacrifices in contracts to help put the company on a solid footing after the government bailout.

Keep Reading Show less
via Jimmy Kimmel / YouTube

Fake news is rampant on the internet. Unscrupulous websites are encouraged to create misleading stories about political figures because they get clicks.

A study published by Science Advances found that elderly conservatives are, by far, the worst spearders of fake news. Ultra conservatives over the age of 65 shared about seven times more fake information on social media than moderates and super liberals during the 2016 election.

Get ready for things to get worse.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture