Gawker is normally a fluffy, snarky “look at what these bad boys and girls in Washington/New York are up to” site. But when GQ tried to bury Scott Anderson’s investigative report at Putin’s behest, Gawker crowdsourced a translation:

In an act of publishing cowardice, Condé Nast has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent Russians from reading a GQ article criticizing Vladimir Putin. As a public service, we’re running it here and ask for your help in translating it.
Saturday afternoon update: Just over 24 hours after we asked for your help, you’ve given us a pretty much complete Russian translation of the story. Thank you to everyone who pitched in.

“Никто не осмелится назвать это тайным заговором” immediately became a hit on the Russian blogosphere. Both repressive governments and greedy, cowardly businesses are finding it ever harder to suppress information. (Via MetaFilter.)


  1. John Emerson says

    Suppress that information, motherfucker!

  2. “Crowdsourcing” as a term was coined by Wired Magazine, which is –ta da– owned by Conde Nast Publications. Irony is reflexive.

  3. Some of the factual reporting is not perfectly accurate but reveals a lot of heretofore unknown interesting facts if they indeed are true.

  4. I have seen links to this article, both translated by the Internet crowd, and in the original, many times during the last days. I think that, quite independently of the veracity of the material in question, this is a good thing: the publicity offers some degree of protection for the main protagonist, because, as Anderson correctly notes, Putin will be blamed in case anything happens to the individual; this makes the individual a likely target for those who want Putin to be blamed, but they are probably less of a threat than the usual suspects. So, let’s make as much noise about it as possible.
    But, as to the substance of the article, I have my doubts. I remember the events of 1999, and how the “election campaign” version was discussed back then. Now, just like then, I think that the explosions were unnecessary for political purposes: the situation provided ample supply of pretexts for going to war and boosting Putin’s popularity (the — quite real — Chechen incursions into Dagestan were the most cited among those at the time, but not the only ones; the recent Georgian campaign proves that even that was unnecessary to create a patriotic hysteria:just going to war with any semblance of a pretext was good enough for the Russian public back then even more than it is now, provided the war could be “won”, that is).
    That being said, cui prodest argument implies that people have the same notion of profit, and that they are consistent, something that is not at all guaranteed with any politicians, least of all the with the modern Russian variety…
    And then there’s the fact that conspiracy theories are almost inevitable, e.g. the 9/11 one

  5. I think that the explosions were unnecessary for political purposes
    Sure, but suppressing the political opposition to the extent he does is unnecessary for him to win elections, too. He clearly believes in the maxim (excuse the expression) of overwhelming force, so that he doesn’t have to spend even one moment worrying about the distant possibility of defeat. None of which is to say that the version suggested by the article is necessarily factual, of course; if it’s true that government officials were discussing the possibility of carrying out such a thing months in advance, that makes it more likely, but there’s no way of knowing. As you say, conspiracy theories are almost inevitable, but (as the inevitable response goes) just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there’s nobody following you. I’d say just on the basis of the conjunction of ability and immorality it’s fifty-fifty between the government and the Chechens. Anyway, I absolutely agree that this is a good thing. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  6. I’d say just on the basis of the conjunction of ability and immorality it’s fifty-fifty between the government and the Chechens.

    I agree that there is a strong possibility of government involvement of some sort, given the ability and the lack of scruples. I would say that some sort of passive involvement (let them do it, then use the results) is fairly probable, especially because non-action leaves no traces. But the dilemma is false: if it was not the government, it weren’t necessaryly the Chechens, or not necessarily those Chechens. There are, and were, many ruthless factions: e.g. supposedly “pro-Russian” Chechens with their own agenda, loose-cannon islamists of all ethnicities, etc.
    Another — actually, the strongest — concideration making direct secret services involvment improbable in my view is that the government back then was in no position to protect the executors for a crime of this scale (the explosions being remembered 10 years after proves this, and no one back then could be sure the then Russian government was going to last that long). Whoever was given such an un-written order would be more likely to escape than to carry the order out. The article in question actually describes a precedent: officers perportedly ordered to kill Beresovsky calling a press-conference instead. What if they were ordered to blow up an apartment block?

  7. I haven’t read this article, but found GQ’s concern — ie self-censorship — weird and scary. It can’t be because it’s a breaking story — this stuff has been around for a long time. I think it’s because they’re afraid they’ll get on a black list and have other problems. If they’re afraid of economic problems, the bad guys win. If they’re afraid of more dire problems (like endangering their journalists), then — well, it’s a quandry, isn’t it? But it seems to me that you either fish or cut bait. If you fish, you and the journalist discuss and take the risk. If you cut bait, you don’t run the story for fear of endangering someone. But their approach — run it but only in the US edition — is ridiculous.
    I don’t have a strong opinion on this, but I do recall the Ryazan’ story. I recall watching the news where the discovery and disarming of the bomb headlined the evening news. It was a great success story: diligent resident notifies cops, cops arrive, discover a mass of explosives, disarm them. Very patriotic, very upbeat, the-good-guys-win story. Then the next day the head of the FSB said it wasn’t a bomb, it was a training exercise; it wasn’t explosive powder, it was salt. I seem to recall the local cops defending their assesment. It was a very weird situation and something was clearly going on. But I’m not sure what it was.
    BTW, I HATE the crowdsourcing translation business. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

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