A commentary from a BBG Watch contributor in Prague.
After viewing the link to the meeting between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Management and the interested parties held in Moscow on last Monday, I have decided it is time for me to add my nickname to the ever growing list of pseudonyms for Steve Korn, though I fear in any contest “Ghengis Korn” would be far and away the winner.
My nickname is “Marshall (along with generalissimo, a favorite rank, with one l, of countless dictators) Mc-Clueless” Korn, named after the 20th Century Candian philosopher Herbret Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase, “The Medium is the Message.” Which at the end of the day I interpret to be Steve Korn’s point to Monday’s sideshow. How else could he dismiss the long and storied history of Radio Liberty’s (Radio Svoboda) broadcasting? How else could he refute the evidence presented to him (by human rights and political leaders, as well as one of the best known Russian sociologists Dr. Lev Gudkov), about the impact Radio Liberty had, is having and would continue to have in shaping the narrative that is post-World War Two and post-Cold War Russia? How else could he look such luminaries as Ludmila Alexeeva, and dismiss what she was saying?
Instead of engaging in a dialogue, during this roundtable “discussion” all that Mr. Korn had to offer was that the changes at Radio Liberty are due to RFE/RL moving onto a digital platform. (Mr. Korn must have somehow failed to notice that RFE/RL has been already digital for a good number of years.) Yes, the medium was actually the message. Of course no further discussion as to how this (apparently) new medium would necessitate a full changeover in staff and focus was forthcoming. No explanation as to what those hip, young Muscovites with their iPads and smartphones would be receiving over the new apps developed by the BBG. It was in fact shocking that there was such a lack of specificity on Radio Liberty’s future direction. It is as if Mr. Korn really has no vision for the anointed flagship of his RFE/RL, which bodes ill for all the other language services as well.
Of course, this leads me to one final nickname for Radio Liberty itself. I have now dubbed it the “Field of Dreams.” Named after the same titled movie where Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) builds a baseball pitch in the middle of cornfield after he hears the phrase, “If you build it, he will come.” Perhaps Mr. Korn has heard the same phrase, and has decided to build his own folly in the Posner building. Of course, based on the quality of the journalism now being promulgated on the current Radio Liberty website, the majority of the Russian population will ignore the site, and the he who will emerge from the Korn Field will be no other than Vladimir Putin with a hardy handshake of gratitude for removing Radio Liberty as a persistent thorn from his side.