A few weeks ago, the Daily Mail wrote about a low-ranking British diplomat named James Hudson who was caught on hidden camera by the FSB (formerly the KGB, formerlier the MVD, formerlierer the NKVD, formerliest the Cheka) getting it on with two Russian hookers in a Yekaterinburg brothel. The paper published a couple of frame grabs from the video, but I wanted to check out the raw footage for myself. It looked like one of those classic sex scandals set up to blackmail someone into cooperation, and there’s nothing cooler than being able to watch real spy games in action. So I headed straight for kompromat.ru, Russia’s biggest muckraking/political scandal news site.
If the video doesn’t load, click here. The only promise we’ll make is that it’s not kiddie snuff porn.
In terms of porn quality, the FSB snake camera crew could’ve done a bit of a better job with composition and timing, but the fact is they didn’t have much to work with. Hudson is a bit of chub, his bitch of an ex-wife said as much: “He let himself go… He never wore glasses and he was thin. I’m glad I got out when I did.” But no one said a damn thing about the hookers being fat, too. What was the FSB thinking sending in such subpar seductresses?
One of them was particularly bad, with a huge blubbery fender swinging from her front end. But for all their principals’ telegenic failings, the spies at least did their homework. Or maybe they just lucked out. Whatever the case, it’s pretty obvious from the video that Hudson is into the chunky chicks. When confronted with two prostitutes, a man will inevitably, subconsciously choose a favorite. Hudson hardly pays any attention to the other hooker in the room, perfectly content rubbing sweaty lard sacks with the one that reminds him of his womenfolk back home; loose, pasty skinbags full of beer and fish ‘n’ chips.
Hudson clearly has a sick side as well, because the only thing he can think of doing with the better-looking whore is to have her sit on his face and jump up and down. Sick, and dangerous. If Hudson keeps up this kind debauchery, he’s gonna end up looking like Baron Harkonnen.
Anyways, I’m getting a bit sidetracked here. I didn’t mean to do a point-by-point sex tape review. I wanted to talk about Russia’s system of kompromat, or “compromising information.”
Russians still like to settle political and business disputes the way men have been settling them since the cave days: with beatings, disappearances, mysterious suicides, strange poisonings, and good old-fashioned summary executions. But these days in Russia you can’t go around offing people like you used to, especially when you’re dealing with high-powered businessmen and politicians. And anyway, Russia is a democratic country now. One must keep up appearances.
This is where kompromat comes in handy. Put simply, kompromat sites are just news aggregators like any other. They collect relevant and interesting news stories, and also offer a service for politicians and businessmen. For a fee, they’ll post a link to whatever story you can provide them, no matter how ridiculously fake or outrageous. If the client doesn’t have his own fake news agency to publish the article, kompromat sites can post it for you on one of the many seemingly legitimate blogs they maintain for just such situations. The more popular a kompromat site, the more money it can charge.
But not every kid off the street can open his own kompromat site. Posting damaging info on high-powered people can quickly get you disappeared without proper protection. No one will come out and admit it, but all of the dozens of scandal sites are backed by some sort of powerful government agency, which uses its kompromat portal to launch smear campaigns against their rivals. Russia has a draconian array of armed government agencies: There’s the FSB (sort of like a FBI-CIA hybrid), the GRU (an elite CIA), the current MVD (federal cops), and the FCS (a mix between border patrol and the FBI); and these are just the top of the pigpile. These groups are always engaged in behind-the-scenes turf wars for businesses, smuggling routes, and government funds.
About a year ago, I did a story on Russia’s answer to Matt Drudge. Sergei Gorshkov founded Russia’s first and most popular scandal site, kompromat.ru. That’s the one I got the sex video from. Back then, his competitors estimated he made somewhere around $1 million USD a year, tax free. He supposedly also had offers to sell his low-tech site for $10 million, but the bastard wouldn’t go below $15 million, firm.
Sergei Gorshkov, the most trusted man in Russia
The cool thing about Gorshkov was that he wasn’t at all shy about divulging his fee schedule: He charges between $600 and $800 per single post, depending on its libel risk. Half of the dozen or so articles posted daily on the site are paid for, meaning he makes a minimum of $3,600 a day. Not a bad racket!
This kind of success could only have been achieved with a very strong guardian angel. Gorshkov denies any affiliation, but word on the street has it that he’s the Federal Custom Service’s boy. If you mess with him, you better be prepared to do battle with Russia’s second-strongest armed-security organization.
Most Americans would scoff at this kind of blatant sellout journalistic business model, but it isn’t much better here. It’s just way more hypocritical. American journalists are the biggest frauds of them all, wrapped in so much self-serving bullshit about “objectivity” and “balance” that they’ve actually started believing it.
It’s impossible to fight against their proud notions, but every now and then we are blessed with media fuck-ups to help remind us of just how sleazy news people really are. There were a few memorable ones just this month:
In early July, Politico got its hands on a flyer from the Washington Post which in real plain English invited corporations to an exclusive closed-door, off-the-record cocktail party at the residence of the Post ’s publisher. The price of “sponsorship” was between $25,000 and $250,000 and would guarantee the sponsor the full, sympathetic attention of Post editors and journalists. But that’s not all. Here’s what else a small donation to a struggling newspaper can get you, according to the flyer:
Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate.
Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders, and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …
“_Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000… Hosts and Discussion Leaders… Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post… An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done_. ”
The Washington Post sent this flyer to health industry lobbyists just as they were gearing up to fight Obama’s health insurance reform push. The flyer doesn’t leave much room for doubt: to the Post, objectivity is defined strictly by money. If you want them to condemn 40 million uninsured Americans to early, agonizing deaths for a one-time donation of $25,000, they can do it. It’s a joke, and they are the ones laughing. The Post is not even a news organization anymore, if it ever was. It’s just an elaborate public relations firm, cranking out press releases for their sponsors and planning hobnobbing events for government officials and their corporate bosses.
Ironically, it was a lobbyist who leaked the document to Politico. He thought that the Post was over the line with their offer. See, even lobbyists have more integrity than publishers of print media these days.
Just as the fallout from this story was starting to finally settle over Capitol Hill, Talking Points Memo reignited the whole debate with another leaked sleazy pay-to-play journo party, this time put on by The Atlantic.
Here’s their pitch:
Salon Dinners: Private Conversations Among Thought-leaders
Private, custom, off-the-record conversations of 20-30 key influential individuals, moderated by an Atlantic editor, designed to bring a thoughtful group together for unbounded conversation on key issues of the day.
Sampling of salon dinner sponsors and topics:
- AstraZeneca on “Healthcare Access and Education”
- Microsoft on “Global Trade,”
- GE on “Energy Sustainability and the Future of Nuclear Power”
- Allstate on “The Future of the American City”
- Citi on “The Challenge of Global Markets”
The Atlantic turned out to be a bit more clever than the Post. They knew better than to print the bribe amount right there on the invite. No one will say how much they charged, but what is known is that this was not a one-off event for the Atlantic. It wasn’t even a ten-off event, either. The magazine has staged something like 100 of these things since 2003.
Like the Post, The Atlantic firmly defended their dinner tradition. They claim it never occurred to anyone on the staff that these events might actually be unethical. It just never crossed their minds. They didn’t think of it like that. And that’s the part that’s the most telling. The truth is, these kinds of corporate fluff parties happen all the time in the news industry. Always have. Even the stodgy old New Yorker throws these things.
That’s exactly why I’m with the Gorshkov-kompromat model, it’s a more honest form of shadiness. “I never take sides,” Gorshkov told me. “Besides, the nature of the business is such that when one side of a conflict orders an article, their opponents inevitably respond, usually before the day is out. This way, all sides of the conflict are aired, and objectivity is maintained.” Hey, the free market takes care of itself. Case closed.
Yasha Levine is a McMansion-inhabitin’ editor of The eXiled. He is currently stationed in Victorville, California. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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