A Small Difference with Big Consequences – Russian Talk Show Hosts Stand; Western Ones Sit
December 18 – The shape of the table at which Russian leaders receive their
subordinates and the fact that the accused in Russian trials are always shown
behind bars even before they are convicted are just some of the small and often
unnoted differences between Russia and the West that have a major impact on how
Russians see the world.
Aleksandr Gnezdilov, a theater director who is also a senior member of Yabloko,
has pointed to another of these, one that may be equally important. He points
out in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that Russian talk show hosts almost always
are shown standing while Western ones almost always are sitting (ng.ru/politics/2015-12-18/3_kartblansh.html).
director points out that actors or television personalities who are standing
act more dramatically and even aggressively than those who are sitting and that
this is one of the many cases when, as Grigory Pomerants put in 40 years ago, “the
style of a polemic is more important than the subject of a polemic: subjects
change, but style creates a civilization.”
Russian talk show hosts stand because “someone who is sitting is stiffer and
less emotionally free” and thus is less likely to take extreme positions and
more likely to be restrained in his expressions. “But is this really a bad
thing” when it comes to politics, Gnezdilov asks.
argues that those talking politics ought to be restrained and even “stiff.”That allows people to interact and discuss
things more readily than when all are standing. In that event, the conversation
descends into a shouting match and encourages the kind of aggressive attitudes
that soon spread to viewers.
has a particular impact on foreigners who are put on Russian television.
However good they speak Russians, they are not suited to deal with these standing
hosts who move and speak in an aggressive manner. Indeed, they are often
intimidated into silence or into what appears to be deference to the hosts or
even agreement, something that also carries a message.
director cites the words of a Japanese character who observes that “when brave
people assemble and begin day after day to argue about their dreams, in the end
they begin to believe that they can easily overthrow everything in this world
with ease.”That is what Russian television
hosts project by their behavior.
it is clear evidence that it is “the style which influence content,” even if
few are paying attention to their relationship.
roots of this aesthetic are in the revolution, in Stalinism and in the cruelty
of the social Darwinism of the 1990s. But all the same its birth was marked by
[Putin’s use of the phrase] ‘drown them in the outhouse.”That kind of “cult of force” has been promoted
by television hosts and now has left Russia on the brink of a major war.