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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SAY WHAT? : Self-Censorship for Safety's Sake

"What's in a name?"

William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"

Nothing really. Nothing one couldn't do without, for safety's sake.

In his Sunday analytical show, "Itogi," NTV television director Yevgeny Kiselyov made an intriguing suggestion.

Apparently distressed by the investigation into the activities of NTV's parent company, Media-MOST - an investigation that to this point has included a surprise armed raid of the company's offices by camouflaged and masked men two weeks ago - Kiselyov offered to make a deal with the Prosecutor General's Office. Despite the fact that federal prosecutors have repeatedly denied that the investigation as a whole and the raid in particular had anything to do with NTV's political coverage, Kiselyov suggested that they could, possibly, drop the investigation if NTV's popular political puppet show "Kukly" stopped using the puppet of Vladimir P- ... Vladimir P- ...

You know, the president.

The prosecutors may be telling the truth. The fact that the investigation and the raid involve the country's largest independent media group may be purely accidental and may have nothing to do with an attempt to curtail freedom of speech or any other Constitutional provisions. But what if tomorrow, God forbid, a few hundred armed men in ski masks accidentally decided to raid the offices of Independent Media, the parent company of The Moscow Times?

We better practice before to see how The Moscow Times would read if we had to, for the sake of safety, avoid any mention of Vladimir P-.

You know. The president.

"Despite -'s moves to strengthen state power," the frontpage story in Saturday's newspaper would have begun, "this week's flurry of government appointments made it clear that the clique of Kremlin insiders known as 'the family' has triumphed over its rival oligarchs, retaining its strong influence over both the White House and the president."

Good enough, although the federal prosecutors may not find the words "clique" and "Kremlin insiders" appealing. Next page:

"Moving to extend the nation's presence in volatile Central Asia, President - on Friday promised military aid to Uzbekistan to help combat Islamic extremism."

Hey, this isn't bad. I could live with this new writing style - it's somewhat like putting together a crossword puzzle, if you will. Of course, future historians who will spend long hours researching the life of today's world by flipping through fragile, yellowed newspapers in dusty libraries some 500 years from now may encounter certain problems (such as locating the country of origin of the generous president with a distaste for Islamic extremism). But, then again, 500 years from now, President P- (do you know who I'm talking about?) may be widely known as this camera- and dictaphone-shy guy whose name contemporary news media carefully avoided mentioning.

We'll see.

So here is a new survival guide. Follow it, and the chances of having your office raided by armed men in ski masks will be minimal. Turn off your television and avoid newspaper stands. Put a good old Louis Armstrong into your Walkman and don't talk politics to anyone. Most importantly, avoid the name of Vladimir P-

You know, the p-.

His climb from running the country's secret police to running the country was, indeed, a very fast one. Let's give him some time to acclimatize to being a public figure, after so many years of working undercover.