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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Innuendo in The Guise of Information

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?????? ????: a smear campaign, literally "black PR"

In olden days -- i.e. eight months ago -- expats spent Friday nights chatting about films, books, visa-run destinations and the latest restaurant to open.

These days, expats discuss the latest smear campaign in the media against their companies, trying to decide if it was paid for by a competitor (annoying, but benign), a competitor backed by someone (worrying), or someone on their own (could I pack out in 24 hours if I had to?). Everyone pours over the texts, looking for hints and clues. Makes you wonder if those old Kremlinologists in retirement would give tutorials.

I have had occasion to look at a number of these articles, and besides finding them so distressing that I can't sleep at night, I've begun to decode the language. Actually, it's not that complicated. This is probably because when you don't have any facts, you only have so many options for innuendo.

??????/????/????? ????????, ???... (It is widely known/Everyone knows/It's been common knowledge for ages that ...). This means: "I have no documentation to back up my assertions, but I'm hoping this bogus reference to proven facts will disguise the paucity of my evidence."

????? ???????? ????? ????????, ??? ... (It has become known to our publication that ...) I don't know what this means. It could be the writer was handed the information by his client, or found the information while surfing the net, or saw it in a vodka-induced hallucination. It is an attempt to suggest evidence where none exists.

??? "???????????" (this "organization"). Here the quotes are used to indicate that this is not an organization in the commonly accepted sense of the word, but rather a sinister cell of misfits, crooks and saboteurs. The quotation marks are the typographical equivalent of "wink-wink."

'?????????, ??? ... (It is telling that ...). Here the author takes one small fact and turns it into a general indictment. For example, '?????????, ??? ??? ?????????? -- ???????? (It is telling that all the employees are blond) might be used as proof of an organization's heinous ideology.

?????????? ... (It is no coincidence ...) This is used when the fact in question is, to the contrary, a totally meaningless coincidence that is being twisted into a sinister plot. For example, ?????????? ???? ????????? ??????? ?? ???????, ??? 50 ??? ????? ?????? ??? ??? ????????? ??????. (It is no coincidence that an employee had a vacation in a resort where 50 years ago a famous crook spent three days.)

?? ?????????????? ??????? ???????????? ? ??????????? --?? ... (According to numerous comments by specialists and media publications ...). This means "once I read a blog posting about these guys" and is designed to give a patina of documentation to an otherwise specious argument.

???????? ?????????/???????? ?????? ??????????... (A simple comparison/analysis shows ...) This means: "I've taken two pieces of information out of context and will use them to show whatever I'm getting paid to show."

?? ???? ???????????/???????? (In all likelihood/probably). This means the staff lawyer looked at the article and made the author throw in a few mitigating phrases to avoid an expensive lawsuit.

Then there is a technique that I regard as the rhetorical equivalent of a Kantian leap of faith. You are reading an analysis of, say, a fishing rights dispute, a climatic anomaly or petty crime in a small Russian town when suddenly you come across the phrase: ... ????????????? ' ??? ?????????????? ?????? (financed by X -- fill in the blank -- in order to destabilize the country). ????? (Huh?) How do these guys look at themselves in the mirror?

Don't get me wrong. Old-fashioned kind of gal that I am, I believe that ??????? -- ???? ? ?????? (people are weak and sinful) and anyone, regardless of nationality, can get up to no good. But I'm also old-fashioned enough to believe you need to support an accusation with real facts.

But then I'm just an old-fashioned kind of gal.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based interpreter and translator.