Might YouTube topple Putin? Or, to put it another way, how did Alexei Navalny and a small team of filmmakers with a drone, a sense of mischief and a canny social media operation come to represent such a powerful challenge to Russia’s president?
The Navalny Show is this week’s Tortoise File: it is an investigation by John Kampfner into the making of a YouTube video. It begins with three men in Hawaiian shirts on a dinghy launching an orange drone to film Vladimir Putin’s vast palace on the Black Sea. The footage they capture, the leaked palace floorplans and the fearless story that Alexei Navalny tells has exposed Putin – “the underpants poisoner,” as he calls him – not just to public outrage, but also, perhaps worse, ridicule.
The vulgarity of the Kremlin’s corruption – the akvadiskoteka, the private subterranean ice hockey rink, the gold-painted Italian toilet brushes – has reached an audience of tens of millions of Russians, spawned a cottage industry of mocking memes and meant that Navalny, first poisoned and now imprisoned by the Russian government, has orchestrated online the toughest opposition that Putin has faced. As John puts it: “Whatever happens to Navalny, he has changed politics in Russia for good.”
Today is also International Women’s Day, so for tonight’s ThinkIn we are returning to a question that kept coming up during the Tortoise Covid Inquiry last year: did the British government’s Covid response discriminate against women?
As for this week’s other ThinkIns…
- Tomorrow morning, Sharon White, chair of the John Lewis Partnership, joins us for a business breakfast ThinkIn.
- On Wednesday evening, the Tortoise Bread Club will lead us in an hour of “breaditation”.
- On Thursday, Mandu Reid, London mayoral candidate for the Women’s Equality Party, will be with us when we ask: is the tide turning against London?
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