Nothing Is True and Everything Is
The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
Russia-born Peter Pomerantsev's (born Pyotr Igorevich Pomerantsev) family fled Russia when he was a toddler following his father's arrest by the KGB for proliferating anti-Soviet literature. After a few stops his family landed in London where his father found work with the BBC World Service. Pomerantsev's education spanned London and Munich and he pursued coursework for script writers and film directors in Moscow. He bounced around Moscow for nearly a decade doing television, consulting and PR work. He has also worked as a journalist and was project chair for the Center for European Policy Analysis's Information Warfare Initiative. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia is the story of Peter Pomerantsev's experiences in the Russian television industry and his experiences with the Russian bureaucracy and the personalities swirling about Moscow. As I read it the first book that came to my mind was Jed Rasula's history of Dada - Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century except that this book involves the personalities running Russia's economy, politics and culture and does not, like Rasula, describe a peripheral avant garde artistic movement. The book engages as a dystopian cyber punk fantasy where the world dissolves into Thomas Hobbes' Bellum omnium contra omnes ("the war of all against all") except that it is true. Russia's authoritarianism goes beyond oppressing the opposition, crawling inside all ideologies infusing them with a Dada-like absurdity while exploiting all points of view to the regime's own ends and where everything becomes PR, and the PR du jour changes faster than the weather. The regime renders meaningless the belief and support for anything with morals and values as they become mere personal ornamentation, changing as one's needs require. Corruption pulses through the system at every level and the regime's management of corruption infuses everyone with a fear that perpetuates the existing order where nothing is ever as it seems and where upon deeper analysis it is always something else. Pomerantsev describes a dada-esque dystopian delirium that begs the question - "to what degree is this our future?" Pomerantsev leaves the answer to us. Pomerantsev writes well and captures and holds your attention from the first page to the last. I highly recommend this important, scary, thought provoking book.
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