You've got to love it

Illustration by Rooker
Professional freedom lovers spend an inordinate amount of time and money going around feeling all concerned.

They tend to be concerned about many things in this world – but one recurring worry is the state of the free press in Russia.

It even has a name. It is called “a robust independent press”.

OK. Robust and independent. We buy that.

But even the most independent press needs to sell itself to many, many people called “ readers and viewers” in order to pay its bills.

Some are trying to sell to the select few – typically they are called “quality” – and then there are those who try to sell to many – and they shall be called, alas, “yellow”

Yellow newspapers are often thriving when the “quality” ones are suffering. An unpleasant fact, but a fact nonetheless.

So, when a Russian newspaper (on the thriving side of the spectrum) published an account of the steamy escapades of a certain foreign diplomat at a hotel, it did what newspapers do – worked on attracting readers and viewers.

Stop for a second and ask yourself: would you read about something like that? With photos and grainy sneaky camera footage?

If you would close the paper in disgust instead of reading the story – congratulations. You are above all that filth and are an exemplary citizen overall.

And so, many an exemplary citizen of Russia ignored the story – while others read and discussed it for a while – and then went on with their lives.

And everything would have been forgotten if not for one man.

Enter ABC News' Brian Ross

The very same Ross who in 2007 reported that the CIA water-boarded (i.e. tortured) a man by the name of Abu Zubaydah “only for 30-35 seconds” before he confessed to various heinous crimes and numerous terrorist plots.

It later became known that the guy was water-boarded on 80 different occasions.

The very same Ross who got NBC sued, after a Dateline piece claimed to show GM trucks' badly designed fuel tanks exploding at low impact turned out to have been staged. The only reason the truck exploded was because it was packed with explosives

Ross is not kind of guy to keep his viewers in suspense.

“The tape was posted last month on a supposed Russian Internet news site that has no known reporters and that many Russian journalists believe is closely tied to the FSB.” Oh, yeah?

The site in question is actually called and happens to be the site of “the top-selling newspaper in Russia, with daily circulation ranging from 700,000 to 3.1 million.”

All of them FSB agents, clearly.

Ross at his very best.

But sadly it is not just Ross this time.

"This kind of effort to discredit an American diplomat really has no place in the sort of relationship that we are trying to build with the Russian Federation," US Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle weighs in.

"Clearly the video we saw was a montage of lot of different clips, some of them which are clearly fabricated," he adds.

Ambassador, are you sure? We are not – the footage is indeed grainy. But something tells us that if the FSB, or whoever indeed, wanted to compromise an exemplary father of three, they would distribute a far more sophisticated fake.

Just a few months prior, a British diplomat was caught allegedly having sex with two attractive women ( NOTE – unlike Brian Ross we don't call them “prostitutes”. We have no evidence. What if they just fell in love with him at first sight, huh? But at least on one point we can finally agree with Ross – yes, the video strongly points in the direction of them having sex).

The Brit resigned his commission almost immediately, but neither he nor Her Majesty's Foreign Office ever tried to call it an attempt at besmirching

But back to His Excellency. "Clearly, since we were antagonists for a long time during the Cold War, there are possibly people here who still find that difficult to accept and who feel they need to fight against that… I don't think time or history is on their side, but we have to deal with it from time to time."

Now we can't agree more with you, Ambassador. Why don't we stop seeing a KGB spy at every corner and just all agree that a “robust independent press” hurts you sometimes?

Insomniac in DC