According to the Washington Post, Russia has taken a brief respite from usurping the Ukrainian government to focus its attention on another adversary: images distributed online that overlay the likenesses of celebrities with messages crafted in large, sans-serif type. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s joint media agency/internet censor, has announced a ban on any memes that involve public figures when “when the image has nothing to do with the celebrity’s personality.”
The reasoning Roskomnadzor gave for the ruling is to protect the “honor, dignity and business of public figures.” Or, put another way, “The Russian government spends a lot of money propping up public figures. Please don’t tease them.” The announcement, which is apparently a clarification of a more vague, but still depressing existing law, stems from a lawsuit filed by singer Valeri Syutkin, who objected to a meme that paired his photo with the lyrics of another artist: “smack the bitch in the face.” And since bitch-face smacking isn’t a defining attribute of Syutkin’s personality, this meme will be considered a violation.
In the U.S., we’ve come to appreciate that the only good part of living in a decadent cultural cesspool surrounded by overpaid, talentless celebrities, morally bankrupt politicians, and braying media pundits is that we get to regularly mock them. In contrast, Roskomnadzor has been given increasingly broad authority to disrupt and block sites and content that it deems inappropriate or subversive. In other words, Russian treasures like Mr. Trololo will probably be purged, slowly whittling the internet down to a bland resource for delicious soup recipes, video instructions for tying neckties, and media coverage of everything that Vladimir Putin is currently riding/chopping/shooting/besting in martial combat.