Two recent stories about Russians have demonstrated how the news is selected and manipulated in the United States. The first is about Maria Butina, who apparently sought to overthrow American democracy, such as it is, by obtaining a life membership in the National Rifle Association. Maria, a graduate student at American University, is now in detention in a federal prison, having been charged with collusion and failure to register as an agent of the Russian Federation. She has been in prison since July, for most of the time in solitary confinement, and has not been granted bail because, as a Russian citizen, she is considered to be a “flight risk.”
Maria, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, is now seeking donations to help pay for her legal defense as the Russian government renews demands that she be released from jail or be tried on whatever charges the Justice Department can come up with, but her release is unlikely as she is really a political prisoner.
The media has been silent about Maria Butina because the case against her is falling apart. In early September prosecutors admitted that they had misunderstood text messages used to support claims that she had offered to trade sex for access to information. Demands that she consequently be released from prison were, however, rejected. Her lawyer observed that “The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated.”
In an attempt to make the Butina embarrassment disappear from the news, the Justice Department has proposed an unprecedented gag order to prevent her attorney from appearing in the media in a way that could prejudice a jury should her case eventually come to trial.
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