Slate’s Joshua Keating is out with a profile of Konstantin Malofeev, the Russian oligarch who has become a full-time activist and benefactor to “traditional family” causes in Russia and Europe. Malofeev worked with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families to organize last month’s social conservative conference at the Kremlin. In fact, Malofeev sounds a lot like an American Religious Right leader when he argues that Christians are facing totalitarian persecution in the U.S. and western Europe:
“Just as Christians in the West in Ronald Reagan’s time helped us against the evil of communism, we now have to return our debt to Christians who are suffering under totalitarianism in the West,” he says. “This so-called liberalism, tolerance, and freedom, these are just words, but behind them you can see the totalitarianism.”
Asked for examples of this totalitarianism, he cites legal battles over U.S. businesses not providing flowers or cakes for gay weddings and the use of tear gas against anti-gay-marriage protesters in France. “We saw all of this in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. We know how it starts when the protection of minorities becomes the policy of the state,” he says.
Keating’s profile makes it clear that Malofeev, currently under sanctions from the EU and Canada for allegedly financing Ukrainian rebels, has big ideas. He is monarchist who wants to see a return of the Czars and the reconstruction of the Russian empire. “We the Russian people are a divided nation, just as the Germans were after the Second World War,” he told Keating.
One of his Malofeev’s big ideas is a new Orthodox conservative television network modeled on the Fox News. “We want to show the news in the way that Orthodox people, who are 70 to 80 percent of the population, see it.” The Orthodox Church has been a valuable ally for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s nationalist and anti-gay policies, and it seems likely that Malofeev’s openly propagandist channel will not meet the same fate as other independent news networks under Putin’s regime.
The new network is just a YouTube channel for now, but Malofeev has hired as a producer enigmatic former Fox News employee Jack Hanick. We first encountered Hanick when he joined National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown last year at a Moscow roundtable organized by Malofeev and opined that “God called on” Russia” to “stand up for traditional values” where the rest of the world had failed.
Hanick was part of the planning committee for the World Congress of Families event although he said in a recent interview that he was there as a journalist, not an activist. (World Congress of Families dropped its official role in the event after Russia invaded Crimea, although top officials from the group remained involved in their personal capacities, and other Religious Right leaders like Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage were not deterred from attending.)
In an interview with the Russian website Colta earlier this month, Hanick voiced his support for a Russian law banning the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors and said that he had thought that gay rights organizations would also support the law. He also praised Fox News founder Roger Ailes for pioneering of unabashedly biased journalism, envisioning a world where journalists act as lawyers, presenting either side of a case and clearly stating their allegiances. Ailes, he gushed, “changed television forever.”