Apparently Tatiana's gentle finger was directed not as much at Obama as at her filming crew, who probably had made comments about her stuttering in the first sentence. She heard it in her earpiece and flipped the bird in response, thinking she was speaking off camera over the footage of the conference. Reading Obama's name as she did that was a mere coincidence.
Tatiana Limanova has a reputation to uphold - after all, she is a winner of the prestigious TEFI Award presented to her by the Russian Academy of Television for being the best newscaster in 2010. Flipping the bird at another country's leader doesn't agree with that status, nor does it agree with the unwritten ethics of "edgy" journalism that require attacking one's own ruling elites first. Given that REN TV is considered the last bastion of free media in Russia, an "edgy" newscaster there would sooner flip a bird to her own president, Medvedev, than to the US president.
In addition, Russians typically don't make the same distinction between the president and the country as we do; Obama for them personifies America. So if the "bird" were intentional, it would be directed at the United States as a whole rather than to Obama personally. And that is unlikely since the rest of REN TV programming is mostly made of the following American shows in Russian translation:
Furthermore, in Russia the middle finger itself is a very recent appropriation borrowed via Hollywood movies and other popular culture vehicles along with some American slang expressions, curse words, political correctness, and Che Guevara T-shirts.
The traditional Russian equivalent to the middle finger used to be "the fig" - a fist with a thumb placed between the index and the middle fingers. Since there is no significance to this gesture in the American culture, it's easy to imagine a US official, e.g., Hillary Clinton, accidentally placing her fingers in that manner over the table while dining with a Russian counterpart. That would be rather impolite because every Russian knows that polite people show "the fig" only with the hand hidden deep in the pocket. The act of supplanting it with the open display of the middle finger on Russian TV symbolizes the new spirit of Russian-American friendship, cultural exchange, and deepened mutual understanding.
A search of the Russian online media confirms my theory: Tatiana claims to not have any feelings towards Obama one way or another; the finger was aimed at the camera crew while didn't realize she was still on.
Initially REN TV declined comments on the blooper, while trying to pull the videos of it from popular websites. Only two days ago Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that her network wasn't going to punish Tatiana who had already been shaken enough. But that changed today with the announcement of Tatiana Limanova being fired. Apparently the world's desire to see Obama being flipped off by a Russian TV anchorwoman had made it too big an issue for the network to handle without attempting damage control -and so it overreacted.
Consistent with the Russians' lack of distinction between the government and the people, many headlines in today's Russian media covering this story contain words "insult to the West." Apparently the Russians are misreading America's reaction just as much as the Americans have misread the anchorwoman's gesture before that.
Herein lies an important lesson: a random silly gesture minus cultural and linguistic context, multiplied by wishful thinking on both sides, can result in a serious international "overcharge."
Fortunately, Americans aren't prone to taking into the streets rioting and breaking things due to a perceived insult. So let's be grateful that the newscaster's finger went up as she pronounced "Barack Obama" and not some other combination of words and sounds that might sound as, let's say, "Prophet Mohammed." That turn of events would have been much scarier, causing serious material damage and loss of lives - as it already has in many other cases.
KR2004Anyone have the video still? You Tube has taken it off completely.
|Prof Peter Kurgman, PhD^3||42||85936|
|Prof Peter Kurgman, PhD^3||9||24810|
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