Supporters of Vladimir Putin have been caught in a flat-footed attempt at character assassination. Wanting to smear blogger Alexei Navalny, who's been a fierce critic of Putin's government, they created a picture showing Navalny meeting with the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The implication was that Berezovsky was funding Navalny. Then Putin's supporters published the picture in one of the party newspapers.
But the picture was a clumsy fake. The original, undoctored version of the photo soon emerged, as well as numerous parody versions. Links: BBC
, Daily Mail
The doctored version
The original version
Some newspapers are commenting that the stunt recalls how Soviet authorities routinely used to doctor photos for political purposes. Which is true -- see "The Commissar Vanishes."
But the stunt reminds me most of an American hoax from 1950 -- The Tydings Affair
-- in which a fake photo showing Senator Millard Tydings chatting with the head of the American Communist Party was circulated by Joseph McCarthy, causing Tydings to lose an election. The Tydings and Navalny photos are similar both in their general composition and in their strategies of guilt-by-association.