An anonymous RFE/RL journalist takes issue on historical grounds with the nickname given by one of his colleagues to RFE/RL President Mr. Steven Korn. Showing a good grasp of history and classics, this RFE/RL journalist proposes Roman emperor Nero as a model for selecting a new and more appropriate nickname for Mr. Korn.
As clever a nickname as Chingiz Korn (or Genghis Korn as he is known to your readers in the West), I believe it is not accurate. Sure the swift and brutal way in which our colleagues were fired from their posts at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Moscow bureau is reminiscent of a Mongol attack, but there is one distinct difference. Chingiz Khan was a leader who could motivate his troops and his viciousness was directed at the enemy. If “Chingiz Korn” was a credit to his namesake, he’d have found a way to thwart Putin from silencing our broadcasts by taking our medium wave (AM) radio transmission off the air. Instead Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) has capitulated and shrunk away from conflict.
Instead of accepting “Chingiz Korn” as his moniker, I suggest we hold a contest to see who can come up with a more suitable nickname. The winner will be chosen by the remaining staff at RFE/RL, not by vote, but by using the nickname in private conversations and whispered snickers in the hall.
My submission is “steve kor-NERO”, after the Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicas who ruled Rome from 54 to 68 AD. Nero is most remembered in the legend for “fiddling while Rome burned.” Now based on his pronoucements of how impressed the fired journalists at our Moscow bureau were by Mr. Korn’s vision and their severance pay even as they were being dismissed, one can say that “kor-NERO” was just as gleeful as he burmed our office to the ground in the “Third Rome,” as Moscow has been referred to by the Russian Orthodox rulers.
As if this were not enough, “kor-NERO” relies on a small group of close advisers just like his namesake was. Unfortunately, “kor-NERO” skipped the qualified “Burrus Seneca” era and went right for the incompetant and cruel “Rufus Tigellinus” stage. By placing decisions concerning the future of the organization in the hands of those who do not understand the history of Radio Liberty nor appreciate the past contributions of the staff; they rush to the future, while abandoning the present. We have alienated our core consitituency with the hopes of attracting a new one, so we currently have no audience, which is good since we have few people left to generate stories.
The question is whether the Board of Governors will allow “kor-NERO” to continue his reign while he completes his “Domus Aurea” in Moscow, the new one-million-dollar office, or will they finally force him to “retreat to his Villa” and save us all forever from his rule.
This commentary was written by an anonymous Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist who broadcasts into Central Asia and Russia.
The swift, brutal and destructive way in which the President of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Mr. Steven Korn dispatched the journalists of Radio Svoboda’s (Radio Liberty) Moscow bureau should earn him the nickname “Chingiz Korn.” Just as Chingiz Khan (Genghis Khan) sent his two generals Subustai and Jebe into Samarkand to round up the citizenry for summary execution, so did Chingiz Korn dispatch his Vice Presidents from Prague to carry out the dismissal of most of the journalistic staff. The callous way these soldiers of the truth were tossed to the side to make way for the new manager Masha Gessen shows no appreciation for their past efforts, and no respect for their human dignity.
Of course, the way in which this was carried out begs those who have a journalist’s instincts to posit the question, “Why?” Does Mr. Korn believe that these employees are not worthy to enter the new large temple he is building with U.S. taxpayers’ money on the Garden Ring in Moscow? Perhaps these people who have spent their entire careers in pursuit of the truth with little regard for personal safety were considered to be too difficult to control for the incoming manager? Or maybe they were too old or too white, and unlike in Prague he decided not to be gender specific?
The next question that needs to be asked is what is next for the rest of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty? If Mr. Korn and his vizors are using the move to “digital broadcasts” as the stated reasons to remove qualified journalists who are leaders in digital and social media from their posts in Moscow, where will these executives head next. Like his namesake will Chingiz Korn send his “generals” to the Caucuses where there are moves planned for the offices in Yerevan and Tblisi? Are the currently-employed journalists not worthy of their new temples? What of the old radio warriors in Prague? Are they too old to be able to communicate ideas digitally?
Only Mr. Korn can answer these questions, but one thing is for sure, with the taste of blood in fresh in his mouth, he was able to justify the unjustifiable to his Washington bosses at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and one can only assume that he is just getting started.