There is a likely chance that you will see the following photo on social media tomorrow… and why that is tragic for our future.
Here at the Iconic Photos, I am often being accused of focussing exorbitantly on Russia, and of being anti-Russian. I plead guilty to the first change — after all, the USSR held the world enthralled for 70 odd years as a hegemonic superpower — but I seriously don’t know where the second charge comes from. In the past, I have definitely chronicled the past and the present Russian leaders’ hilarious attempts to make themselves look macho and good, and to make their enemies look bad, or worse, disappear (literally and on photo negatives).
I have stumbled upon the picture above, with the caption: “Moscow, on February, 4th, 2012. Temperature in the street a minus of 18-20 degrees of Celsius” Among some 800 shares the photo got on Facebook (via the new sharing mechanism which always spams me and causes me to stop using Facebook these days) are three of my friends (each of whom said “wow”, or words of similar brevity and eloquence) which made me really concerned.
The photo was indeed taken in Moscow — but on March 10th 1991 when 500,000 people showed up on the Manezh Square to put one of the final nails onto the USSR’s coffin. Last few months protests, while notable in proving that the Russian middle-class is no longer a silent, complacent and apolitical entity, were attended by around 100,000 people.
I, being the pedant that I am, tried to correct my friends, but I myself noticed this falsity only because I myself have seen the photo before (I worked under a framed version of that photo for three months). This does not bode well for the future historians. True they will have more sources than ever before, but they will also have a great difficulty in differentiating where is what, what is when, what is true, and what is trivial in that deluge of often-well-intentioned-but-false, often-deliberately-misleading information — and social media is not helping.
So my advice is trust but verify everything you share on social networks, even if it comes from a seemingly authoritative source. Your grandkids will thank you for it.
On the other hand, if you are a sucker for my inanities and thoughts no one care, here is my Twitter.