In Prime Time
A rumor is the best way for spreading desirable pieces of information. There are rumors that for the sake of respectability are called stories. Technology of a refined rumor or story, which can cause discussions and may claim to become a fact, is one thing and technology of a simple rumor, which is mainly used for wagging and nonsensical conversations, is another.
When newspaper Prime Time was being launched based on the statements made by its founders (and thanks to the stories that one could hear in connection with that edition) I assumed that certain people were taking a serious and well-thought step in Georgian media market.
At that time (almost two years ago) the major TV stations that had the biggest coverage areas and finances had lost quite a substantial part of their audiences. People turned to newspapers. Despite the fact that not everyone could afford them that reaction from people was caused by their natural wish to find out whether there were other people apart from them that could see what was going on beyond the red ribbons, glassy buildings and fountains running in winter.
Due to poverty people started to read newspapers for 10-15 tetris - that is when people are reading newspapers right there near the newsstands without buying the papers, what is more interesting in this case: incomes generated by the newsstands or the fact that people are able to receive news? For me personally there is only one answer: the fact that people are able to read news is the most important issue. I understand that it's not very commercial of me, but it all resembles the growth of grass: it can puncture even through stones in order to reach the light.
The fact that people had found such a method of receiving information should have been the sign for the certain figures who are interested in managing information: they decided to act in that market as well. How is it possible to make people interested in a newspaper while there are lots of other newspapers? You have to have some idea how to attract people. For example it's possible to attract their attention with rumors. Rumors are interesting for everyone, whether it's a bad or good rumor everyone would listen to it at least once in awhile and then people can spread them absolutely unintentionally whether they believe those rumors or not.
The most important thing in this interest is that, - the possibility of start people talking about the things that are important to you. If you supply them with a refined rumor there's more chance that more people will believe it. Especially in Georgia where we have to talk about seemingly the most transparent topic - expenditure of budget sums mostly on the levels of stories.
In any case the most important thing is to start people talking. Who believes the rumors and who doesn't is not so important. One thing is guaranteed: when people start discussing somebody or something about which you had spread a rumor that rumor will always surface in their sub-consciousness. Even the better if you had spread stories that later were verified, in that case people will be tormented by the following thought: if the previous rumor turned out to be true then why isn't it possible that this story is also true?
Prime Time newspaper directly stated that it was a tabloid, therefore it was quite probable that among the rumors and between them there would be some important pieces of news. Based on the people who are thought to be behind that newspaper it was clear who the targets of their rumors would be: those who were not very liked by the authorities, or more correctly by Tbilisi Mayor. Of course it was all conjecture; however, Prime Time talks about itself through its own articles.
I've bought only three issues of that newspaper: the first one - because I'm interested in all the new editions; another issue was the one featuring the President's interview with two Ksenias and this week's issue. I can't say much about the first two ones, I looked through the first one and I read only the President's interview in the second one. As for the third one... I read all so-called serious articles that should have been read between the lines from start to finish.
That issue of the newspaper contained about ten such articles. The first one concerns the NATO Lisbon Summit. The emotional headlines and the whole feeling of the article indicated that America will not abandon Georgia and Moscow failed to receive what it was seeking to get in Lisbon. The three photos accompanying the article feature only Obama and Saakashvili, those are friendly photos and the article itself should be friendly it seems, but not for everyone, for example not for, as the author of the article puts it, "four times ex-president" and "malicious" Burjanadze.
Nino Burjanadze is the main topic of this issue and everything written about her is written in that or even worse tone. Moreover, generally people are also insulted. "Race of Yesterday People" - is the title of the article, which reads: "It's really interesting why didn't Mrs. "wheat queen" decide to coincide the so-called "Representative Public Assembly" with November 23 Rose Revolution anniversary?" and a bit lower: "against the background of "wheat queen" supporters' applause"... "the mob that almost skinned the palms of their hands after hearing that"... etc.
"Burjanadze's Appendage" - is the title of another article, which reads: "Nino Burjanadze got richer. She and her project Temur Shashiashvili and Green Party are joined by relatively fleshier forces". This issue of Prime Time informs us that generally opposition "can't get out of the habit of playing cat and mouse", but the "warmest" words are directed only to Nino Burjanadze. For example: "During that period the Speaker of Parliament played the role of a necessary and useful dummy and nothing more".
The article titled "Putin's Enver" the author asks the following question: "Who is Burjanadze, who shakes hands with Putin and implements his plans in Georgia? If Russia wasn't planning destabilization in Georgia then where would Burjanadze get money for revolution? She couldn't rely only on mafia's money". A little lower the author writes: "It seems the supporters of street rallies were not completely free in their choices. It's always like that when you depend on Russia and are ordered to destabilize the situation".
That article isn't just a light piece adorned with rumors. Therefore one can ask the following question: Where is the evidence to back those accusations? Whether we talk about Nino Burjanadze, Irakli Alasania or Gigi Ugulava we would always have such questions. There are no answers in the article. However, the newspaper features another article titled "Who's Enver in the Opposition?", one can think that Enver is the code word of that issue of Prime Time.
Prime Time printed interview with Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava next to "Putin's Enver". One whole page and two more columns of the newspaper are dedicated to the Mayor who's trying to explain all the recent social problems facing the Tbilisi residents. For example he's talking about the price hikes in public transportation fares. According to Gigi Ugulava, one of the reasons for the price hike was that Tbilisi budget had to spend 65 million GEL for supporting public transport, some part of which was allocated for covering the expenses of socially vulnerable citizens of the capital.
At the end of the interview we find out that administrative expenses of Tbilisi City Hall had amounted to 40 million GEL. The whole phrase is strange - "If administrative expenses amounted to 40 million GEL these expenses have been cut by 22 million GEL in the current budget" - Gigi Ugulava says. The journalist doesn't ask him what exactly is the amount of current administrative expenses and what amounts are allocated for public transportation and how could Tbilisi City Hall's administrative expenses amount to 40 million GEL whereas public transportation with all the salaries of bus drivers and subsidies to socially vulnerable people amounted to 65 million GEL?
The attitude that these details create has nothing to do with lightness and "easy to remember" factor. They cause annoyance - sometimes due to unasked questions and sometimes due to insulting epithets. Therefore they are not very conducive to achieving the results that the people who want to manipulate the opinions of the masses through rumors want to get. Only one article published in that issue can achieve that goal - interview with Eka Beselia.
Among the simple and harmless questions and answers one can read the following things: "Last year we spent so much time walking from Parliament building to Avlabari residence that I even lost some weight. I wanted to continue those rallies, because one can get so many benefits from demonstrations, because in everyday life I mostly use my car or sit in my office so I don't get to walk that much"; "It's hard to look after yourself when rallies start. I used to cut my hear before every birthday. But this year I didn't observe that tradition and left my hair as it was, because I knew I had to stand in the street from November 25 and short hair in cold weather is not very practical".
What is Eka Beselia thinking?