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Russian Culture Minister: Netflix A U.S. Plot Of Global Mind Control

Vladimir Medinsky is known for public statements that often veer toward the hyper-patriotic.
Vladimir Medinsky is known for public statements that often veer toward the hyper-patriotic.

There are many reasons why the U.S. online video-streaming service Netflix has exploded in popularity.

The series House Of Cards, for example, whose dark dramatization about a fictional White House and its Machiavellian president reportedly so intrigued Russian President Vladimir Putin that he told his new defense minister to watch it for insights into U.S. politics.

Netflix's fan base, however, does not include Russia's culture minister, who has now accused the company of being something more nefarious: a U.S. government plot to take over the world's television sets.

Vladimir Medinsky, known for public statements that often veer toward the hyper-patriotic, asserted in an interview published on June 22 that Netflix is part of a U.S. government mind-control project.

"And, what, you thought these gigantic startups emerge by themselves? One schoolboy sat down, thought for a bit, and then billions of dollars rained down from above?" he was quoted as saying in the interview with the Russian news agency Rambler.

"It turns out that that our ideological friends [the U.S. government] understand perfectly well that this is the art form that is the most important," Medinsky continued, alluding to a quotation by Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin about the influence of cinema on the masses.

They understand "with the help of Netflix, how to enter every home, to creep into every television, and through that very television, into the heads of every person on Earth," Medinsky said.

Founded in 1998 by U.S. entrepreneurs Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, California-based Netflix, which started out as a DVD-by-mail service, now says it offers its streaming services in 190 countries, including Russia.

The company did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

One of the service's flagship series, House Of Cards offers a deeply cynical look at U.S. politicians. That was the reason, according to Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar's 2015 book All The Kremlin's Men, that Putin recommended the series -- which is based on a British production of the same name -- to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after his 2012 appointment.

"It'll be useful," Putin is quoted as telling Shoigu in Zygar's book.

For his part, Medinsky has gained a reputation for making bombastic, nationalistic and sometime outlandish allegations since becoming culture minister in 2012.

He has called for patriotic summer camps and films, and last year called for a "patriotic Internet" saying the West had launched "a new blitzkrieg" against Russia.

Last week, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Medinsky suggested that Russian animated films had too many "Asian faces." That elicited wide derision in places like Yakutia, the Siberian republic whose main ethnic group is non-Slavic.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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