I don’t really know what to make of this one, exactly… basically it’s hilarious at first glance, and then very, very telling. (Thanks to Siberian Light for the link.)

Looks like some Russian bloggers got pissed at the BBC for claiming that Russians are alcoholics, and more precisely for implying that their tastes reach beyond traditional forms of alcohol to well, Dran-o. The article ended with a poll that asked, “How often do you drink eau de cologne, antifreeze or cleaning agents? Regularly, Very rarely, Never, or I don’t drink.”

I simply can’t believe that a respected news source like the BBC would perpetrate such a worn-out stereotype as this. It’s like taking a poll of Bud Light drinkers to see how often they beat their wives – regularly, very rarely, never, or I don’t drink.

Apparently, a few Russians agreed with my sentiments and weren’t too fond of being profiled so blatantly. So the folks over at Livejournal.ru told their readers to play along with the poll’s assumptions: “Within hours, sometimes at a rate of two votes per second, more than 25,000 testified to being ‘regular’ consumers of antifreeze and the like.” The BBC, realizing what was going on, zeroed out the results the next morning, but still the votes continued to come in.

Ultimately, the results were that over 90% of those polled are all wasted, all the time. Go ahead, Russian cyber-warriors – way to dispel those negative stereotypes!

Probably a lot of people seeing those results taken out of context would fail to see their irony. And yet, the Russian bloggers’ point was made. No longer will they allow themselves to be portrayed in a negative light, because they are armed with a mighty weapon: the internet. The Russian people can now see what is being said about them, both in the outside world and within Russia itself, and they can respond in real time. And that is true power.

It kind of makes one wonder… what if the internet had come around 20 years earlier? What would the end of the Soviet Union have looked like? Would it have come sooner, or perhaps not at all? An interesting train of thought…