Getting Played by Vladimir Putin
It was rather hilarious, and also a little scary, watching the world get played by Vladimir Putin over the Мульт Личности (“Cartoon of Personality” — wordplay on культ личности, personality cult) short about him and Dima Medvedev over the New Year’s holiday in Russia.
Any number of hapless morons began pontificating about the possibility that the short was an indication of some new form of glasnost on the part of the neo-Soviet Kremlin. It was, of course, the exact opposite, and only an idiot or a person utterly unfamiliar with the Putin regime and the content of the short could think otherwise.
It’s perfectly clear that the short had the full approval of the Kremlin, airing as it did on state-controlled TV. And it’s equally clear that the purpose of the cartoon was to make Putin and Medvedev seem both non-threatening and accessible to the young generation. For the latter reason, the cartoon images of the Russian rulers spoke in Internet slang; for the former, they sang and danced like jolly comrades in a Soviet comedy.
Meanwhile, of course, they took vicious pot-shots at Russia’s enemies. They trashed Ukraine for not paying its gas bills (forgetting, of course, Russia’s own default on its Soviet-era debt to the West) and, with the most vulgar allusions imaginable, they castigated the West for stiffing Russia on the Opel deal.
If you want to know what a real send-up of national leadership in a short cartoon looks like, have a gander at Jib-Jab’s effort dealing with the 2004 presidential contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry. As the two rivals are referred to as “pinko commie” and “stupid dumbass” you will begin to see the the Mult Lichnosti effort for what it truly was.
If you then take a look at the cartoon of the Russian flag that appears in the upper right corner of our home page, drawn by the courageous Russian satirist Sergei Yelkin, and compare it to the Mult Lichnosti short, your blood will run cold.
You do have to give Putin credit: he is a thoroughly modern spy. He realizes that it is not necessary, as was done in Soviet times, to keep a lid on satire and religion and elections. To the contrary, he sees, the lemming-like character of the average Russian person permits one to manipulate all three quite easily to the service of the regime, in so doing seriously undercutting criticism of the regime in the West.
For further reading on this topic. we recommend Grigiri Pasko’s recent piece on the Kremlin’s “Potemkin Green Movement.” Here again, Putin’s apparently justified contempt for his countrymen’s lemming-like cowardice leads him to understand that he has nothing to fear from environmental activists, whose message can be easily perverted and co-opted and who, like any other opponents, can be intimidated or killed outright if necessary.
Ruled by the KGB, it is only Russia’s economic weakness that prevents it from assaulting the basic security of the Western democracies just as the USSR once did. If they do not take advantage of their opportunity to push back now and wait until Russia consolidates its economic position, they will bequeath to their children a legacy of torment for which history will surely condemn them.