In his Odnako blog Evgeny Super asks why Putin’s image seems to be improving of late. Turned off by the propaganda against the Russian President, he argues, Westerners are beginning to give him grudging respect.
The Russian President’s Demonic Image Collapses in the Western Media
Literally from the very first day of President Vladimir Putin’s latest term, the western media started up a real witch hunt against him: not a single day passes without an influential American, British or, in a pinch, a third rate Polish tabloid accusing him of all possible sins. Nevertheless, one year later Putin’s image in the west is starting to slowly but surely turn around. So who is he in the eyes of the western populace today — a “KGB agent” or a “real hipster”? Let’s examine this.
Putin is becoming a hipster
Among the deluge of articles denouncing Putin’s tyrannical nature, something new has appeared in the foreign media the other day — the fashionable Esquire magazine released an article titled “Vladimir Putin is becoming a hipster”. In a jocular manner, the author analyzes Putin’s looks and behavior and claims that he is the most advanced hipster of our time. Here are just some of the arguments:
- He wears fashionable sunglasses
- He uses hipster headphones
- He doesn’t care about the digital world and buys analog typewriters for his staff
- He showed a thumbs up when a nude Femen activist jumped out in front of him
- He’s fit, likes to perform in public and loves his own image
But it’s not the Esquire article itself that’s interesting, it’s the reaction to it from fellow journalists. In response, the American Flavorwire published a furious riposte, where the author, practically foaming at the mouth, argues that Putin isn’t a hipster at all. At least because he oppresses sexual minorities and allegedly kills off political dissidents outside the country.
Giggling about whether he’s a hipster only draws attention away from the true nature of the man.
In short, one cockamamie article responds to another. However, we have to note that as of late, the carefully crafted by the western media image of Putin as a “comrade of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Kim Chen Un” is often being rejected by Westerners themselves.
Putin as an American president
And now, jokes aside: Recently, I got round to exploring the world of American conservative social networks. These people are obsessed with the good old days of the Cold War, and dream of restoring the former power of the USA. As you can imagine, they hate Russians and still believe that we’re all Communists here and threaten their traditional freedoms.
And so, among them (and there are many of them), Barack Obama is considered to be a sorry loser, and Vladimir Putin is practically an exemplar of a modern politician. Someone there even drew a demotivator with Putin’s photo labelled thus: “You realize you don’t live in a free country anymore when even Vladimir Putin sounds more reasonable than your own government.”
In a short period of time, that picture collected a crazy amount of “likes” and comments from Americans, such as:
“I trust Putin more now than I ever have Obama…”; “You know, I’d swap Obama for Putin! This is crazy, I never would’ve imagined in my life, that I’d prefer a Russian president to our own! Just five years ago I would’ve been insulted if someone proposed that to me”; “Maybe we should kidnap Putin and force him to stay in the US? :)”; “Even if you disagree with Putin’s politics, you have to admit that he’s strong and doesn’t engage in populism”; “Obama is an even bigger communist than Putin! At least Putin is loyal to his country and doesn’t do the bidding of its enemies. Even Reagan would agree with that. I think that if Reagan saw Obama, he would immediately send fighter planes against him, as if he’s a terrorist”; “Putin quickly figured out who Obama is, and didn’t let him fool him”; “I think that after Putin warned Obama about Boston, and Obama didn’t do anything, Putin realized that Obama is an IDIOT!”
I have to point out that these aren’t exceptions. I see similar comments in all sorts of places on American social networks.
For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction
It can be said that a whole year of non-stop hounding in the media is too much even for the ever-trusting western populace. Some kind of a critical point has been passed, and people are beginning to doubt that actively propagandized image of a Russian tyrant. The Esquire article is a vivid example of how a society tired of a bogeyman story changes it into a humorous form. That means that western media magnates have overheated the heads of their subscribers a bit.
Another reason for the nascent collapse of Putin’s negative image is the fact that no one among the western political establishment can really stand up to him. The recent G8 summit was a vivid demonstration of that. Incidentally, it became the reason for literally an explosion of denunciatory articles and insulting cartoons in the foreign media, blaming the west as a whole for its inability to compete with the Russian leader.
The Edward Snowden scandal has also contributed to popularizing Putin’s image in the US. Even those who consider the runaway a traitor admit that Putin showed courage by not kicking him out of the country, which any of the current European leaders would surely have done.
We often lament the fact that our country puts little effort into securing its image abroad. However, that image is directly associated with the image of the head of state, and his behavior is precisely our main information weapon. As practice shows, in order to stand up to the stream of hit pieces, you don’t need to pander, to try to fit the stereotype of a faceless western politician at all — all that’s needed is to remain steadfast with respect to your decisions and to not be a dry person.