Putinology considered harmful: the many legends we tell ourselves about Vladimir Putin

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/24/kleptocrats-r-us.html

1 Like

Articles like this are strange. Interesting information, but by taking on a series of straw men, they fail to do justice to any of the issues brought up.

It’s like trying to address the treatment of LGBT people in Russia, and saying “is Putin a queer basher? Putin only presides over and promotes anti-gay laws, presides over a nation whose state controlled media engages in hateful anti-LGBT propaganda and promotes extreme anti-LGBT stereotypes, and speaks about the need to purge Russia of homosexuals, while regular citizens engage in the beatings of LGBT people, and it’s not Putin, but the police and state authorities who imprison gay people, remove children from gay parents, and attack them, not but Putin who doesn’t personally bash any gays, so clearly he is not a gay basher.”

Rather than discussing the issue of hundreds of journalists critical of Putin and his administration dying (typically at the hands of an oligarch and state-connected mafia), he just works to absolve Putin of direct responsibility. Rather than discussing Putin running a regime that props up some of the most radical income inequality in the world with a handful of unelected oligarchs (who also can also wind up dead if they displease Putin) controlling vast power through their wealth and mafia connections, with that wealth granted to them by the state, he says since we don’t know Putin’s net-worth we can’t say he’s a kleptocrat. It’s helpful in pointing to how systemic Russia’s issues are, but absolves a figure who was involved in the creation of that system and who maintains it.


I’m reading this as apologetic for or slightly dismissive/ downplaying of Putin’s shenanigans. Am I the only one?

IMO he’s a walking skin bag of dominator human garbage. A liar, a propagandist, a murderer and oppressor. I don’t know why you’d downplay that. Sure maybe giving too much credit when it comes to murders of his dissidents etc etc, but why go soft and understate the threat Putin represents? “No more Machiavellian than your average EU leader?” Sure… out of the ones that want you dead when you go against them… sure. I must be misunderstanding the point.


When he retires, his puppet in the White House will be more than happy to have him as an adviser!

1 Like

Interesting you needed naked capitalism to give you a heads-up on this while I submitted it a while ago, Cory. :wink:

Anyway, the discussion in this thread seems to go in the direction that it downplays the threat Putin is to minorities, journalists, etc.

I didn’t read it that way. I’ll have to read it again, maybe, from that perspective. However, the argument of not using a demonized bogeyman Putin in political discussions, not falling for the oversized and clichéed picture may have some merit?

1 Like

What’s wrong with being named Vladimir?

On second thought…

1 Like

I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. It seems that the entire article is a lead up to the final paragraphs, where the writer takes aim at their real target. The whole thing seems to be saying “Look, blame Putin all you like, but you can’t explain away the root cause of the rise of 45 by pointing abroad. Regardless of any manipulation, millions of people still voted for day-glow Mussolini.”


The outcome was consistent with the polling. If Trump won marginally, the fact there was that thin a margin points to some serious non-Putin problems that we need to solve yesterday. Because Putin can die tomorrow and I still have no clue what 2018 is going to look like.


It is an odd piece indeed. The intent behind segregating the various criticisms of Putin into distinct “theories” is to highlight their failings in a predictive capacity: you can’t simply replace the question “what will Putin do next?” with “what would a KGB agent do?”, or “what would deter Putin?” with “what would deter a kleptocrat?”. His motivations and methods aren’t that straightforward (though neither are they ineffably complex, as the idea of “Putin the chess master” would suggest). That is a legitimate point worth making.

But the way it is presented - interspersing inarguable facts with more contentious arguments that the author then refutes, or with outright silliness (like the Vladimir bit) - makes the whole piece come off as some low-key advocacy for Putin. The author states a sizeable number of legitimate criticisms that he does not challenge directly, but they are nonetheless weakened through the context. You could quite easily add a lot more punch to the piece simply by changing the order in which the arguments are presented.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.