One of the most bizarre aspects of the Putin cult is how flexible his image is, especially in the West. Vladimir Putin can basically be whomever you want. If you’re a leftist who hates the IMF and “neo-liberal” economics, Putin’s a quasi-socialist who stands up to imperialism, US hegemony, and fascism. Of course Putin presides over a state with one of the most staggering rates of wealth inequality in the industrialized world, the minimum wage is roughly 80 euros a month, and the state promotes, organizes, and supports far-right wing neo-fascist movements at home and abroad. On the other hand if you’re a far-right wing conservative who sees Putin as a defender of the Christian faith and Western values, you might be very dismayed to walk the streets of Moscow in some neighborhoods, while Kurban bayram will make you shit bricks of rage. Of course when you do, be sure Kadyrov and his friends don’t find out about it.
These days, the molding and manipulation of Putin in the minds of Westerners goes beyond simple left-right dichotomies. Now it seems whatever you hate, Putin hates, and what’s more he’s doing something about it. As it turns out, while real Putin is pulling out of Syria, Fantasy Putin is waging a new war- against vaccines. No seriously, vaccines. Check it out.
I don’t really need to think I need to thoroughly debunk something this insanely stupid, particularly since none of the quotes are properly sourced and the information supposedly comes from an “insider” in the Russian health ministry. Still, there are some really funny bits like this:
“Russian president Vladimir Putin says that Western governments are enslaving humanity through vaccines.
‘When your children are barely human, psychologically-altered bots, their nerve cells and synapses failing to connect, and their neurodevelopmental processes dulled to the point of restricting them to sub-human level repetitive grunts and gormless stares, what are you going to do then?’”
Here’s a little tip- Russia has certainly been sliding in the science department as of late, but they vaccinate children. Thank God, Allah, Carl Sagan, or whomever that Russia, as stressed as its health care system has become, vaccinates kids. Putin shut down foreign adoptions and food imports practically on a whim, so if he ever really said that the West was enslaving humanity via vaccines, he could just as easily shut that down. Hell, he’s very slowly shutting the healthcare system down via cuts and poor spending decisions. But in this case the latter doesn’t matter because RUSSIA VACCINATES ITS CHILDREN!
Now that second bit is supposed to be a direct quote from Putin. No. Just no. Putin never said that. Putin never said anything like that. Mark your calendar. Remember this day. This is the day I actually got genuinely offended on behalf of Vladimir Putin simply by the implication that he would say something so monstrously ridiculous. I know from personal experience that Putin often says stupid, delusional things, and yet this is beneath him. Far beneath him.
Whoever came up with that (I’m guessing the author of the piece) must really hate children. I mean is that what modern children look like to you? Are they anywhere close to being restricted to “sub-human level repetitive grunts and gormless stares?” This is approaching Nazi eugenics theory in its depravity.
Given the kind of disinformation put out by the Kremlin via seemingly independent blogs and websites, I know what some of you might be thinking: “OH GOD NO! PUTIN IS WEAPONIZING ANTI-VACCINE CONSPIRACIES!” I wouldn’t venture that far just yet though. Global Research, a conspiracy site often cited by the Kremlin press, does traffic in anti-vaccine nonsense. Still, I don’t think the source is from the Russian media. Were that the case, we’d probably see more anti-vaccine bullshit in Russia. I suspect these people are attracted to conspiracy theory clearing houses like Global Research because the latter is happy to promote any anti-Western government claim.
No, I think what we have here is an example of a phenomenon that actually pre-dates the Russian information offensive in 2014 and in fact pre-dates the existence of networks like RT. Global Research, for example, was founded in 2001, only a year after Putin became president and roughly four years before the debut of RT, which in those days was actually about Russia. Unfortunately these days many of our Western pundits like to pretend that Putin and his propaganda bullhorn are reaching out and creating legions of useful idiots in the West, when in fact long ago many of these people were working their way toward Putin and not the other way around.
For many people in the West, there’s a very simple way to explain world politics. If you don’t like your own government, see who they criticize, and see who criticizes them back. Whoever that happens to be is your “ally.” For those who believe in various conspiracy theories, it’s very easy to imagine that the real reason the West criticizes Putin is because he must be doing something “right.” The neo-Nazis believe that Putin is preserving a “white” nation, that he “kicked out the Jewish oligarchs,” and that he preserves “traditional values.” I remember some more mainstream conservatives admired Putin because they thought he had a no-nonsense approach to the war on terror, and that he was not beholden to political correctness when dealing with Islamic terrorism. Now these neo-hippies have apparently decided that Putin is an enemy of vaccines, Big Pharma, and he loves organic farming. No doubt we’ll soon see a new article claiming that he has personally endorsed daily coffee enemas.
It’s not that the recent information offensive by the Kremlin hasn’t exacerbated this sort of thing. They certainly figured out long ago that many Americans and other Westerners are susceptible to this sort of thing, but sometimes the image of Putin these people have is, as in this case, truly bizarre. That and I’ve never seen a confirmed example of genuine pro-Kremlin media totally fabricated quotes by Putin. It seems like the kind of rare thing that could get someone fired.
Realizing that people can and indeed do concoct their own imaginary Putin hero-avatars, it makes you wonder what Fantasy Putin might do next. Maybe he’ll be a radical feminist who calls out another politician for their “problematic” comments and dismissive attitude toward others’ lived experience. On the flip side, maybe he’ll publicly lament how feminists are destroying video games and thus hammering the nail in the coffin of masculinity. Maybe he’ll announce that his health is due to his all-organic kale diet. In spite of his, shall we say, cold family situation, perhaps we’ll find out he has some really strong opinions about home-birthing, if not child-rearing in general. Then again, he may say something along the lines of that statement he made to the State Duma a couple weeks ago:
“True, at first I didn’t like Russia Without BS. But then it grew on me because it’s become increasingly clear that I cannot rely on my advisers to be anything but batshit insane. Look where that got me! Look where it got us! And would somebody for the love of God please tell me what’s on my spokesman’s head? What am I even doing here? I just wanted to do judo and try out some of these so-called video games everyone’s been talking about! God bless that Jim Kovpak, who has not only made me see Ukraine’s point of view, but also reality itself. As for all of you guys, you can go eat the world’s biggest bag of dicks. They’ll be served to you with snow shovels. Now I’m going to hold this microphone out in front of me and drop it in a nonchalant fashion.” -Vladimir Putin