As consumers of media outlets in the West know, Putin’s “disappearance” is a sign of something very, very important. Probably.
He’s dead. There was even a Twitter thingee #ПутинУмер.
It’s a coup. “Vladimir Putin is ‘alive’ but ‘neutralised’ as shadowy security chiefs stage a stealthy coup in Moscow, it was claimed last night.” says the Daily Mail. “Social media was thrown into a frenzy after pictures emerged late Friday night of multiple unmarked white trucks pulled up beside the Kremlin.” said Ukraine Today. There to cart away his loot suggested the Daily Mail. A coup: “Former presidential adviser, Andrey Illarionov reports that in a few days it will be announced about the resignation of Vladimir Putin and the power will be taken by a group of officers and security forces led by the head of the presidential administration.” Anders Äslund speculates on who is who in the coup.
Maybe everything or anything suggests the ever-amusing New York Times. Flu perhaps but also: “There have been periodic glimpses of the tension behind the high red walls of the Kremlin, infighting over the wisdom of waging war in Ukraine that has only deepened as the value of the ruble crumbled…” Nemtsov murder, distraction, “dusty playbook of the Soviet Union”, mistress, blah, blah, blah. (And, Dear Readers, because it is the NYT, after all, I can’t resist this at the end of the piece “Correction: March 13, 2015. An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of the Italian prime minister. He is Matteo Renzi, not Renzo. It also misstated the year the submarine Kursk sank. It was 2000, not 2002.” What corrections will be discovered by the NYT’s layers of fact-checkers in a week?).
The Independent shoves them all in (except the possibility that nothing has happened. But hey! It’s Russia, something must have happened) and tosses plastic surgery into the mix.
In Switzerland to witness the birth of the heir shouts the New York Post quoting a Swiss paper. Of course we can’t expect the mainstream media to have the resources of Anatoly Karlin who found a photo of the obviously un-pregnant so-called girlfriend.
Julia Ioffe uses up some trees in the Washington Post darkly speculating – Stalin in June 1941, Gorbachev in August 1991 – a sign of something, that’s for sure.
The Economist: “What is one to make of it all? In the absence of better information, one might ask what it has meant in the past when rulers of secretive governments vanished from public view.” So let’s go back to 1564, because it’s well known that nothing in Russia ever changes. (Just think how long and hard people would laugh at you if you used Henry VIII as evidence of something in today’s Britain).
No, it’s war. All the Russian Embassy staff had left London. That was apparently connected with the British nuclear first strike that didn’t happen.
Something vaguely Brobdingnagian is about to happen. Some huge announcement is coming on the weekend.
Abducted by aliens? Well, probably not but let’s put it out there anyway.
Flu, says a CIA source (ah something rational at last). But Ioffe authoritatively informs us they’d never admit he’s sick (“manly men don’t get sick”).
The BBC is magisterial as ever but still manages to make a big deal of it: “And all this because there’s been no verifiable sighting of the omnipotent and normally omnipresent Vladimir Putin since 5 March.”
Well, here’s his schedule on the Presidential website: there’s something nearly every day. But that doesn’t count because the Western media can’t find the website, can’t read Russian, don’t know anyone who does, wouldn’t believe it, has to get excited because everybody else has got excited. Anyway, he met with the President of the Kyrgyz Republic (a country not too far from the NYT’s Kyrzbekistan, but probably not in the Austrian-speaking world, one assumes) today so the panic is over.
What have we learned? Well that the BBC, NYT and so forth don’t think alien abduction or nuclear first strikes are credible enough to toss into the list. (Although trucks removing the temporary skating rink on Red Square make the cut in several outlets.) So we’ve discovered that they do have some standards, after all. So that’s something on the credit side.
The West has developed a hysterical obsession with Putin and this “absence” was a chance to display it and make fools of themselves. Certainly, the Western media, losing ground and credibility steadily, will not have gained any from this preposterous performance. I can’t help wondering whether Putin and his team (which has shown itself to be much smarter than anybody in the West) didn’t concoct the whole fake disappearance to allow the West and its tame sources to be-clown themselves and take their reputation down another couple of points. Now, that would be clever. And fun to watch; a tiny hint from Putin? “Life ‘would be boring without gossip’”.
Also notice the assumption in practically every one of these stories. Which is that Russia is a tremendously unstable place held together by one man. This despite the fact that the Constitutional successor, a long-time member of The Team, has actually been president before and that The Team has demonstrated a remarkable coherence – to say nothing of competence – for fifteen years now.
The second thing to notice is this crackbrained obsession with one man. Putin is the Qaddafi, the Saddam Hussein, the Milosevich, the bin Laden, the Aidid, of Russia. If only he would go, the bear would roll over and expose his tummy. Well, getting rid of those guys didn’t work, and getting rid of Putin won’t either. It’s not just one man, it’s a whole country. When are they going to learn this?
My theories: normal few days, maybe some flu. But Putin does take a three or four day retreat most years to a monastery and it is Lent.
(But I really like the idea of a sting operation to allow the Western MSM and its tame “experts” to make fools of themselves.)