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Depicting Putin as ‘Madman’ Eliminates Need for Diplomacy

The Western media caricature of Putin as a psychopathic leader acting on irrational and idiosyncratic beliefs is a  convenient propaganda narrative that excuses US officials from taking diplomacy seriously—at the expense of Ukrainian lives and nuclear brinkmanship

FAIR, JOSHUA CHO, 30 Mar 22, Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Western media have depicted Russian President Vladimir Putin as an irrational—perhaps mentally ill—leader who cannot be reasoned or bargained with. Such portrayals have only intensified as the Ukraine crisis came to dominate the news agenda.

The implications underlying these media debates and speculations about Putin’s psyche are immense. If one believes that Putin is a “madman,” the implication is that meaningful diplomatic negotiations with Russia are impossible, pushing military options to the forefront as the means of resolving the Ukraine situation.

If Putin is not a rational actor, the implication is that no kind of diplomacy could have prevented the Russian invasion, and therefore no other country besides Russia shares blame for ongoing violence. (See FAIR.org3/4/22.) Yet another implication is that if Putin’s defects made Russia’s invasion unavoidable, then regime change may be necessary to resolve the conflict.

‘Increasingly insane’

Western media have for years been debating whether Putin is insane (Extra!5/14; FAIR.org2/12/15) or merely pretending to be—speculation that has only intensified in recent weeks:

  • Guardian (2/24/22): “Decision to Invade Ukraine Raises Questions Over Putin’s ‘Sense of Reality’”
  • Daily Beast (3/1/22): “The Russian People May Be Starting to Think Putin Is Insane”
  • Vanity Fair (3/1/22): “Report: An ‘Increasingly Frustrated’ Putin, a Madman With Nuclear Weapons, Is Lashing Out at His Inner Circle”
  • New York (3/4/22): “Putin’s War Looks Increasingly Insane”

The Guardian report (2/24/22) cited concerns raised in European official circles about Putin’s mental state:

They worry about a 69-year-old man whose tendency towards insularity has been amplified by his precautions against Covid, leaving him surrounded by an ever-shrinking coterie of fearful obedient courtiers. He appears increasingly uncoupled from the contemporary world, preferring to burrow deep into history and a personal quest for greatness.

Even when other media analysts argued that Putin’s alleged mental illness was merely a ruse to wrest concessions from the west, this was not presented as a rationale for negotiating with him, but rather as a reason to reject de-escalation and diplomacy. Forbes (3/1/22)……….

‘Detached from reality’

In the Daily Beast (3/1/22), Amy Knight, a historian of Russia and the USSR, displayed a remarkable ability to read Putin’s mind, discerning the real motivations of someone she describes as possibly “detached from reality…………………..

Reason is not going to work’

Other Western media headlines offered quite specific, though varying, evaluations of Putin’s mental state from a distance. ……..


Atlantic 
(4/15/14): “Vladimir Putin, Narcissist?”Independent (2/1/15): “President Putin Is a Dangerous Psychopath—Reason Is Not Going to Work With Him”USA Today (2/4/15): “Pentagon 2008 Study Claims Putin Has Asperger’s Syndrome”Sun (2/28/22): “Vladimir Putin Is Egocentric, Narcissistic & Exhibits Key Traits of a Psychopath”Fox News (3/2/22): “Russian President Vladimir Putin Has Features of a Psychopath: Expert”

These diagnoses from afar have been going on for a long time…………………………………………………..

As of this writing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken hasn’t attempted any conversations with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while Russian military commanders are declining calls from the Pentagon, likely due to the US sharing military intelligence with the Ukrainian government. This silence on both the diplomatic and military fronts risks further escalation instead of a quick negotiated end to the war.

The Western media caricature of Putin as a psychopathic leader acting on irrational and idiosyncratic beliefs is a  convenient propaganda narrative that excuses US officials from taking diplomacy seriously—at the expense of Ukrainian lives and nuclear brinkmanship (Antiwar.com3/10/22). Recent negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul were hailed by both parties as constructive, with Russia vowing to reduce military activity around Kyiv and northern Ukraine as a result (NPR3/29/22). It’s important not to let US officials subvert peace negotiations between the two parties on the evidence-free grounds that negotiations with Russia are pointless.  https://fair.org/home/depicting-putin-as-madman-eliminates-need-for-diplomacy/

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March 31, 2022 - Posted by | media, politics international, spinbuster, USA

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