Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Putin His Foot in His Mouth Again

It’s not just American media who have strange sensibilities. The recent contretemps over comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin shows the international media can be just as shallow.

Here’s Reuters’ description of the incident:

The Kremlin said on Friday President Vladimir Putin was joking and not condoning rape when he commented about the virility of Israeli President Moshev Katsav, whom police suspect of raping female employees.

Unaware a microphone was switched on during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Putin called Katsav a "mighty guy" and said: "Raped 10 women! I would never have expected that from him. He surprised us all. We all envy him."

I’m fifty years old and twenty-five pounds overweight, so giving Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt could take more bending over backward than my back can stand. (All right. Thirty pounds, damn it! Are you happy now?) I’m still willing to try, in the name of journalistic excellence. (Even I’m laughing at that.)

Have you ever said anything sarcastic, intended for a select audience you assumed would get the joke? Ever felt embarrassed when it leaked out? Ever had it leak out in an international forum, where a thousand journalists hang on your every word because catching you saying something dumb allows them to get credit for a day’s work without having done any?

Putin said something he shouldn’t have said, in a situation where he shouldn’t have said it. It’s the resulting outrage that’s disturbing. Forget these comments; Vladimir Putin’s record speaks for him. His mission in life is to reunite the Soviet Union under the umbrella of Greater Russia. He’s done all he can to stamp out Russia’s post-Gorbachev democratic reforms, and ruthlessly suppressed dissent of all flavors. And people have their shorts in a know over something he said?

Nothing Putin says can disgrace his actions. The same pundits now debating how many rapists can dance on the head of a pin spend most of their editorial time painting around his neo-Stalinist actions.

It’s bad enough we live in an era where people like Putin, Dubya, Ahmadinejad, and Hu Jintao run things. (Forget Kim Jong Il. He gives ruthless dictators a bad name. They make him sit at the kids’ table at the annual Evil Tyrant’s Dinner.) Media, self-proclaimed watchdogs of a political correctness they alone define, have reduced even the most serious news to sound bites. Their apologists say it’s the only news their readers or viewers want to hear. They smirk when they say it, because they mean it’s the only news their audience can understand. That may be true. But at least some of us recognize bullshit when we see it, which is more than can be said for many of those who have “recognizing bullshit” as part of their job description.

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