Putin’s Perfidious Gunship
Across the Russian media, one headline dominates: State censorship authority Roskomnadzor has declared war on Telegram, one of the dozen encrypted messaging apps available in 2017. The reason? Uh, you know, terrorists can use it.
Meanwhile, Aeroflot is playing the angry ex-spouse, saying it won’t rehire pilots who desert the Russian airline for better-paying jobs in China. And on the radio, an Orthodox priest claimed that the right to anonymity online is satanic because it leads to “harmful opinions.”
But all this fluff pales in comparison to the real news of the hour: President Vladimir Putin starred in a movie— about himself, of course.
Filmmaker Oliver Stone has finally released his longawaited “Putin Interviews.” I have it on good authority that there are people who sat through the entire four hours. Because you can never get enough Putin.
We won’t talk about Stone here. This is a column about Russia, and Stone doesn’t give a damn about it. As with his documentaries on Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Yassir Arafat, he makes movies to troll America. And there are currently few better ways to offend Western public sentiment than saying that Putin may have a point.
But the Putin documentary has attracted public attention for depicting a major presidential blunder. The Russian leader, defying rumors of his technical incompetence, showed Stone a smartphone video of — Putin claimed — Russian pilots bombing ISIS. Only it later turned out to be a U.S. gunship blasting the Taliban, overlaid with conversations by Ukrainian pilots fighting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas.
Mute embarrassment all around? Maybe not! More than anything, this awkward episode shows Putin’s longterm genius and strategic wisdom. The president has been avoiding the Internet for a long time — and he’s quite proud of it, judging by his older statements.
Of course, we — the hacks and internet users — have long been making fun of Putin’s distrust of technology more complex than a typewriter. At our most generous, we called it the paranoia of an old KGB spook. At our least, we said it was a grandfatherly fear of the 21st century.
Then Putin tried the Internet for the first time (at least publicly). And what happened? It failed him perfidiously. If only he’d stuck to the red folder that faceless security operatives give him every day as a news briefing, nothing of the kind would have happened.
But no worries! Apparently, there was no error, because Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said so. He insists the video was real. This raises an interesting question: Is there any way at all to get the Kremlin to admit wrongdoing? From MH17 to doping and hacking, it seems impossible.
I digress. The important thing is that the Internet betrayed Putin. Of course, Putin takes much of the credit for making the Internet a place of half-truths and disinformation — a spy habitat instead of a community.
And now the 21st century has bitten the hand that shapes it. We can only hope that Putin will exercise his wisdom again and heed that lovely Orthodox priest, stopping Satan in his tracks.
Make the Internet trustworthy again! Cue official IDbased internet access and log-on permits in the future.
And if the future won’t comply, they can always just ban that too.
Unfair Observer is a secret Russian journalist offering a satirical take on the worst and most absurd developments happening in Russia.