Friday, August 31, 2007

Putin gone wild!

And now, because of overwhelming demand by Dictators of the World readers, here's a photo of Russia's authoritarian president Vladimir Putin on vacation in Siberia stripped down to the waist. Here, dear readers, is the dictator beefcake you've all been craving.

Wait, nobody wanted to see that? Goddamnit, you readers can be so mercurial, sometimes.

Anyway, there is still actual news about Vladimir Putin, most notably because of a bizarre paid advertising supplement seeking stronger "national branding" for Russia in the Washington Post (viewable here). In addition to the predictable blurbs about borscht and Sputnik, are bizarre pro-Putin articles like "When a little paranoia is good for you" and an article about Putin's political opponents titled "The opposition's disarray is lucky for some". The overall message of the supplement? Toss away your old tired preconceptionss of a gray, totalitarian Soviet Russia and instead, acquaint yourself with fresh new realities about a dynamic and exciting post-Soviet authoritarian Russia!

Jack Shafer at Slate astutely notes that Putin's Kremlin has the same ham handed touch with political propaganda as his Soviet predecessors did, laying it on so thick that American readers come away from it suspecting that the terrified authors probably wrote the piece from a gulag. This is an unfortunate byproduct of authoritarian regimes, and some dictators have learned how to bypass awkward obvious propaganda by hiring American public relations firms to do their dirty work, but apparently, Vladimir Putin insisted on letting a hometown team write this mess. One wonders if his recent shirtless photo ops are part two of his ridiculous attempts at a charm offensive? I don't know, but I will say this: if Robert Mugabe starts baring some skin to get attention, I'm hanging up this blog for good.

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