Oliver Stone’s documentary series on Vladimir Putin, you would think, is required viewing for Western audiences looking to see beyond the crude caricature of Russia’s president in order to gain an insight into his worldview.
Indeed, surely such an insight is absolutely necessary, what with Russia being the biggest country in Europe, a major nuclear power, and with the deepening tensions arising from Russia’s geostrategic differences and rivalry with Washington in recent years.
Yet for the Western liberal commentariat, condemnation rather than understanding is the order of the day, evidenced in the barrage of criticism with which Stone’s documentary series on the Russian leader has been received in the Western mainstream.
The interview the filmmaker did with liberal US talk show host Stephen Colbert on his project is a prime example.
Colbert’s line of questioning amounted to a regurgitation of the very caricature that Stone had set out to move beyond in over 20 hours of interviews on an abundance of topics with Putin – his upbringing, family history, career, thoughts on leadership, the challenges Russia faced during the dark days of the 1990s, his relations with various US presidents, NATO, and so on.
Yet for the likes of Mr. Colbert it’s much easier to go with the official narrative, contained in his first question of the interview: “What do you say to people who say that yours [Oliver Stone’s] is a fawning interview of a brutal dictator?” Not only the question, but also the casual and insouciant way in which it was delivered, confirmed the dumbing-down of news information, analysis and commentary that has been underway in the United States over decades.
The result is a culture so intellectually shallow it is frightening to behold, one in which ignorance is celebrated rather than scorned, in which national exceptionalism and arrogance is exalted rather than rejected. And woe betide anyone, such as Oliver Stone, who dares try to penetrate this fog of ignorance and sense of exceptionalism that has so corroded US cultural values.
Listening to Colbert’s studio audience laugh at Stone in response to his statement that Putin had been unfairly treated and abused by the US media, I was minded of the treatment meted out to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. Such a comparison is not as outlandish as some may think on first impressions.
Think about it: for daring to question the prevailing orthodoxy, received truths, and dominant ideas the philosopher was lampooned, ridiculed and ultimately condemned to death by the powers that be in Athens, considered at the time to be the home of democracy and liberty, just as Washington is – or to be more accurate claims that it is – in our time.
Interestingly, the clamor to condemn Socrates took place when tensions between Athens and its Greek city-state rival and adversary, Sparta, were still high just a few years after the end of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).
As everybody knows, in times of war – whether cold or hot – a nation’s tolerance for dissent, for daring to swim against the cultural tide, evaporates, even though it is precisely at such times when dissent is most necessary. After all, in the case of the rising tensions that we have witnessed between Russia and the US recently, it is not people like Stephen Colbert who will be sent into combat should those tensions spill over into direct military conflict.
With this in mind, perhaps it would have been more to the talk show host’s benefit to have listened carefully to a man, in Oliver Stone, who has experienced combat, and who does have first-hand experience of a devastating war unleashed in the cause of the very national exceptionalism previously described.
A Russian citizen accused of being a hacker by both Russia and the U.S. has claimed U.S. officials offered to cut him a deal if he admitted to interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Yevgeniy Nikulin, 29, has found himself in the middle of an international dispute between Washington and Moscow, at the very center of which lies U.S. allegations that Russia sponsored a series of hacks targeting Democratic Party candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in favor of Republican candidate and current President Donald Trump.
Nikulin was detained in the Czech Republic for allegedly hacking the servers of major sites LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring between 2012 and 2013. While awaiting trial, he claims in an undated letter reportedly given to U.S. Russian-language news site Nastoyashchoe Vremya by Nikulin’s lawyer, Martin Sadilek, that the FBI visited him at least a couple of times, offering to drop the charges and grant him U.S. citizenship as well as cash and an apartment in the U.S. if the Russian national confessed to participating in the 2016 hacks of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta’s emails in July.
“[They told me:] you will have to confess to breaking into Clinton’s inbox for [U.S. President Donald Trump] on behalf of [Russian President Vladimir Putin],” Nikulin wrote, according to The Moscow Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, doubtlessly having reached his fill of mudslinging by the U.S. political establishment — which insists Russia tampered, somehow, in the presidential election to throw the election in favor of Donald Trump — reiterated to filmmaker Oliver Stone in an interview those yet-unproven allegations amount to the United States pompously throwing stones from inside a glass house.
Perhaps Washingtonian pols would appreciate a reminder from their constituents that election rigging has traditionally been a two-or-more-way street — and the pomposity of mounting a political high-horse on the topic is little more than farcical façade covering guilt over similar or worse tactics in a succession of years.