One Of These Things Is Just Like The Other

A few days ago, Vladimir Putin, “president” of Russia, held a rally for himself. In a stadium that holds 81,000 people, he and his state media later claimed there were 200,000 enthusiastic attendees. Something like that has never, could never happen here. Nor would the equivalent of millions of Putinists ever believe easily refuted lies from an American “president.” It’s unimaginable.

Behind Comrade Putin were signs praising his brave fight against “Naziism,” a false claim made repeatedly from the stage as well as before and after the rally. This is also something that has never, could never happen here: a “president” so unironically insisting something is true when it’s clearly not. Nor would we ever see American leaders advocating, as is currently happening in Russia, for teaching the equivalent of Putin’s falsehoods in schools while outlawing truth-telling. Especially not in any red state. We’re lucky that way.

Putin also railed against people he defined as enemies and traitors; namely, Russians who don’t agree with him. Implying they should be locked up, he fed the crowd scapegoats for his own failings, stoking their easily-manipulated, innate fears and hatreds. Later, he fired and arrested several high-ranking military and intelligence officers, over his own Ukraine debacle.

We cannot think of examples or even imagine an analogous set of circumstances in America, with our Constitutionally-mandated separation of equal branches of government, and a Congress fully committed to checking and balancing any “president” who’d seek unrestrained power by repeatedly lying and ignoring the law, firing members of the Department of Justice who insisted on following it. No way. Not here. Someone like that couldn’t even be nominated by a “conservative” party, much less become “president.” Good for us.

In the United States of America, where education and the ability to think for oneself are among the immutable values on which democracy depends, millions of citizens could never fall victim to such undisguised disinformation. There’s no way media would spring up, dedicated to amplifying the lies across all platforms. As we witness the unmistakable components of maintaining tyranny on display in Russia, resulting in the horrors in Ukraine, we rejoice at how steadfast are our leaders and media, right and further-right, past and present, in rejecting comparable threats to democracy here.

Or not. Putin and Trump aren’t just analogous: they’re carbon copies, as are their media. The only difference is that now, in Russia, real news has been effectively squelched. Most Russians will never see or hear it; those who do will have had to resort to short-wave BBC broadcasts and the occasional, breakthrough hack of state media. In the US, all that’s necessary, so far, anyway, is to change channels. But since that’s inconsistent with maintaining the make-believe Trumpist worldview, it’s not happening. Even with the consequences so clearly on display overseas.

How did Putin manage to inhabit Trump so successfully? Was it merely recognizing that Trump craves flattery so desperately that he’d do anything after getting it, or something bribe-worthy? Whatever the reasons, in his four years Trump gave Putin much of what he wanted; including lifting sanctions on his pals, handing him Syria, attempting to weaken NATO, making oil great again, and threatening to withhold weapons from Ukraine unless President Zelensky claimed to be investigating family Biden. Every single Republican member of Congress, save one, voted to let him off the hook.

It’s reported that many of the people attending Putin’s rally were there under threat. Similarly, it’s likely that many in Russian media push the party line out of fear of consequences if they don’t. Which isn’t the case with Fox “news” and its star griftnesses. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, Pirro; they’ve all been repeating Russian talking points nearly word for word, without evidence of being forced. So much so that Putin is demanding his media feature their words as often as possible. As we struggle to understand this Foxian defense of a global adversary and brutal dictatorship, we may have gained unexpected insight, thanks to Putin’s Trump-like rally.

Some may suppress it, or rationalize it, or have never even thought about it, but the similarities between Putin and Trump (and, much more so, future Trump if we let it happen again) are now undeniable. Which means that if Foxworld — including many Congressional Rs — were to criticize Putin, it would equate to criticizing Trump, a bolshoi nyet-nyet. Doing so would call attention to their interchangeability. So they don’t.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? More than believing it’s about hating the equalizing potential of democracy and wishing for a home-grown dictator who’ll enrich and protect them and get rid of liberals.




Retired surgeon. Published author. Blogger. Columnist. Losing hope that American democracy can survive Republican attempts to end it.

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Sid Schwab

Retired surgeon. Published author. Blogger. Columnist. Losing hope that American democracy can survive Republican attempts to end it.