The Secret American Subculture of Putin-Worshippers

Photo: (CC)

Photo: (CC)

The disinformation® website was originally tagged as “The Subculture Search Engine” (back in 1996), so we like to think we know something about American subcultures. Putin-Worship caught us somewhat by surprise, however. Marin Cogan profiles the worshippers for National Journal:

Two years ago, Gayne C. Young, a Texas-based writer and blogger for Outdoor Life, scored the interview of a lifetime. As a beat writer, Young had enjoyed the outdoor exploits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been documented shooting a gray whale with a crossbow, tranquilizing a tiger attacking a news crew, hunting shirtless, fishing shirtless, and riding horseback shirtless. On a personal level, Young liked the rugged brand of masculinity that seemed a throwback to Teddy Roosevelt. “Although you have Clinton shooting ducks, you never see it. Although Rick Perry says he enjoys hunting, you don’t see it. They say they do, but they don’t. Obama says he shoots skeet, but they only released one picture,” Young says. “Here’s a guy out there fishing, with no qualms. He’s like, ‘You don’t like it? Tough.’ Then he’d escalate and do more.”

His posts on Putin brought in great traffic, so his editor kept encouraging him to escalate. Soon, Young was declaring his “man crush” on the Russian president. (“I hate to use that word, especially on a hunting website,” he admits.) He called the Russian consulate, flirted with the right secretary, and went through “hoop after hoop after hoop” until, one Friday, a press attaché called and told him the president wanted his questions in the next 20 minutes.

Young scrambled and sent something over. Six weeks later, Putin replied with an almost unbelievable 8,000-word missive—covering everything from tiger conservation to his favorite works of Hemingway to the innate frailty of human life. He lectured on the similarities between Russians and Americans, and demurred from answering Young’s friendliest questions. (“Are you the coolest man in politics?”) “People really liked him, at least on our comments section on Outdoor Life,” Young says. “Given the demographics of the readership, most are die-hard Republicans,” and when they saw Putin hunting, he says, “they were like, ‘Obama wouldn’t do that.’ ”

Putinphilia is not, of course, the predominant position of the conservative movement. But in certain corners of the Internet, adoration for the leader of America’s No. 1 frenemy is unexceptional. They are not his countrymen, Russian expats, or any of the other regional allies you might expect to find allied with the Russian leader. Some, like Young and his readers, are earnest outdoorsy types who like Putin’s Rough Rider sensibility. Others more cheekily admire Putin’s cult of masculinity and claim relative indifference to the political stances—the anti-Americanism, the support for leaders like Bashar al-Assad, the oppression of minorities, gays, journalists, dissidents, independent-minded oligarchs—that drive most Americans mad. A few even arrive at their Putin admiration through a strange brew of antipathy to everything they think President Obama stands for, a reflexive distrust of what the government and media tells them, and political beliefs that go unrepresented by either of the main American political parties…

[continues at National Journal]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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34 Comments on "The Secret American Subculture of Putin-Worshippers"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Sep 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm |

    Putin’s a posturing macho asshole. I know guys like that, I want to take a bat to them.

  2. Dan Muench | Sep 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

    This would be a great time to mention the awesomeness that is Vladimir Putin – Action Comics!

  3. Reminds me the series of memes of Putin walking away from things looking like they should explode.

  4. Ted Heistman | Sep 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

    I know everyone says he’s over-compensating, but isn’t that about pretending to be who you are not? What if he really is a barbarian? This is Russia we are talking about.

  5. Adam's Shadow | Sep 23, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

    Putin is an autocratic, murderous thug, but he’s also a sixth dan in Judo. Which is badass.

    • Bruteloop | Sep 24, 2013 at 5:51 am |

      Kind of makes you wonder when was the last time he actually had a fight in which his opponent didn’t at least even momentarily think ‘maybe I should throw this one?’.

  6. There’s nothing strange or enigmatic here. Fascism is all about the personal magnetism of a strong leader who “gets things done.” It’s easy to fall into it if you haven’t, you know, bothered to pick up a history book in the course of your backwoods, inbred life.

    • Craig Bickford | Sep 23, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

      How is that the definition of fascism?

      fas·cism noun ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-

      : a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government

      : very harsh control or authority

      Full Definition of FASCISM


      often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralizedautocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition


      : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

      • I think you’re taking me a little to literally…although all you’ve posted above could be fairly said of Putin.

        Looking at the most famous fascist dictators in history, it’s clear that a cult of personality is an essential element of their rule. The fascist doesn’t just “get things done,” he gets things done because he exhibits character traits that the average person identifies with.

        We see fascism mirrored in certain modern superhero comics, like Batman. Putin’s propaganda has it that he’s a charismatic, hyper-Russian, hyper-masculine uber-man who can restore order to the Russian state in a way that no Parliament of comb-over bureaucrats could hope to emulate. They do a news story about him diving in a lake..he comes up from the water holding precious ancient artifacts, etc.

        What’s seductive about Putin is what was seductive about other dictators throughout history…to be fair, not all of them fascist (e.g., Stalin)…but Americans *should* know better.

        • kowalityjesus | Sep 24, 2013 at 1:40 am |

          Putin’s PR essays are very kitschy, but if hard reality were all that people were looking for, why would theatre have persisted to the present day? Personally, (call me a sucker for camp, but) I think it lends him substance, and kicks the shit out of the hot air that most any other politician belches. (I’m thinking of ole slim in office) At least Kerry windsurfs. The less that a person in office is ostensibly ‘interested in’, the easier it is for me to project a dimension of uncoolness, bald hypocrisy, or abject evil onto them.

  7. BuzzCoastin | Sep 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

    I sell the things you need to be
    I’m the smiling face on your tv
    I’m the cult of personality
    I exploit you, still you love me
    I tell you one and one makes three
    I’m the cult of personality
    Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi
    I’m the cult of personality
    The cult of personality
    The cult of personality

  8. Chugs Rodiguez | Sep 24, 2013 at 12:47 am |

    i’d dare say that though Putin is posturing for a domestic audience (i’m part Russian and my mother studies Russia and its language). Apparently its very Russian and acceptable show everyone how macho you are.

    But that’s the thing, I don’t think Putin is doing it 100% as a show. I think he truly likes doing this sort of stuff.

    Every leader has their personal flavour, the value they use to seperate themselves from their opponents and to illustrate some sort of principle they believe through their actions.

    Its clear that Putin, a product of his society is simply reflecting the values that he truly holds.

    Its clear the guy hates meetings and shit like that (he falls asleep during them) and is very much like G.W Bush in lovin the outdoors.

    Indeed who doesn’t love the outdoors. Fuck i’d love to be a hermit living in a rain forest making honey and hunting crocs. Who wouldn’t?

    • Bruteloop | Sep 24, 2013 at 5:54 am |

      It’s pretty American and acceptable to show how macho you are. In fact, it seems to be fairly popular in the UK as well We need a cross dressing head of state sometime soon.

      • Cortacespedes | Sep 24, 2013 at 11:16 pm |

        It’s already been done. His name was Margaret Thatcher, if I remember correctly. Ronald Reagan’s separated at birth twin.

        • Bruteloop | Sep 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm |

          But she was a woman doing macho.
          I meant a man doing otherwise. Basically anyone that pisses off the chest beaters

  9. jasonpaulhayes | Sep 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |

    Hitler is damn near a Christian saint in parts of the American south. Conservatives largely ignore borders and promote a sort of Christian proto-communism, should they be the majority that accept living under the umbrella term “Christian”… which is laughable because of the thousands of sub-sects in the world and the obvious differences in moral codes. Look back to American conservative attitudes toward Nazism during the majority of WWII and their willingness to invest in the “Nazi War Machine” because they knew god damn well the Nazis had a Concordance with the Vatican. They lent support to the root ideologies and took it way further than Charles Manson and his perception of the Nazis as merely leveling a Karmic balancing of the Jewish investment class.

    This is a direct result of the rekindled relationship between the Christian Church, The Russian Federation and Free Market Capitalism. It’s illegal to be Gay, Jewish or think for yourself in Russia… so of course American conservatives jerk-off to an image of Putin and his man titties, they love it. It’s a reminder, to the least of Americans, of an world they long to go back to yet they just cant accept… that option no longer exists for them, not anymore.

    • “. . . American conservatives jerk-off to an image of Putin and his man titties, they love it.” Nailed it. Lol:)

  10. Liam_McGonagle | Sep 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |

    It’s easy to see why Americans and Russians hate each other so much. They resemble each other pretty closely.

  11. Apathesis | Sep 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    I laughed.

    And yes, I am well aware how bad the dude is.

  12. I am a bad American – I think Putin is hot. And I feel guilty about it… but I can’t stop. Putin should spank me.

  13. Here’s the OL interview:

    Favorite part:

    OUTDOOR LIFE: Do you think the Russian people are more open-minded about sports such as hunting and fishing, or have Americans just become hypersensitive?

    PUTIN: I think this question should rather be addressed to a professional psychoanalyst.

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