Thanks to Fausta for bringing it to our attention that Time magazine has named Vladimir Putin their “Man of the Year”.
When I looked at the story on Time’s website, I thought at first it must be some kind of satire, like the Onion version of the “Man of the Year”.
First there’s the photo of Vlad looking like an ineptly-sculpted dummy at Madame Tussaud’s. Or is he auditioning for the part of the corpse in an Agatha Christie production? In any case, his cadaverous appearance makes it look like he was propped up in a chair in the funeral parlor for family viewing night.
Then there’s the title of the story: “A Tsar is Born”. Great gag! Wish I’d thought of that one.
And the prose in the story itself — surely this is deadpan satire at its finest…?
No one is born with a stare like Vladimir Putin’s. The Russian President’s pale blue eyes are so cool, so devoid of emotion that the stare must have begun as an affect, the gesture of someone who understood that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking. The affect is now seamless, which makes talking to the Russian President not just exhausting but often chilling. It’s a gaze that says, I’m in charge.
There’s something about an American opinion magazine that loves a Russian despot. ’Twas ever thus.
When you arrive at the dacha’s faux-neoclassical gate, you have to leave your car and hop into one of the Kremlin’s vehicles that slowly wind their way through a silent forest of snow-tipped firs. Aides warn you not to stray, lest you tempt the snipers positioned in the shadows around the compound…
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Vladimir Putin gives a first impression of contained power: he is compact and moves stiffly but efficiently. He is fit, thanks to years spent honing his black-belt judo skills and, these days, early-morning swims of an hour or more… The successor to the boozy and ultimately tragic Boris Yeltsin, Putin is temperate, sipping his wine only when the protocol of toasts and greetings requires it; mostly he just twirls the Montrachet in his glass. He eats little, though he twitchily picks the crusts off the bread rolls on his plate.
Whatever happened to the suave, jazz-loving, sportscar-driving men of the world featured in Time puff-pieces during the Soviet years?
Now we have to settle for steely-eyed twitchy KGB veterans. Well, as long as they’re Russian autocrats, we still love ’em.
Here’s how the AP summarizes Vlad the Twitchy’s moment in the media sun:
The nod went to the Russian leader because of Putin’s “extraordinary feat of leadership in taking a country that was in chaos and bringing it stability,” said Richard Stengel, Time’s managing editor.
Ah, stability. The perennial favorite of the diplomat class. Was James Baker on the selection committee at Time?
As Fausta points out, Cuba is nice and stable. So is North Korea. How come Fidel and Kim Jong-il were left standing at the church door?
Putin probably makes the trains run on time, too. Was Mussolini “Man of the Year” in 1923?