Putin: Stationery. Biden: Stationary.

How a candid moment in a studio highlights the difference between two world leaders.

It might not be considered in good taste to highlight the failings of an old man in public, but that’s not really what I’m about to do here. Rather I’m going to use the abilities of a different elderly gentleman to highlight the failings of an old man in public. A hair’s breadth of distinction which I presume will prevent a barrage of abuse by representatives of old folks’ trade unions if such things even exist.

Quite recently, innocent, seemingly meaningless footage emerged of a scene in Moscow where Vladimir Putin was preparing for a virtual meeting.

Bear with me as I go off on a bit of a tangent for a moment, but one thing that we need to point out is that Vladimir Putin’s name has not, to my knowledge, ever been pronounced in the outlets of Western media (certainly not in the Anglo-Saxon media) correctly.

I mention this simply as an indication of how media bosses in the UK and the USA have long conspired to decide things for their customers rather than bother them with having to make their own minds up. Due to the pronunciation restrictions of English, for example, countless problems exist with the transcription of names originally written in Cyrillic letters. In the West there are still ongoing fights about how the name of the Russian guy who wrote The Nutcracker should be transcribed. Tchaikovsky, Tschaikowsky, Chaikovskii, Chaykovskiy, the list goes on for longer than you would think necessary. Perhaps we should just refer to him as Mr Nutcracker, or ‘The Nutcracker bloke’. Just an idea.

Now, Putin’s name, as far as the West is concerned is the sum of two English words: ‘put’ and ‘in’, nothing more.

There is no concept of the soft consonant which has been transcribed as a hard t. The reason I mention this is that it provides an insight into Western media. There are Western journalists who speak Russian, people who have been Russian correspondents for newspapers and TV stations, who have lived for many years in Russia. But when they speak on TV, they pronounce, in this case, Putin’s name incorrectly, knowing that they can say it correctly, but aware that this would cause their audience to have a mental breakdown. No doubt, these correspondents have argued to be allowed to pronounce things correctly but no... it’s been too long done the wrong way, and to change now would cause mental distress. Who said the media lacks control?

Anyway, back to Putin. The video footage in question featured Putin shuffling some papers on a desk, at which point, his pencil started to roll towards the edge of the table. Quick as a flash, he reached out and stopped it from rolling off the table onto the floor. Not an interesting video in any way, shape, or form, but one which a Russian news channel featured as a ‘filler’ for the evening news. It must have a been a slow day for telly.

Now, this story was picked up by Western media, and the journalists who presented the story were torn to pieces because of it. Roasted because various Western media outlets chose to see no irony in the conversation that accompanied the news clip.

In an article published by The Daily Mail, the journalists were derided as “fawning” “sycophants”.

Determinedly unable to detect the smiles on the faces of the journalists, the Mail chose to not get the joke.

Fine, The Daily Mail is naturally free to report things as it sees fit, but there are other issues at play here, too. However, it goes deeper than that; like many media outlets in the West, the Mail regularly seeks to ensure that people see Russians, in fact anyone from further East than an imaginary line in the centre of Europe, as different to themselves.

Ask a Brit whether the Russians are European, and you might be surprised at how many people answer in the negative. Growing up in Britain, my generation were led to believe that the Russians weren’t, in fact, European. This, it has to be said, is something that can only be achieved in a country which consistently fails as far as geography and history are concerned.

Aged 14, we were taught that Europe consisted of four countries: France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These were the most important trading partners for Britain and so, it was decided that only these four needed to be identified. As for what lay beyond Germany, we were told: “The Soviet Union”.

Should we ignore the fact that no distinction was made between continental Europe and the UK? Should we let slide the fact that a bucketful of countries was left out? This was British education in the 1980s, and it followed what went before and what continues to influence public opinion.

By neglecting to teach that the Urals are the dividing line between Europe and Asia, and further by not pointing out that racial characteristics provide evidence of someone’s origins, the Western world only sees geography in political terms.

This follows from the decades of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was the enemy and no stone, not even a pebble was left unturned in the drive to present all people connected, willingly or not, to that political bloc as something ‘other’. Located in Europe, but not really European, not European in the same way that Western Europe is. That bigotry is maintained today as much as it was at the height of the cold war.

Western Europeans, led by Western European politicians and the media, are of the opinion that East of a certain point the people aren’t really European. They might not say it, but they think it.

In the video, it’s quite obvious that the two hosts are not fawning over Putin’s judo skills and the results on his reflexes, but it’s another chance for Western media to reinforce the idea that ‘they’ are nothing like ‘us’. And it works. This tactic has been utilised for many, many decades. Suspicion of certain groups of people has been encouraged by the West, even as the businessmen and women of the West, along with their governments, have made sure that they’re there doing deals to make as much money as they can.

But, is the Western media really so different, so much more discerning in its coverage? No, not at all.

Whilst relentlessly pushing the idea of a colossus standing astride the globe focusing attention on evil-doers for Western governments to condemn and potentially ruin, the media in the United States, for example, has its own fawning fan clubs.

“All the time Joe Biden’s love for ice cream melted our hearts.”

“Most people know her as Jill Biden. But to some she is Dr. B, the compassionate and challenging educator who went the extra mile.”

“Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills.”

“HEALER IN CHIEF: A sombre Joe Biden speaks at the Lincoln Memorial on covid.” “To heal, we must remember. It’s hard. But that’s how we heal. It is important we do that as a nation. That’s why we are here today,” he says, sounding much more presidential than the current president.”

And the last, potentially the best of all. An example that could be used to define the act of fawning upon someone. Someone who has the temerity to call himself a journalist allowed these connected bubbles of rainbow-flavoured unicorn poo to drop from his lips on CNN:

“Those lights that are...that are just shooting out from the Lincoln Memorial, along the reflecting pool. It’s like almost extensions of Joe Biden’s arms, embracing America. It was a moment where the new president came to town, and sort of convened the country in this moment of remembrance, outstretching his arms. And contrast that with that video you just saw of a disgraced president on his way out at his lowest point in his presidency.”

My God! That was atrocious! The Russians were having a giggle, the Americans were gushing about a new God coming to deliver them from all the bad things in the galaxy. That’s not journalism, that’s something else. Something hagiographic.

But back to the real world:

Putin and a pencil.

Biden and a set of stairs.

Honestly, fawning journalism aside, which one would you vote for, the one who can handle stationery, or the one who’s only safe when he’s stationary?