If Vladimir Putin is autistic, I’m Temple Grandin

This tale of geopolitical derp is just the latest cool story to come out of the Pentagon. Marie Antoinette playing peasant while the Real Peasants of the Ile de France (TM) starved only looked bad.

The peanut gallery at Naked Capitalism hit the nail on the head (probably because the Americans do populism better than the French):

As a very young man I spent five years teaching children with autism, so I feel compelled to say the “story” of Putin being remotely diagnosed with autism is nothing less than a fabrication. The story provides no diganostic criteria whatsoever, the body of the text simply assuming the conclusion. Having watched Putin myself, I judge he responds to verbal interactions fluidly, makes eye contact easily and appears quite at ease in social situations. If this man had a case of autism significant enough to diagnose via television, he wouldn’t be able to fake it. (Ben Johannson)

*****

True. Phyllis taught, or performed, if you will, art therapy for ‘damaged’ children at a facility for such. The autistic kids were noticeable in their behaviours. Most of them were expected to have to live with relatives or in quasi institutional settings for life. None of those kids I saw could have managed to succeed in Kremlin politics.
The take away from this, and the other “news” items being planted in our wretched excuse for a MSM now, is that Mr. Putin is, if anything, handling the no longer subtle “death threats” from the West with admirable skill and aplomb. The Western neo-liberal power structure is like the taunting bully in the school yard who, when the chosen ‘victim’ refuses to rise to the bait, doubles down on the provocation. This would all be an item of some interest, but not crucial in any way except for the fact that Russia has the second largest strategic nuclear arsenal in the world. I’m convinced that Putin could handle even something as stupid as the introduction of Theatre Nuclear weapons into Eastern Europe. It’s his subordinates, and the mid level commanders in the field I worry about. All atomic forces have very strict protocols concerning the warheads in their control. Unfortunately, as the mares nest of post Glasnost Soviet atomic materials handling has shown, no system is perfect. The Pentagon is playing with literal fire. (ambrit)
The Court of Versailles has died and risen anew like the phoenix, albeit arguably in a less suave and fetching form, inside the Beltway. Versailles is dead; long live Versailles! The Court has not, however, I repeat, not been reborn inside the MKAD. Vladimir Putin is too sharp and reality-based to allow such a thing to happen on his watch. This is not a man who will let dangerous kooks run Kremlin operations into the ground. The last time a President-level General Secretarial Tsar of all the Russias partied like it was 1999, the year in fact was 1999, and even Boris Yeltsin himself recognized that he was too deep in the sauce and long in the tooth to let that Red Square freak show go on another year. Hence Vladimir “Puty-Poo” Putin.

That’s an American nickname for him, by the way. One of the entertaining, if disturbing, advantages of hereditary rule in a country with powerful republican sentiments is that it occasionally elevates buffoons to the top of the totem pole, in the process stripping them of their residual decorum. Isn’t it a funny country!

Putin has autism? Well hello, then, I’m General Stroganoff. Prithee, m’lady, would you care to partake of my Beef? Vladimir Putin is dead last among prominent world leaders who might possibly have any condition remotely resembling autism. He has a degree of social savvy and aplomb that hardly exists in official Washington. Bill Clinton is the only recent US president to rival Putin’s social competence. He expresses it very differently, of course, but both of them are naturals. Clinton and Putin have to appeal to different cultural touchstones because they’re trying to manipulate very different countries. Clinton is an Arkansan who uses false modesty to pretend to be a down-home caricature of Truman or Eisenhower; Putin is a KGB alumnus who uses (mostly) understated bravado to mimic the synthesis of Soviet Russian Jack Bauer and a hagiography of Peter the Great. Either of these guys makes the average Washington politician look like a tongue-tied empty suit: John Gigolo “Why the Long Face” Kerry, who is no longer in a position to be fired for the sorts of tendentious, condescending comments that cost him the 2004 presidential election; Kerry’s freakish, socially climbing underlings Victoria Nuland and Jen Psaki; most of Congress; Hillary Clinton, whose presidential candidacy, if you think about it, makes more sense as a shell company for the tacit recoronation of her husband in a Cardinal Richelieu capacity, or maybe as a role switch to satisfy constitutional formalities in the two-for-one deal that some observers always thought the Clinton Administration was, than as a campaign to elect Hillary for the sake of electing Hillary. At least with Bill, the general understanding was that the country may have been under the leadership of a sleazy lech, but at least it wasn’t in the vise grip of some buffoon, as long as Ken Starr was kept out of the way.

The point of a Bill Clinton analogy is that Vladimir Putin is an excellent communicator who knows what the fuck he’s doing. Most Americans don’t know that a Putinism, unlike a Bushism, is the polar opposite of a malapropism. My favorite Putinism is one offering to deal with Islamic radicals by having them circumcised in the classic John Wayne Bobbitt style. It translated something like this: “Ours is a religiously pluralistic country, and we also have specialists on that question. I invite anyone who is interested in becoming an Islamic radical to come to Moscow, where our doctors can cut it off in such a way that it will not grow back.” This is, so to speak, a cut above, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

This bizarre autism accusation is part of an extremely troubling trend in Western government circles towards the Manichean splitting of everything in sight into doubleplusgood or doubleplusbad. There are reasons why splitting is a diagnostic criterion for mental disorders. To be at all competent in life, one has to be able to roughly understand one’s adversaries. Being able to distinguish a person’s moral character from his social skills is not too much to ask.

As Westerners, we should be alarmed that our leaders are either unable or unwilling to make such basic distinctions. Our leaders had trouble assessing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, simultaneously dismissing him as a nut and accusing him of being an existential menace to Israel and its allies. More accurately, he was a religious hardliner who was willing to burn some political capital with moderate and liberal Teheranis in order to build political capital with rural conservatives, and he was a much more effective communicator than he appeared at first glance. In these senses, he’s a sort of Iranian George W. Bush. Western leaders were truly idiotic to play into his agenda when they could have stood back and watched him wear out his welcome with his own constituents by saying too much provocative shit; instead, they insisted on displays of belligerence that convinced Iranians that he was more or less right. With Putin, however, the reckless idiocy is even worse, since Putin is a less divisive and more competent leader than Ahmadinejad was. He’s honest and humble enough with the Russian electorate to make a strong case that he is trying but so far largely failing to pull Russia out of an economic catastrophe orchestrated by nefarious Western powers. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies have been screwing the pooch with two major powers whose main goal is to have a thriving oil trade with other countries.

The splitting is on grotesque display in the recent convention of calling any soldier or policeman working on behalf of an approved allied government or quasi-state actor a “hero,” no matter how useless or dishonorable his conduct, and calling anyone who successfully attacks an allied power a “coward.” The Jordanian King, Abdullah II, has gotten in on this Orwellian trend in the scramble to condemn the immolation of air force pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh by ISIS. In point of fact, what ISIS did to him was neither bravery nor cowardice, but psychopathy straight out of hell. Kasasbeh was the sole prisoner in the custody of several heavily armed guards, any of whom could have shot him dead on sight had he resisted or tried to flee. Nothing is gained by calling these men cowards.

On the other hand, much is lost by calling the 9/11 hijackers cowards. It takes great physical courage to fly a jetliner into an office tower on a suicide mission. The courage required has nothing to do with the good or evil of the mission or whether the mission accomplishes its strategic objectives. Courage and cowardice are on a completely separate axis from good and evil, and even on a separate axis from competence and incompetence. Many armies throughout history have sent brave soldiers on strategically disastrous missions, but these are strategy problems, not cowardice problems.

It should be self-explanatory. In post-9/11 America, it apparently isn’t. If anyone with access to nuclear weapons succeeds in having a true Curtis Le May moment in this death-wish standoff with Russia, it will almost certainly be an American. Vladimir Putin and his entourage are the only reliably cool heads in the room. Our officials are the ones who are the hair-trigger offense trolls thrashing around on the geopolitical stage like bulls in a china shop. It’s doubtful that Putin is offended by the autism smear. He’s proficient in English (by some accounts, he’s fluent), and he’s steady-as-she-goes, so he’s probably thinking, holy shit, these people are completely fucking insane, an entire government of unhinged Le May mini-mes and not a JFK in sight. If he’s rattled, it isn’t because we’ve lost our manners; it’s because we’ve lost our minds.

Let’s make beef, not war.

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2 thoughts on “If Vladimir Putin is autistic, I’m Temple Grandin

    • Don’t worry, it’s mostly a function of seasonal unemployment. The torrent will (probably) diminish when I’m called back to the vineyard this spring and find myself passing out from exhaustion during the nightly news again. Because It isn’t just summering; it’s #SummeringAtTheCrossland.

      I hope your main reading project doesn’t suck too much.

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