Facts may speak for themselves or through an interpreter. However, these days no one listens either way – ours is an age of ideology, not truth.
Having discarded the only truth that can be seen as absolute, people have settled for a raft of relativistic simulacra. Yet the passion with which they used to worship the truth has morphed into the fervour with which they cling to their ideological falsehoods.
The nature of an ideology doesn’t matter: they’re all false by definition. None of them can stand up even to cursory examination, never mind scrutiny. Regarded in the cold light of intellectual rigour, they all show faults and fissures.
At best, ideologists’ thinking is a curate’s egg. They may sound coherent on some subjects, yet talk gibberish on others. That’s how one knows they proceed from an ideology, not a sound moral and philosophical system.
Therefore I’m often scathing about the so-called Western conservatives who admire Putin’s Russia. This ipso facto means that their conservatism is but an ill-considered gonadal ideology, not the upshot of a lifelong contemplation of God, man and the world the former created and the latter inhabits.
An ideology is immune to facts. Facts might have been stubborn things to John Adams, but Stalin, propagator of the most evil ideology the devil has ever disgorged, put him right: “If facts are stubborn things,” he said, “then so much the worse for facts”.
For all that, when writing about Putin, Stalin’s able disciple, I continue to cite facts – this in the full knowledge that the armour of ideology is impervious to chinks.
But for those who aren’t fully paid-up members of the Putin fan club, the small fact I’m about to cite may trigger an inductive process at the end of which truth will emerge.
The Levada Centre, Russia’s sole half-credible polling organisation, has conducted an extensive survey asking respondents to identify the 20 most outstanding figures in world history, as distinct from just Russian history.
Yet just three outlanders made it to the list, and then only close to the bottom: Napoleon (fourteenth place), Einstein (sixteenth) and Newton (nineteenth). That by itself is telling: according to the Russians, their country has practically monopolised human greatness, with no close seconds.
This is rather parochial, not to say deeply provincial. But then Russia is provincial, hugging the outskirts of both European and Asian civilisations, not really belonging to either and, according to her first philosopher Pyotr Chaadayev (d. 1856), combining the worst traits of both.
Hence such ethnocentricity is to be expected, as it would be expected from the US, another land stuck at the margins of Western culture. However, should Americans be asked to compile a similar list, it may include mostly Americans but, at a guess, no evil Americans. George Washington would make it, but the Boston Strangler wouldn’t.
The Russians are different. Their top five choices include four mass murderers. First place, Stalin, chosen by 38 per cent. Tied for second and third, Putin and Pushkin, 34 per cent each. Fourth, Lenin, 32 per cent. Fifth, Peter I, 29 per cent.
Pushkin found himself in this company for the same reason Shakespeare would make the English list: he has been canonised as Russia’s greatest poet and co-creator of her literary language. Hence he dominates school curricula and is the first, sometimes the only, name coming to mind when a Russian is asked to name a great cultural figure.
Peter was another mass murderer who used traditional Russian methods to “chop a window into Europe”, succeeding mostly in chopping off a pile of heads, many, including his own son’s, with his own axe. Still, it’s possible to argue about Peter’s merits and demerits.
No such arguments are, or should be, possible about the other three frontrunners. Lenin and Stalin created the most satanic regime in history and waged war not just on the West but above all on their own people, murdering 60 million and enslaving the rest.
Where inductive reasoning would come in handy is in imagining the volume of nauseatingly cloying, non-stop totalitarian propaganda required to corrupt people’s minds so deeply that they come up with a list like this.
Dr Goebbels, the acknowledged master of the genre, is a rank amateur compared to Putin’s Goebbelses, all those Kisilevs, Soloviovs and Surkovs. Any meaningful opposition to their effluvia destroyed or at least marginalised, they run unopposed in their concerted effort to warp Russian minds.
Just like Soviet Goebbelses in the 1930s, who screamed themselves hoarse that “Stalin is today’s Lenin”, Putin’s Goebbelses communicate loud and clear that Putin is today’s Stalin.
Stalin? Murderer of millions? Enslaver of the whole population? Creator of deadly artificial famines? Builder of a vast system of concentration camps, who effectively turned the whole country and half the world into one giant concentration camp?
No, the Stalin reincarnated in Putin isn’t as he was but as he’s portrayed in Russian history books: effective, if at times stern, manager; vanquisher of Hitler; loving, if at times wrathful, demiurge; father of his people.
The Russian Goebbelses are right: Putin is indeed today’s Stalin. True, he hasn’t yet achieved the same level of violent repression, although that may yet come.
But typologically he’s a similar figure: an evil tyrant who viscerally hates the West and uses rabble-rousing to shove down the people’s throats a peculiar combination of Russian chauvinism, fascism, militarisation and kleptocracy – all wrapped up in a tissue of lies about democracy, free enterprise and the unmatched spirituality of Holy Russia.
Wholly Russia indeed, ever susceptible to Putin types, never having really known anything much better. It’s baffling, though, how some Westerners swallow the same canards, cheering the vertically challenged KGB Lt. Col., not realising that this nonentity isn’t a leader of his country but its reflection, puppet and puppet master rolled into one.