Western Putinism: an attempt at clinical diagnosis

PeterHitchensUntil now I’ve always maintained that Westerners extolling the virtues of KGB kleptofascism, otherwise known as Putin’s Russia, are either fools or knaves.

However, Putinistas’ recent offerings have made me realise that a third possibility exists: many are deluded or, in the medical parlance, bonkers. This clinical condition has its own aetiology and symptoms.

First compare these two contradictory, indeed mutually exclusive, statements.

Statement 1: “I have no illusions about Mr Putin’s Russia. It is a sinister tyranny where those who challenge the president’s power or expose his wrongdoing suffer very nasty fates.”

Statement 2: “Mr Putin’s Russia [is] now astonishingly the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.”

It’s clear that these sentences couldn’t have come from the same sane person. “A sinister tyranny” can’t be “the most conservative and Christian country”, although it could be patriotic – especially if the term is used broadly, also to include jingoism.

It could conceivably be the same person if the two sentences were years apart. One could imagine that the author first had one opinion of Putin’s Russia, but then, upon mature deliberation, changed it later.

Yet we’re discussing not a man’s intellectual development but a patient’s clinical symptoms. For the two statements were indeed uttered by the same man, Peter Hitchens. And rather than being years apart, they came in the same short article.

Having diagnosed a delusional disorder, let’s consider its aetiology. One observes that, like many such sufferers, nutters in the medical parlance, the patient makes sense on most other subjects.

In fact, this clinical picture is widespread among conservatives: they’re driven mad by modernity with its totalitarian glossocratic urge to punish anyone going against the PC grain.

My book How the West Was Lost shows that I too have been exposed to the same triggers that produce delusions in so many others. In fact, I argue that all modern governments are at least latently totalitarian – with the latency disappearing fast.

But at least I don’t maniacally search for virtue in a kleptofascist regime resulting from history’s unique blend of secret police and organised crime, one the patient himself describes as “a sinister tyranny”.

One can sympathise with this condition. Conservative people are so called because they wish to preserve everything lovable in the West. One can understand how we can be driven to despair (round the bend, in the medical parlance) watching everything we love being wantonly destroyed.

It’s also understandable that some should seek a model the West could follow to get back to normality. Alas, many are deluded into believing that such a model can be found in a regime that has murdered, among many others, hundreds of journalists.

The clinical picture becomes complete when the patient adds delirium to delusions by trying to explain his mania:

“You have no need to guard your tongue as you did in the communist days, when a poem could get you executed and a joke could send you to an Arctic labour camp for 20 years. I saw all that filth end, in person, and rejoiced to see it go…”

Unlike Hitchens, I grew up “in the communist days” of the 1960s. Though my friends and I constantly swapped anti-Soviet jokes, no one was sent “to an Arctic labour camp for 20 years”. Actually, the maximum prison term in the USSR at the time was 15 years. The one up from that was execution, and no one suffered it at the time for telling jokes or indeed writing a poem.

A situation he describes did exist under Stalin, but, for chronological reasons, the patient couldn’t have seen it “in person”. He worryingly seems to think he did, but then we’ve already diagnosed a delusional disorder.

This is not to vindicate Brezhnev’s Russia – it was indeed filth, a softened version of the worst tyranny ever. But, while some writers and dissidents were imprisoned then, they weren’t murdered en masse as they are in Putin’s Russia.

And Christian? It’s as true as it’s upsetting that the West is no longer Christian. But it’s sheer madness to think Russia is.

Putin has whipped up a chauvinistic imperial psychosis, to replace the discarded communist ideology. Russian imperialism has traditionally had a Third Rome theocratic dimension, and this has been incorporated into Putinism, next to money laundering.

The church, whose whole hierarchy, including the patriarch (‘Agent Mikhailov’ in KGB reports), is made up of lifelong KGB agents, plays along. Under its indoctrination, many people are using Christian noises to fill the deafening vacuum of their lives.

But church attendance in Russia is lower even than in England. And many of those church-goers espouse heretical creeds like Seventh Day Adventism or Pentecostalism, which sane persons wouldn’t readily describe as exactly Christian.

Russian conservatism the patient blabbers about is only found among a few intellectuals whose websites Putin has blocked. Among the governing elite (85 per cent of which are KGB officers) it survives only as conservative estimates of their purloined wealth laundered through tax havens. Putin’s personal wealth is thus conservatively estimated at $40 billion, whereas the more liberal, and probably truer, estimates are three times as high.

There we have it: the symptoms and the aetiology, but alas no cure. I’d suggest the patient should avoid this subject altogether, lest he might harm himself as much as his deranged musings are harming others.





1 thought on “Western Putinism: an attempt at clinical diagnosis”

  1. I have grown to like Peter Hitchens’ writing, and on many other social issues he and yourself would probably not be too far apart. So the two of you disagreeing over Russia is interesting. Obviously, his experiences and understanding of the country are so dwarfed by your own (I don’t think he even speaks the language) that I treat his view as the aberrant one. I offer two hints (gleaned purely from his journalism – my knowledge of the country is entirely second-hand) as to why this may be.

    First, he deplores UK/European intervention in quarrels that have little to do with us. He thinks Blair and Cameron were mad to get involved in Middle-Eastern wars, and fears the same problems were the EU to push Putin over Ukraine or Syria or human rights. He sees Putin as a very tough foreign policy realist who is impervious to any “pressure” we might pretend to exert on him, and in defence of this position has a tendency to talk up Putin’s virtues.

    Second, Hitchens has often written of his admiration for ordinary Russians, and this is something most Brits can understand. Older people remember their parents praising Russia’s role in the war, and most “ordinary” Russian ex-pats do seem likeable. If he is misrepresenting the current social situation (Christianity, conservatism, patriotism) my guess is that he is extrapolating from friendships made and kindnesses offered to him when he was a journalist. He is joining up the dots, but he simply doesn’t have enough of them to create an accurate picture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.