I’m Not a Clinical Psychologist – But I Play One on TV

Uncle Volodya says, "Lyudmila and I danced to "Periferiya" at our wedding"

Every once in awhile, you come across something on the Internet that you have to read twice, just to assure yourself that it really is as bizarrely crazy as it appeared on the first reading. Such is Vladimir Pastukhov’s recent piece for Open Democracy, “Putin: on the Shifting Sands of Doubt”.

I realize, of course, that this is an opinion piece. But there are certain standards an opinion piece should meet if one is to be taken seriously. The writer should know something about the field he or she is discussing, or have researched it. You wouldn’t be much interested in reading an article written by, say, an accountant who professed to be a stranger to the forest, but who wanted to tell you which mushrooms you could eat without being poisoned. Pastukhov adheres to this principle at first, suggesting that Mr. Putin’s mental state is not for him to say, as he is not a psychoanalyst. He then proceeds to give us insight after insight on Mr. Putin’s mental landscape, all of which he discerned from reading a newspaper article written about Mr. Putin!

Mr. Putin is tired, we learn, and in “a state of permanent and severe stress”. How, exactly, would you learn that from reading a written record of his remarks in a newspaper? Assuming of course, that he didn’t say, “I am tired, and in a state of permanent and severe stress”? But Pastukhov doesn’t stop there – oh, no; he not only disgnoses Mr. Putin’s fatigue and stress, but provides their cause – Mr. Putin is lonely: alienated, and unable to trust.

If you threw the article across the room at that point (figuratively speaking, as it’s on your computer monitor), you missed a treat, because it got better. Mr. Pastukhov skips gaily from analysis to analysis; Mr. Putin is irritated and offended, we are told, by the people’s ingratitude. He is frightened, which causes him to express his suppressed fear in unmotivated aggression. I could actually feel myself getting stupider as I read on.

At the point where Mr. Pastukhov began to expound on Putin’s having turned into a bronze statue of himself (not literally) and lost touch with reality, I couldn’t take any more – I felt like sticking a pencil in my eye and twirling it around. Is this, I asked myself, the path the liberal opposition is following in its attempts to cast down Putin?

Mr. Pastukhov admits up front that he is not a psychologist or a psychiatrist duly licensed as such to practice in the Russian Federation, and he is not.  He is a director of research at the Moscow Institute of Law and Public Policy, and an advisor to the Chairman of the Constitutional Court. His background and experience are in law, not in reading tea-leaves. But not even a trained and practiced clinical psychologist can tell you anything reliable about anyone based on reading an article about them, written by someone else, in a newspaper – that sounds more like a psychic on the X Files.

Right, then; let’s sort through this, and see if there’s anything of substance. Mr. Putin is tired, we’re told. To paraphrase John Clees in the British comedy, “Fawlty Towers” – “Maybe we could get you on MasterMind  – our next contestant, Vladimir Pastukhov; special category – the bleeding obvious!” Can you think why the Prime Minister of a country that nearly burned down around his ears just a few weeks ago might be a little weary, perhaps? Maybe he wonders, while you’re sleeping, what a voracious grain consumer like Russia is going to do for wheat this winter, do you suppose? Give your head a shake, and if it falls off, kick it across the room.

We learn next that Mr. Putin is irritated that interviewers are not interested in talking about national goals and aspirations, infrastructure….no, they want to talk about liberal demonstrators being clubbed like baby seals in Newfoundland. I certainly can’t speak for the Prime Minister, but I’d be getting just a little tired of that question myself by now. It must be irritating to see the news cycle captured by protesters who get arrested for breaking the law while they’re protesting  that Russia is not a country of laws. I don’t see how the Prime Minister could make it any clearer – “What is a law-governed state? It is compliance with existing legislation. What does existing legislation say about marches? You need to obtain the authorization of the local organs of government. Did you get it? Go and demonstrate.” Protesters, whipped up by malcontents like Boris Nemtsov, are of the opinion that there is a loophole in the Constitution that permits them to march and protest without a permit. Are there city laws which modify constitutional entitlements? Certainly, in every civilized country. The second amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to keep and bear arms. Can any American who wants to just strap on a gun and wear it into a high school? A police station? A mental hospital?

Another canard I’d like to dispense with is the persistently silly, “He hasn’t heard of Shevchuk”. If he hadn’t, would that disqualify him for the position of Prime Minister? Must every Russian official have “heard of Shevchuk” in order to properly execute his or her duties? How many DDT albums do you own, Mr. Pastukhov? In point of fact, Mr. Putin knows exactly who Shevchuk is. Surely you’re not suggesting the Prime Minister and former President would appear in a public discussion forum with a complete stranger seated two positions to his left? Security alone would prohibit anything of the kind. I’m sure Mr. Putin, like any political leader, receives a comprehensive briefing before all such events, and attendance at the event in which he appeared with Mr. Shevchuk was by invitation. I’m quite sure he saw the guest list.

But that’s as may be. You can see here, in the translation of the exchange, that Shevchuk begins to speak without introducing himself. This is impolite in public-speaking circles, although if I were told that few rock musicians are former diplomats, I’d have a hard time acting surprised. Putin’s “Excuse me, what’s your name?” is plainly an invitation for Shevchuk to introduce himself to the gathering, and is plainly understood to be such – otherwise, his name is Yura Shevchuk Musician.

Finally, in photos taken during the question period, you can clearly see that there are place cards in front of each guest, marked with their name. Presumably, the Prime Minister can read.

Shevchuk’s importance is greatly overrated here. A comparison used on a Russophobic website suggested this was like President Bush not recognizing Bruce Springsteen. Apart from Shevchuk being quite a bit less popular than Springsteen, when Bush was considering a constitutional amendment or a modification to U.S. law, I doubt he phoned Springsteen to solicit his opinion. Russian liberals and their western handlers are making it look like all you need to join the club is to have “heard of Shevchuk” and  be committed to public gatherings without permission.

You’re going to have to do quite a bit better than this, if you want to bring down the Putin/Medvedev government.

This entry was posted in Government, Law and Order, Russia, Shevchuk, Uncategorized, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to I’m Not a Clinical Psychologist – But I Play One on TV

  1. Misha says:

    Pardon the second submission as the first didn’t go thru. Please use this version as the other had at least two grammar hitches that I picked up on.

    Mark, openDemocracy (oD) has been comparatively off the radar of criticism, while getting propped in a number of Russia watching circles, that don’t neatly fit into the “Russophobe” category. From the discussion at your blog that notified you of the oD piece which you’ve deconstructed, I once again note Andrei Zolotov referring to oD as a very respectable London based internet magazine.

    There’s a definite slanted approach at that venue with some quality control issues.

    Under these oD articles, I had some pointed exchanges with Ethan Burger and Adrian Karatnycky:



    There were some beauts under this Sorosian neolib leaning article that made InoSMI:


    Note how highly oD thought of this article on Shevchuk by running it twice within a short time period:


    At this oD article, note how LR is considered a worthy source for info. on Alexander Nevsky:


    The point made in that article about Nevsky is off the mark (no pun intended).

    The posting of dissenting comments at oD as reflecting impartiality isn’t a clear instance of being even-handed. Rather, it suggests that the only serious commentary worthy for article consideration is the slant being favored. Once in a awhile, they’ll let some air out of the tires by running something more along the lines of the general slant of ourselves.

    Mind you, I understand how in Ukraine a venue like The Day Weekly Digest can be slanted to cater to an element of the population there. It’s also true that the Russian based Strategic Culture Foundation has a certain slant (which happens to be more to my liking). In Ukraine and Russia, it’s quite understandable for certain views to be preferred by some analytical opinion sites. On the other hand, note the slant at some of the leading English language venues outside Russia and for that matter in Russia – where on the surface you’d think that a more neutral take would be evident.

    Keeping in mind that the partisan and neutral categories aren’t always so well categorized. Someone without a dog to fight in a dispute can still get duped into favoring one side over the other – whereas a “partisan” individual can show good balance by the manner he/she addresses the other view.

    Be on the lookout for something that should be out shortly.


  2. Yalensis says:

    Whenever I see Shevchuk’s name, I feel like spitting. Right after the August 2008 war Shevchuk performed his song “Ne strelyai” (“Don’t shoot”) to show his opposition to the Russian side in that war (and, by implication, his support for the Gruzians, although I’m not sure he has the balls to come and clearly say so). The fellows he was asking to “not shoot” were NOT the Gruzian aggressors, but the Russian peacekeepers who suddenly found themselves being shot at in a sneak attack! I know that Shevchuk has a right to his peacenik views, but I regard him as kind of a traitor, and I think it was very tolerant of Putin to allow him to attend his banquet. Also, it was rude of Shevchuk to speak without introducing himself. What an ego the guy must have! (I might also criticize the fact that he did not dress appropriately for an official dinner, like wearing a jacket and tie, but maybe that’s just getting picky…)

    • marknesop says:

      I didn’t know that. I have nothing against the peaceniks, and support their aims in principle, but peace and docile acceptance of subjugation are very different things. There is absolutely no doubt, regardless how the russophobes try to muddy the water, that Saakashvili launched an attack right after creating the appearance that he was interested in further talks to negotiate a peaceful solution. It’s debatable whether he thought he had reason to expect western support or what led him to think the attack would be successful, but only a fool or a madman would have done it knowing it would fail.

      I don’t know Shevchuk well, but I respect his interest in peace and assume it’s genuine. If he has a huge ego, you can blame it on the liberal suck-ups who tell him he’s a hero of national prominence, bigger than Putin. If Shevchuk thinks he’s anything other than a means to an end, he’s fooling himself. He should also be aware that getting on TV at a banquet and making a jerk of yourself just discourages the organization from inviting any more jerks.

    • Interesting history, yalensis.
      Makes one wonder if Bush – or hey, even Obama – would invite someone like that over for tea, eh? LOL.

      • mraz says:

        Bush had his people dress up in hardhats when he wanted to look like he was around the blue collars, and lab coats when he wanted to look like he had doctors behind him.

        • marknesop says:

          Bush had an army of consultants who told him what he should wear and how he should pose to achieve the image his team wanted him to project. He was all about image, and his presidency was disappointing to say the least. I find Putin refreshingly spin-free. Oh, when he’s visiting a navy ship he wears an officer’s cap, and I daresay you could find a picture of him in a flight suit like Bush. But he doesn’t seem to need those things as props, and I don’t get the impression he’d rather be somewhere else.

  3. Misha says:

    Recall Obama inviting an academic and Boston area cop to the White House for a beer to discuss a recent spat, which received a good amount of attention.

    Somewhat similarly, the invitation of Shevchuk to the setting with Putin is PR savvy. It has some relationship to how Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live and late night American TV talk shows are utilized by some politicians.

    I’m reminded of a recent documentary showing Nixon’s appearance on CBS’ “Laugh In” show. As believed by some others, one of the key personnel involved with that show said that Nixon’s appearance added decisive votes. for his presidential campaign.

    It’s mentioned at this Wiki link:


  4. It was an interesting experience. I recommend

  5. Pingback: Note to Russians – Tear Your Clothes and Scream More on CNN | The Kremlin Stooge

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