Putin Manhandles Obama in Moscow's Propaganda Art Gallery

There is a picture where Putin hands out a saw and a log to the leaders of Germany and Ukraine, as a way of saying that their countries may have to heat their homes with firewood this winter because Putin has the power to turn off the supply of Russia's gas. The writing on the saw says, "From Russia with love," but it might as well be "Who's your daddy?"

One image depicts Putin as the owner of the Crimea, inviting world leaders to have a pleasant visit. Another one shows world leaders holding signs saying, "Forgive us, Putin," with only the leaders of the U.S., Germany, and Poland talking about sanctions.

At least in two cartoons Putin is pulling Obama's ear. In another, Putin is holding up a cell phone for a selfie, with a defeated Obama behind him. An objective observer might conclude that the Russian leader is just as vain as Obama, but in the eyes of the artist that's obviously a merit. There is a cartoon showing a bare-chested Putin riding a bear with an owl on his shoulder, next to Obama who is riding a donkey, with the American eagle sitting on his head.

There is also a collection of macho images of Vladimir Putin on a wall behind Barack Obama, who is sitting with crossed fingers, hoping those images had been Photoshopped. Of course, the whole world knows that those are real photos -- they had been carefully staged by professional art directors in a project that cost the Russian taxpayers a lot more money than mere computer graphics.

There are many other comparisons between Putin and Obama -- mostly derivative, crude collages that blatantly steal brownie points from American Photoshoppers. Truth be told, in the past this author himself has made quite a few scathing images of Obama, including the unflattering comparisons of our president with Vladimir Putin. However, the fact that Americans are freely ridiculing their own president somehow escapes the "patriotic" Russian artists who promote Putin while depicting his critics as fascists and demons.

Whatever your views of the sitting American president, make no mistake:  Barack Obama is not a factor here. This phenomenon would be happening regardless of who the U.S. president is. If it were Ted Cruz, they'd be making pictures of Putin spanking Ted Cruz. And instead of cleverly helping Republicans to ridicule Obama, the Kremlin's propaganda would be just as cleverly helping the Democrats to ridicule Cruz. In 2016, Obama's face will be simply replaced with that of whoever the next U.S. president will be, Republican or Democrat. And that would be the face reflected in Putin's cool sunglasses in the poster where the Russian president is sticking a pistol barrel into the bloodied mouth of the American president.

In the not-so-distant Soviet past, graphic artists had neither freedom of expression, nor commercial outlets for their creativity. The only game in town left for those who had talent was to work for the state and to create visual propaganda that glorified the party and its leaders, while demonizing the enemies. A few gifted artists went that route, producing unforgettable classics of the genre and brilliantly executing otherwise rotten concepts.

Things are different now. Even with the corrupt and oligarchic version of capitalism that exists in today's Russia, gifted artists have a variety of commercial venues and a much greater freedom of expression -- a situation in which they don't have to sell out to the powers that be. You won't see their names in this gallery. As a matter of fact, this collection represents the scrapings from the bottom of Russia's artistic barrel.

And yet, in spite of its lack of artistic or intellectual insight, this "patriotic" exhibition is a fair representation of the depraved state of mind of millions of zombified Putin's supporters. The straw men they are fighting may be imaginary, but the paranoid worldview of Russia's regime and the crowds behind it is a grim reality to be reckoned with.

See more complete slide shows on Russian websites here and here.  These are only some samples. Click to enlarge:

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