The PJ Tatler

Taking a Tip from Hitch: Putin's Excellent MacGuffin

The media is aghast that the Russian Dictator-to-Be has banned cursing in the arts. The story is intriguing to both Left and Right largely because of its inherent controversy, but also because of Putin’s attempts to “pose as the defender of Christian civilization” and because of the place Putin’s latest law holds in the ongoing cultural conversation about political correctness.

But what does the seemingly socially idiotic law against vulgarity really mean for Russia? I brought the story to Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa for his take on the cursing ban, popular reaction, and Putin’s apparent attempt to restore traditional Christianity to the West:

I am encouraged by your interest in Putin’s ban on cursing. According to Suetonius and Cassius Dio, Nero sang the “Sack of Ilium” in stage costume while Rome burned, and popular legend claims that he was fiddling at the time — though there were no fiddles in the 1st-century.

Fast forward two thousand years. The international media had been busy day and night dealing with the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-370, while being almost silent as masked KGB/FSB troops were quietly taking over the Crimea. Now the media is busy with Putin’s “ban on cursing” while he is quietly igniting a civil war in Ukraine. This is just another disinformation operation aimed at distracting attention from Putin’s secret efforts to rebuild the Soviet empire and to enthrone himself as tsar. I would not wonder to hear that he will sign a decree prohibiting the public consumption of vodka in Russia when his masked KGB/FSB troops will quietly start to take over.

People and the media understand the “Sack of Ilium” fiddling, airplane highjacking, cursing and drinking a lot better than they understand disinformation, which is clothed in innocuous civilian dress (as were the terrorists on 9/11) and is not easy to be discovered. This makes this “science” the most dangerous weapon of our century.

“I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy,” once stated George W. Bush. “I had looked into Putin’s eyes and I saw a stone-cold killer,” stated former CIA director Robert Gates. In my view, this immense difference is not rooted in American “political correctness,” and it has nothing to do with Putin’s desire to craft himself into the “savior of the Christian Church.” It is the secret, widely unknown “science” of disinformation at work. Knowing it could change night into day.

Alfred Hitchcock embraced a fairly common fictional device known as a MacGuffin, an element upon which the main character in a film is so totally focused that it misdirects their attention away from the real situation at hand. For example,his 1958 film Vertigo was never about the main character’s vertigo, despite the fact that the character was obsessed with and controlled by it throughout the film. The audience, given the advantage of a third person perspective, knows better than the main character and can often see the plot unfold long before the lead catches on.

When we encounter the latest story of Putin’s pariah-like behavior, we are easily outraged. Left or Right, it is easy for us to criticize Putin’s ban on cursing, easier than facing the reality of his dictatorial ambitions head-on. Putin’s silly actions are excellent MacGuffins. I wonder, though, if those in the media who are so quickly outrage realize that they have become the lead characters in a movie written, directed by, and starring this century’s little dictator?

Conquering Disinformation 101: Approach every action with impersonal indifference, understanding that the purveyors of disinformation seek to cause a distracting offense in order to accomplish a much more serious, global, and deadly goal.