Leonid Volkov: The Export Pozner

pozner-yale-1.jpgVladimir Pozner at Yale University on September 27, 2018. Photo by Peter Cunningham. Courtesy of YaleNews

Leonid Volkov
Facebook
September 28, 2018

Yale has an incredibly rich extracurricular life. Every evening is chockablock with special events, public lectures, round tables, debates, and so on. Many politicians and public figures consider it an honor to speak at Yale. Today, for example, the president of Ghana is going to be lecturing, and there is nothing exotic about it.

All these events fight for an audience. They are advertised in a variety of mailings, and the bulletin boards on campus are densely crammed with flyers.

I imagine the president of Ghana will be sad today. He was beaten this evening [September 27]. The prettiest flyers, which have been on the bulletin boards since mid-August, announced a lecture provocatively entitled “How the United States Created Vladimir Putin.”

I had never seen such a popular event here. It was standing room only. Audience members (students, professors, researchers, etc.) sat on the steps of the lecture hall and stood in the aisles. There were around three hundred people. And no, I could not resist my curiosity, either. I was really interested in how Channel One operated when it was exported.

On stage was the ageless Vladimir Pozner. Would that everyone looked like that at eighty-four! His speech and manners were flawless. His manner of interacting with the audience was impeccable. He joked when it was appropriate and answered questions quickly. He was a professional of the highest class.

[These were Pozner’s talking points.]

  • Putin extended a helping hand after 9/11, but it was rejected.
  • The first proposal Putin made when he was elected to the presidency in 2000 was that Russia should join NATO. He was mortally offended by NATO’s rejection of his offer.
  • He fully voiced this resentment in his 2007 Munich speech, and the resentment was justified.
  • The western media have portrayed Putin in a negative light, all but comparing him with Hitler. This treatment has been wholly undeserved.
  • By offending and attacking Putin, they naturally angered him and made him what he is. The media are to blame for this (sic).

Did Russia meddle in the 2016 US presidential election?

[Pozner’s response was that] the Russian regime cheered for Trump, naturally, because Hillary Clinton had said so many bad things about Putin, but Pozner had seen no proof of meddling. Besides, had America not meddled in elections the world over?

And so it went.

Moreover, [the tone of the Pozner’s speech was captured] in the very first words [out of Pozner’s mouth].

“First of all, believe me when I say I am not representing anyone here. I speak here as an independent journalist, a breed that has nearly died off in Russia.”

Oh, while I was writing all this down, there was a question about Crimea. [Pozner’s response can be paraphrased as follows.]

Was international law violated? Yes, it was, but Sevastopol is a city populated by Russian naval officers and sailors. How could Russia have allowed the possibility of losing its naval base there and having it replaced by a NATO base, by the US Sixth Fleet? Should international law not be disregarded in such circumstances? Besides, Crimea has always been part of Russia.

Finally, [Pozner told his listeners, they] would understand better what had happened in Crimea if [they] imagined what would happen if a revolution occurred in Mexico (sic). In this case, would the US not want to deploy several army divisions on its southern border?

Yes, a new referendum should probably be held in Crimea, but [Pozner] was absolutely certain of the referendum’s outcome.

Argh!

Pozner equated Putin and Russia, of course, in all his remarks.

“It was clear the Russians had to respond in a certain way,” he would say in reference to actions taken by Putin.

In short, my friends, I was impressed. The export Pozner is nothing at all like the Pozner served up for domestic consumption in Russia. (I hope he is very well paid.)

But despite his best efforts, Pozner portrayed Putin as a rather pitiful man: insecure, petty, and vindictive. In this sense, of course, Pozner did not lie.

Leonid Volkov has been attacked on his own Facebook page by readers and Mr. Pozner himself on the latter’s website for his allegedly inaccurate portrait of Mr. Pozner’s appearance at Yale. Stories about the evening published on Yale University’s in-house organ YaleNews and the university’s student-run newpaper the Yale Daily News, however, substantially corroborate Mr. Volkov’s sketch of the event. His description of Pozner and his talk also jibe with my own sense of Mr. Pozner as a chameleon who skillfully tailors his messages to his audiences and the times. Or was it not Mr. Pozner who routinely appeared on my favorite news program, ABC’s Nightline, when I was a teenager in the early 1980s, to defend the moribund Soviet regime with a completely straight face? Read “In the Breast of Mother Russia Speaks a Kind and Loving Heart” for an account of a similiarly virtuoso agitprop performance by Mr. Pozner in the US nearly four years ago. {TRR}

Translated by the Russian Reader

“In the Breast of Mother Russia Speaks a Kind and Loving Heart”

Rich white Americans have so much fun. Here they are thrilling to the duo of Phil Donahue and Vladimir Pozner in Nantucket this past spring.

This is Russian soft-powerism of the highest order. It is strange (or is it?) that Pozner somehow thinks (or does he?) that he went from being a Soviet “propagandist” (as he admits in this conversation) to being a real “journalist” in the post-Soviet era.

And it is amazing that the otherwise skeptical and cranky Donahue has bought into this self-flattery. It is one thing to be more critical of the actions and policies of one’s own government: that is how it should be for any intelligent person anywhere, and especially for Americans, whose country bears more responsibility than most other countries for the world’s current saggy, miserable, often vicious shape. But here Donahue plays second fiddle to the virtuoso Pozner, who by the end of the talk seemingly has everyone in the tent convinced, especially his old TV buddy and the event’s moderator, that the US also bears sole responsibility for the current hyper-reactionary regime in Russia. Pozner accomplishes this with a spiel seamlessly woven from home truths, sentimental journeyings, and charmingly delivered lies or fudges: for example, about how everyone in the Soviet Union were true believers except for a miniscule and thus meaningless dissident movement or that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US and the West engaged only in relentless humiliation of the new “democractic” Russia under Yeltsin.

As Russia’s hook-line-and-sinker self-submersion into extreme right-wing nationalist hysteria continues, expect more of this kind of song and dance from certain Russian liberal and leftist intellectuals. The thought that Putinism 3.0 is entirely their own fault (if only because they have signally omitted to do almost anything about it) or that not all societies in the world today are equally bleak pits of the blackest political reaction, is nearly unbearable to them. Hence, their frantic need to revive the Cold War paradigm or, via Brahminical critiques of its alleged illicit and opportunistic resurgence on both sides of the old divide, their equally frantic attempts to imagine that the choice between the “free” West and the “internationalist” Soviet bloc back then, during the real Cold War, is somehow comparable to a choice nowadays between a bloody mess with occasional breaks in the clouds and a system that already long ago had no redeeming features whatsoever and seems hell-bent on getting much, much worse very quickly.

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The first “spacebridge” or “citizens summit,” between Leningrad and Seattle in 1985, moderated by Vladimir Pozner and Phil Donahue: