WARNING: This piece is a shameless attempt to distract you from the world of precious metals, finance, economics and geopolitics to draw attention to a ‘strictly human interest’ story. Please do not make ANY decisions, let alone investment ones, based on the information presented. This is purely for entertainment purposes.
Politicians and governments garner favor, popularity and support from their constituents in different ways.
Some favor populist measures, such as tax breaks or benefit ‘giveaways’ to citizenry, subsidies and social entitlements – be they cash transfers or fuel/food price controls. Thus it has been since at least the days of Rome (and erudite readers can no doubt point to much earlier instances), when panem et circenses (bread and circuses) became a part of everyday parlance.
When such measures prove inadequate to generate sufficient fervor due to, say, overwhelmingly deteriorating economic conditions, or when civil liberties and human rights are being systematically curtailed, or when war is deemed necessary (or all three of the above), the specter of an external, powerful enemy and its act of outrageous aggression and villainy almost magically materialize EVERY SINGLE TIME. Some 'fringe' students of history may even point to incidents where acts of sabotage and violence may have in fact been either carried out or 'gently encouraged to happen' by agents of various government actors. This in turn justifies not only immediate and extensive government (re)action -- but a mechanism by which this can be done to the cheering on by at least a tacit majority of the population.
But in the end, both of the above avenues are rather costly. Social benefits cost taxpayer money, wars cost lots of money AND taxpayer lives (though numerically this latter has gone through a deflationary bias in recent decades, at least on the Western side). Wars mean that energy supplies must be expended, geopolitical power must be put at risk. Even via close central planning and policies of total spectrum of dominance, wars introduce elements of chance and unintended or at least poorly controlled consequences. It is a great and mighty tool in the toolbox of the ruling bodies, but ultimately a resort for special, truly deserving occasions.
The method for influencing popular opinion with the greatest ROI, great scalability (to a limit), lowest cost of entry, fewest distortions of economic systems (unless so desired, of course) and lowest ratio of unintended consequences: pure, uncut and mainlined propaganda. This of course must also be liberally applied as part of BOTH avenues above, and so remains a constant garnish (some might even say determinant) of public discourse about the performance and likeability of governments.
One of the original tomes on the topic is a surprisingly short read, and its opening and closing paragraphs may sound chilling to some:
Page 1: “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
Last page: “Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the methods which are being used to mold its opinions and habits. If the public is better informed about the processes of its own life, it will be so much the more receptive to reasonable appeals to its own interests. No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership.
If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial demands, commercial firms will meet the new standards. If it becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals more intelligently.
Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.” Edward Bernays: Propaganda (1928)
So it is with this lengthy preamble that I present to you what it looks like when efforts to sway the populace are executed with the most stringent care taken to safeguard shareholder return on investment in deploying funds. С Днем Рождения , товарищ Путин. Happy Birthday, Comrade.
While most of the photos below are from Martin (aka George Malets?) -- (please take a moment to peruse the author's blog, many more can be found there), the story was also covered in Radio Free Europe, ABC News and even the WashPo -- along with any number of media outlets decrying the sheer cult of personality on display. Putinwear and iPutin at the GUM: "GUM always was and remains the greatest country’s store."
Slaying the Terrrrrist of Nemea, fighting the Hydra of Western Sanctions (note the flag on the head already severed), and vanquishing the Stymphalian Birds of Syria:
Herding the SinoRussian Relations of Geryon
Taming the Cretan Bull of Crimea
But all that is really just a warm-up. Perusing the media, one may notice that lots of great impromptu events seem to have popped up across the nation. While a few folks may have had a chance to visit an art gallery near the Kremlin, presumably many more passed by this bridge in Moscow:
A huge banner depicting U.S. President Barack Obama wearing a T-shirt wishing Russia's President Vladimir Putin a happy birthday, hangs on a bridge in Moscow, October 7, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/NEWS AGENCY RIDUS
Not to mention these fine, spontaneous expressions of civic gratitude in cities across Russia:
“The graffiti on the facades of apartment buildings spell out the words: Sovereignty, Memory, Arctic, Strength, History, Safety, and Olympics. The first letters of these words (Suveritet, Pamyat', Arktika, Sila, Istoria, Besopasnost, and Olimpiada) also form the word thanks (spasibo) in Russian. Altogether they appeared on walls in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, and Sevastopol.
The youth educational project, Net, organised the art events. “
A fanshop even opened in New York, apparently -- making the phenomenon truly global:
“Julius Kasinskis, owner of the 'Peacemaker Shop' (English): "It's all about the idea of people portraying Putin as a different person. And my idea of him is totally different of what I hear as common knowledge, especially in the United States. "
But the TRUE Pièce de résistance was (at least to me) truly remarkable. As a matter of fact, it was the primary reason for wasting your time with such a fluff piece of a post in the first place. I am literally left speechless, and would invite readers to propose analogies for similar celebrations that were (or SHOULD HAVE BEEN) held for
imperial political leaders who so successfully and humanely pacified earlier 'tensions' in distant provinces, and brought prosperity to the grateful inhabitants of said lands.
(from Instagram account of the former anti-Russian guerilla-leader turned Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov)
100,000 People Attend Putin Birthday Parade in Grozny (more pictures here and here)
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Birthdays are naturally occurring opportunities to fortify and enhance the popular image of beloved leaders. I, for one, gladly welcome the fact that our wise and benevolent
overlords/puppets statesmen have now grown to “present their appeals more intelligently”.
“CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller is the unofficial but widely trusted chronicler of data on presidential travels and other day-to-day White House goings-on, so we turned to his calculations.
On Aug. 8, 2014, Knoller tweeted that Obama had taken 19 vacations totaling 125 days so far while in office. Those numbers have risen a bit due to the Martha’s Vineyard vacation, but that’s still many fewer than George W. Bush’s 65 combined trips to his Texas ranch and his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine, which totaled 407 days at the same point in his presidency.” Tampa Bay Times - PolitiFact
“The visit to the forests of the Siberian taiga will be the first time in more than 15 years that nature-lover Mr. Putin has taken a vacation on his birthday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agency TASS.” – WSJ