Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Deep, Long, and Dark: The Unrequited Loves of Vladislav Surkov

Call me crazy if you want, but I feel sorry for Vladislav Surkov.

No, REALLY.  I do.

Moreover, I understand the mind of the co-architect of Russia's information war in the West, a loyal member of Russia's Uranian "Hipster" culture.

What a terrible pity it is, maybe full-fledged Greek tragedy even, that Mr. Surkov, in a fit of irony, felt compelled to bloviate about American hypocrisy this past week.

In fact, Surkov's article betrays his guiltiest Western pleasures, the iconic Western influences he jealously defends.  The louder his defense of Putinism and the Russian way of life over Western Democracy, the hollower his words.

It was just a few short years ago that Surkov, much like a jilted lover, responded to Obama-era White House sanctions by proclaiming "The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don't need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing."  The bitterness of Surkov's rebuttal is like a Rorschach drawing of epic level Russian projection.

Of course, there are deeper implications here, lacking little irony.

Ginsberg, a stalwart opponent of sexual oppression whose own homosexuality is well known, would not have been treated well in Surkov's Russia, where anchorpeople for state media such as Russia's Channel One can barely contain their disgust over the Russian legal system's lack of protections for (at least in writing) vigilantism against gay people.

Moreover, the incumbent freedoms of American society allowed Jackson Pollack to live his life openly gay. In Russia, his lifestyle would certainly have warranted suspicion and, in all likelihood, would have led to an onslaught of dangerous harassment or worse.

In fact, the sexual ambiguity (much like Russian Hipster culture) of Pollack's work has even inspired literary works.

Truth be known, masculinity and sexual ambiguity in Russia occupy the same domain, in a society that affords very few outlets for gay people.  Indeed, a cursory Google search reveals that "Russian military men" is its own pornography topic.

While there's little doubt that the topic portends an inclination by the Russian government to collect blackmail material on those who frequent such sites, it's a matter of educated speculation to wonder just how many IP addresses viewing the material are originating from within Russia.

I have actually written about Tupac Shakur in the past which, if you're interested, segues beautifully with Surkov's fascination (as an outsider) with American culture.

In his article, Surkov claims that "Russia is playing with the West’s minds."  In fact, Russia's actual influence in the West is largest in Surkov's own mind. Clearly, it is the influence of the West that occupies Surkov's mind. And it is Surkov's bitter realization of this fact that tempers his ability to live his life as a Westerner might.

As a free American citizen who lives his life as he chooses, speaks his mind and embraces others' freedom to speak theirs, I pity Vladislav Surkov. He tries so very hard to be relevant and significant in the West, so the embarrassment of his failure to do so relegates him to the status of "historical footnote".

Instead, what we see is a man who must live vicariously through the lives of others, whose contributions to the American experience he views as tools of Russian influence.

For Mr. Surkov's larger demons, I fear that only a qualified psychotherapist can help.