As someone who is a gripey traveler, I must admit to having had a hathos surge when reports of the crappy hotels in Sochi surfaced. Still, is it just me, or is the US media having a little too much fun bitching about the supposed politics of these Olympics? It’s all about Putinfreude — taking pleasure in anything that makes Vladimir Putin look bad, or denying that anything good that happens in Sochi could reflect well on him.
Take the lead story in today’s New York Times. Headline from front page of online edition: ‘A Triumph for Putin, Games Arrive as Russia Suffers a Slump’. Sample passage:
Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, argued that the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Sochi — over Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea — when Mr. Putin was at the zenith of his powers in his second term but when the verdict on his legacy remained an open one. Many had been critical of his authoritarian instincts after he rose to power, including the tightening of news media and political freedoms and the war in Chechnya, but Russia had indisputably recovered from the chaos of the 1990s.
“At that time, Russia was ‘rising from its knees,’ ” Ms. Shevtsova wrote inan essay on the center’s website, “whereas now — in 2014 — Russia has started its downward slide.”
The Times greets the opening of the Games with a nasty editorial blasting Putin’s leadership, because Pussy Riot and gay rights. To be fair, the Times was just as harsh on China’s leadership in advance of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing (for example). And to be even more fair, there is nothing particularly wrong with the points they and other critics are making about the problems with Putin’s government. Putin certainly intends the Sochi games as an image-builder; the press is doing its job when it reminds us that the official story isn’t the whole story.
I get all that. Still, from reading, watching, and listening to coverage of the approaching Games over the past month, I can’t help having the feeling that quite a few people in the Western media aren’t going to be fully satisfied unless a lesbian FEMEN protester rigs her boobs to explode when the Patriarch blesses the Olympic crowd.
Readers, post examples of Putinfreude if you run across any. By “Putinfreude,” I mean instances of Western media seeming to take inordinate pleasure in Sochi’s problems.