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Groundhog Day: German MSM Stuck in Anti-Putin Time Loop

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Originally Appeared at Sputnik Deutschland. Translated from German by Susan Neumann

In Moscow the Russian president holds his annual press conference while there’s discussion in the EU over repealing the sanctions against Russia. That means it’s time for "Groundhog Day" in the media. The same kremlinologists keep inundating us with their interpretations of Putin: he's a one-man power structure, a reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler - he even travels through time and is immortal.

More than twenty years after its release, Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day is a great comedy that one can still enjoy. Bill Murray plays an arrogant TV weatherman who, while reporting on the ritual Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself stuck in a time loop where he is forced to repeat the same day again and again. He sees the same people who wear the same thing, say the same thing. It’s maddening. Even suicide doesn’t help because he wakes up every morning at six, hearing the radio playing the same song....

The ZDF documentary Machtmensch Putin  (Power-seeker Putin) is very much like Groundhog Day. It was released shortly before Putin’s big annual press conference and against the backdrop of the EU summit in Brussels, where discussion took place over whether to repeal or ease the sanctions against Russia. The same “Putin experts” keep playing the same song….

Boris Reitschuster is a part of this circus. The Moscow correspondent of Focus magazine’s section, "Facts, Facts, Facts” doesn’t get tired of calling Russia a "dictatorship" and Putin a "despot." In ZDF, Reitschuster psychoanalyzes “power-seeker” Putin as a man who sees himself as "Ivan the Terrible" and "Peter the Great." He can sense "the weakness in others," likes to play the "top dog," and wants to “show everyone.”

Then apparently Russia's head of state needs counseling, too. Reitschuster says that Putin’s “mood” can be summed up in two words, "humiliated” and “insulted." "That’s common throughout his whole life,” according to Reitschuster’s long-term study of the man. The West has, “from a psychological perspective, perhaps not dealt with Putin very well.” In its negligence, the West has allowed Putin to develop a “thriving self-confidence." Once US President Barack Obama dismissed Russia as "regional power," Putin probably had "many nights where he needed sleep inducements," according to the remote diagnosis of the former "Facts, Facts, Facts" reporter.

ZDF-Off’s propaganda has martial music playing in the background: "Putin knows the stage to play on, with pomp and imperial splendor." Putin took his oath of office in 2012 to the "hymn with the melody from Stalin's days." "Putin has made it the song of the Russians again."

This continues for a good 45 minutes. Those who’ve served the anti-Russian mainstream in recent years continue to have their say. Masha Gessen (The Man Without a Face - Vladimir Putin) accused the Russian President of being behind the terrorist attacks of the 90's, in which hundreds of Russians were murdered. "In any case he has benefited from it." If she were to say such things about 9/11, she would be sitting in the penalty box for supporters of conspiracy theories.

When you’re at ZDF, you can’t miss the reference to "Putin's trolls," who rally their support for “power-seeker” Putin in the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and Co; and who basically “manipulate and disrupt” [forum] discussion.

ZDF-Off: "media manipulation and the power of images, Putin knows how to harness the media," Putin, Putin, Putin.. "Everything revolves around him, the thousand faces of Vladimir Putin." These words are accompanied by endless pictures of a grim, sinister, or otherwise menacing-looking Putin.

Once again, "Facts, facts, facts" –Focus-reporter Reitschuster: "Putin wants to live like billionaire Abramovic and rule like Stalin, using Soviet methods." This could prove to be fatal for Putin, according to the “democratorship-expert” and prognosticates doom and destruction for Moscow: "So as macabre as it sounds, he will not leave the Kremlin alive." The Russian president knows this - and behaves accordingly.

Ben Judah, author of the Russian book Fragile Empire, knows this as well. “Putin is afraid to lose control out of weakness or error and then to be killed or find himself in a prison in Siberia. That's why he plays the big game with all the risks involved." For Putin, politics is an existential question.

Huffington Post summarizes the forecast of the two Kremlinologists together: "An autocrat is not voted out. He is overthrown and condemned." The news and gossip site Huffington Post, which was "created in collaboration with Focus," praises the former Focus-colleagues and claims in all seriousness, that this biggest time loop of all time is one of the "best and most critical Russia documentaries that have been broadcast in recent years in German television."

This seems somewhat absurd to anyone who knows the excellent ARD documentary Ich, Putin Ein Portrait (I, Putin - A Portrait) from Hubert Seipel. The journalist accompanied the Russian president for years and recently released probably the most important of Putin biographies, Putin. Innenansichten der Macht  (Putin. Insight into Power). The “in collaboration with Focus” Huffington Post defamed the book as "obsequious and uncritical reporting.” ZDF, the “Groundhog Day”-broadcaster of all things Putin, doesn’t even mention the book or its author. The whole thing never and not ever has anything to do with “propaganda” because that kind of thing is — Punxsutawney, Phil says hello — only reserved for Russia Today.

But even the mighty Springer-Publishing House is doing its best to draw the same old negative picture of Russia and its president. The widely-read tabloid Bild sometimes likes to play chief prosecutor, "President Vladimir Putin (63) is already one of the greatest war criminals in Syria," sometimes the Bild throws "wild conspiracies" out there like, "Is Vladimir Putin immortal"?

At the EU summit in Brussels, before the EU can make a decision on whether Russia sanctions are to be eased or entirely abolished, there is "scary news." “Is the Kremlin boss immortal? Has he involved himself in Russian war policy for nearly 100 years? Or even for centuries?” Bild has “evidence,” “pictures in the internet”—  “photos of Soviet soldiers from 1920 and 1941. One of them is standing in the midst of a group of soldiers, wearing a helmet with a red star. The second photo is of a soldier standing at attention in front of a tank from the Red Army, commendations blazing on his chest. Both are the spitting image of the Kremlin boss."

According to Bild, "Proponents of wild conspiracy theories,” “Putin is immortal, perhaps he’s even a vampire! Supporters of the Russian president say he is a mythical creature that has resided on our planet for hundreds of years. They claim Putin even coordinated the Romanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire as “Vlad the Impaler.” “Vlad the Impaler” was known for his cruel war crimes, including the practice of impaling people on long, pointed wooden stakes." [The British Telegraph writes,] "Russian scientists have made time travel possible and can send Putin through history."

Hubert Seipel quoted the American strategist Henry Kissinger in his book, Putin. Innenansichten der Macht: "For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” Read this book over the holidays instead of getting annoyed by ZDF.

There’s a happy ending to Groundhog Day, by the way: Bill Murray aka Phil Connors eventually gets tired of playing the same song over and over and eventually breaks out of the time loop.

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