This clip has been widely shown of Vladimir Putin playing piano and singing “Blueberry Hill.” Shown on various networks, it has been played with spans of the audience of thrilled actors and celebrities from the West. I must confess that, as a civil libertarian, I had a distinctly different reaction. I hesitated to post the clip because I did not want to appear a Killjoy. However, watching all of these American and European actors gush over Putin singing made me a bit ill. Here is a guy who had destroyed democratic reforms in Russia, re-militarized his country, and incorporated the security services to every aspect of Russian life. But he can sure belt out “Blueberry Hill” on a piano.
Putting aside that this was like watching a seven-year-old playing chop sticks at the Kennedy Center and he sang like a drunken accountant at a Karaoke bar, there is that little thing of participating in Putin’s ongoing worship fest. For years, Putin has been trying to turn himself into an action hero by race cars, shooting whales, and putting out fires. The thrust of the campaign is to install hero worship in Russia — playing on the Russian historical preference for strongmen adoration. This was less night at the Apollo as it was night with Apollo.
Yet, here are dozens of American actors wildly applauding a man who is crushing free speech in Russia. It is a truly bizarre scene. If only Stalin had the wherewithall to sing “Camp Town Races” at Yalta. It is like a new story version of Bush’s statement that he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw a good man.
This has forever ruined “Blueberry Hill” for me. There I said it.