Some times phrases are used in the news in a way that portrays them as solid information. On more than one occasion, when referencing Vladimir Putin and his ability to look people in the eye and lie to them about Russia’s role in Ukraine, it is noted “but he has a 80% approval rating.” This piece of information is said like Russians must be OK with his performance because it is so high. What the news person fails to realize is “of course, it is high; if you were in the 20%, your life may be in danger.”
What happened this past week to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who has shot dead from behind within a couple yards of the Kremlin is not an anomaly. Opponents of Putin have a way of finding themselves in prison or no longer living. So, with his KGB like affinity and desire to recreate the USSR footprint, disagreeing with Mr. Putin is not a good business to be in. It is like “The Outlaw Josey Wales” movie, where the bounty hunter says being a bounty hunter “is a living.” To which, Wales responds, “Dying ain’t much of a livin, boy.” It is not much of a living opposing Putin, even though it still must be done.
This is not unlike the approval ratings of Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Un. Both experienced approval ratings in the high 90% range. I think they were cognizant of not saying 100% as that would appear as a false positive, so they fudged the numbers downward. In Russia, with a more free society over the last twenty years, those 20% still believe they have the ultimate freedom to do and say what they want. Yet, there are still enough people around who remember and can counsel to not be on someone’s list. Nemtsov was on such a list and was about to call Putin out with evidence of his lying about Russian involvement in Ukraine.
Of course, I like to keep things simple. If you are not involved in Ukraine, why are European leaders bothering to talk to you? By speaking with them is that not prima facie evidence that you are involved in Ukraine more so than you let on?
So, news people, the next time you cite the 80% statistic, you may want to caveat that the percentage is likely artificially high. The Russian people deserve to know the truth about what is happening, so they can reach their own conclusions. They are not hearing the truth from the state controlled news there.