By Brandon Martinez
You’ll often hear Putin groupies exalt the Russian dictator by pointing to polls in Russia that show a majority of the population approve of their leader. This is, in fact, one of their primary arguments to make their case that Putin’s a “good” and “moral” leader. But this argument relies on the popularity fallacy, also known as argumentum ad populum, which fallaciously puts undue value on the opinions of lemmings. As we know, the “majority” of people believing in something doesn’t make that belief right or good. If that were the case, then kooky religious claims must all be true, since a majority of the world’s populace believes in one religion or another. If the majority of Russians backing Putin proves he’s morally good, then Hillary Clinton must be morally good too because half of Americans who voted in the last election cast their ballot for her. She’s very “popular,” so I guess she should be praised? The majority of Americans supported the Iraq war, at least initially. Was that a good war? The majority of Americans say they support Israel when polled. I guess that means it’s a good policy for America to continue supporting Israel? Benjamin Netanyahu is very popular in Israel and the majority of Israelis support and vote for him, and approve of his policies towards the Palestinians. So I guess Netanyahu is a good and moral leader as well? This is how absurd the argument is. But you’ll never hear the Putinists use this popularity fallacy when dealing with Western politicians, only their foreign heroes like Putin and Assad who, they believe, are “standing up” to the New World Order and should thus be worshipped.
Rendering this argument even more deficient, it must be noted that Putin’s Russia is a dictatorship with a tightly controlled media, so Russians are only receiving filtered pro-government propaganda for the most part. Public opinion means little in a dictatorship where various means of coercion and control are exercised to manufacture consent. If Russia had a free media that was at liberty to criticize and expose Putin and his Kremlin cronies, then I guarantee there would be far less support among the population and he probably wouldn’t still be the president. Stalin also constructed an Orwellian illusion of popular support where Soviet citizens wouldn’t dare criticize the tyrant in public or in foreign media, fearing assassination or imprisonment in the Gulag. Putin’s Russia isn’t as openly brutal and genocidal as Stalin’s was, but repression is still very real, and for the most outspoken skeptics of the Putin system, often deadly.