Propaganda Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Vladimir Putin

I like this match-up better than the Elon Musk-Vladimir Putin grudge match that played out this week. Do you think Dmitry Rogozin would call The Terminator “Arnolda”? Nyet, tovarisch.

Also, I’d bet that Arnold Schwarzenegger has better “channels” to get around Putin’s propaganda Iron Curtain, and a lot more fans in Russia who are willing to listen to him. Kudos to Schwarzenegger for jumping into the fray as best he can to reach Putin’s benighted subjects.

Wisely, Arnold starts with an emotional connection to his audience, reminding him that his earliest inspiration came out of Russia. Some Americans may be put off by his use of January 6 as part of his argument, but that’s strategic as well — and there are higher stakes involved here:

“I don’t want you to be programmed like my father,” Arnold says in a moving moment that recalls his father’s service in the Nazi army. It’s a supremely crafted speech, one that has even more weight considering Schwarzenegger’s private-sector status. Even if it fails to move a single soul, it’s a fine effort — and it likely will move anyone who manages to get access to it.

But how many will? The answer may be better than you’d guess:

Since the days of the Cold War, when U.S.-government-funded stations such as Radio Free Europe broadcast anti-communist messaging across the airwaves of Soviet states, the West has tried, often futilely, to pierce the propaganda bubble that surrounds and isolates the Russian populace.

But the Internet has sent those information-war efforts into overdrive, allowing everyday people to pitch in on imaginative efforts designed to reach strangers thousands of miles away.

The volunteers behind today’s efforts say they hope to help overcome the Russian government’s suppression of the war’s devastated cities, bombed hospitals and humanitarian catastrophes. The human rights group OVD-Info says thousands of Russians have been arrested in antiwar protests since the invasion began.

Schwarzenegger makes reference to his own “channels” as well. Let’s hope that this punches through often enough to get Russians to start demanding answers in large enough numbers to rattle Putin.