like. So we need to be told: “Maybe our economy has been a wreck for 40 years, maybe most of our youth are unemployed, maybe we have no idea what to do about our masses of immigrants, maybe our international influence keeps declining, but at least we’re not like those Christian fundamentalist, redneck, racist Americans who let their poor and their sick die on the sidewalk.” It’s a security blanket.

A similar thing is going on with America’s coverage of Putin. If you paid only slight attention to the news about the recent presidential election, you’ll have learned that Putin rigged the election and that he’s a dictator. True. But flipping channels, browsing through stories, I never saw anyone point out that Putin’s approval rating is above 80 percent. In fact, it never dipped below 60 percent throughout his tenure. A KGB man takes no chances, but he really didn’t need to rig that election. Sure, he controls the media and the opposition, but there are plenty of countries where the strongman has that same propaganda power but is broadly loathed by the population, especially when they’ve been in power for 20 years like Putin. Honest coverage of the Russian election would have tried to grapple with that side of it.