Vladimir Putin Is Worried About ‘Cancel Culture’

Putin compares “reverse racism” to “intolerant” Bolsheviks while jailing his political enemies and critics.
Images: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s longest serving president since Stalin, who has been accused of jailing or killing political opponents and journalists, is very worried about “cancel culture.”


“The fight against racism is a necessary and noble cause, but in the modern ‘cancel culture’ it turns into reverse discrimination, reverse racism,” Putin said at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, a Moscow-based think tank he’s closely linked to and speaks at annually about Russia’s place in the world.

“We see with bemusement the process unfolding in countries that have grown accustomed to viewing themselves as flagships of progress,” he said, according to a translation on the state-controlled media company Russia Today. “The proponents of so-called social progress believe they are bringing a new consciousness to humanity…but the recipes they come up with are nothing new.”

 It’s disorienting to watch one of the world’s most openly authoritarian heads of state warn about the dangers of cancel culture in Russian because the speech so closely follows the script of the professionally-canceled talking heads in the U.S. Putin even repeats a version of the republican strategy of weaponizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream" speech against progressive views on race, twisting King’s radical views on society’s great evils and imperialism into a point of view that sees any emphasis on race as dividing people. 

“It pushes people apart, whereas the true fighters for civic rights tried to eliminate these differences,” he said.

Putin’s new spin on this anti-cancel culture formula is that, as a Russian, he’s in a better position to compare some current progressive ideas about social justice to the Bolsheviks of the 1917 Russian revolution. 

“Incidentally, the Bolsheviks were entirely intolerant of other opinions different from their own,” he said. “And this should remind you of something that is happening in Western countries. It is with puzzlement that in the West today we see practices that Russia has left in the distant past.”

Watching Putin warn about the dangers of cancel culture of progressive intolerance while throwing his biggest critic in jail is just a more absurd version of what’s become routine in the U.S., where conservatives feel so under siege they are trying to build their own Facebook, despite conservative news already dominating Facebook as it exists.