Secret American Subculture of Putin-Worshippers
Oh great. Obama is going to be jealous.
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Two years ago, Gayne C. Young, a Texas-based writer and blogger for Outdoor Life, scored the interview of a lifetime. As a beat writer, Young had enjoyed the outdoor exploits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been documented shooting a gray whale with a crossbow, tranquilizing a tiger attacking a news crew, hunting shirtless, fishing shirtless, and riding horseback shirtless. On a personal level, Young liked the rugged brand of masculinity that seemed a throwback to Teddy Roosevelt. “Although you have Clinton shooting ducks, you never see it. Although Rick Perry says he enjoys hunting, you don’t see it. They say they do, but they don’t. Obama says he shoots skeet, but they only released one picture,” Young says. “Here’s a guy out there fishing, with no qualms. He’s like, ‘You don’t like it? Tough.’ Then he’d escalate and do more.”
His posts on Putin brought in great traffic, so his editor kept encouraging him to escalate. Soon, Young was declaring his “man crush” on the Russian president. (“I hate to use that word, especially on a hunting website,” he admits.) He called the Russian consulate, flirted with the right secretary, and went through “hoop after hoop after hoop” until, one Friday, a press attaché called and told him the president wanted his questions in the next 20 minutes.
Young scrambled and sent something over. Six weeks later, Putin replied with an almost unbelievable 8,000-word missive—covering everything from tiger conservation to his favorite works of Hemingway to the innate frailty of human life. He lectured on the similarities between Russians and Americans, and demurred from answering Young’s friendliest questions. (“Are you the coolest man in politics?”) “People really liked him, at least on our comments section on Outdoor Life,” Young says. “Given the demographics of the readership, most are die-hard Republicans,” and when they saw Putin hunting, he says, “they were like, ‘Obama wouldn’t do that.’ “