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I wish I was Putin's mom

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has generated some god-awful takes online. Here are a couple of the worst and most slam poetry-like takes from this past month.
I wish I was Putin's mom

by Jacques Rockhard

I’ve been trying to start this blog for like six hours now and if I’m being honest with myself, no amount of lead-in is going to justify what I’m about to do to you, so fuck it. I watched this video, so now you have to too: 



Awful, right? This came up in my feed the day after Russian troops entered into Ukraine and began their deadly advance on Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities late February. Though there are many much more horrifying and important facets of this conflict to dwell on, it has since been bouncing around the inside of my head like a tonedeaf quarter in a dryer, and even still, it took me until last night to actually watch the whole cursed thing. 

Which is why I’ll forgive you if, before the five second mark, you slammed the spacebar like it had said something about your mother. Entirely reasonable response, and one I frankly only managed to suppress with enough weed to deep fry a horse, so I’ll give a brief description for those of you that value your brain cells. 

This documentary evidence of the fall of Western civilization is brought to you by a woman named AnnaLynne McCord, most well-known for her role in the 2008 teen drama “90210.” It appears to be a self-authored spoken-word piece detailing the actor’s deep regret for not having been Russian president Vladimir Putin’s mother. It is also a possible lock for the worst take on a news item in the history of the world. 

This video is in fact a shining example of the worst of a lot of things: celebrity exceptionalism, social media-borne performance of empathy, millennials, oratory art, etc. And I promise you the premise is not more complicated than that if only Ms. McCord had been born as the correct century-old Russian woman, this whole unfortunate affair could have been avoided. It’s transparently ridiculous and narcissistic, which makes its posting all the more fascinating, especially when you consider that the timing of the upload implies that either this was the result of a stroke of morning inspiration and was written in a few hours, or it had been sitting in the drafts waiting for its moment in the sun/everyone else’s moment to sink into existential anxiety. I think the latter explanation would be worse, but not by much.

What’s even more baffling, though, is the question of what McCord thought she was accomplishing by uploading this video. Positivity for positivity’s sake, in the style of Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” cover from the start of the pandemic? Perhaps. A presidential term of slavering media coverage congratulating celebrities for being so bold as to endorse the concept of unity from million-dollar award show podiums could be said to have addled these people’s sense of their purpose in the public discourse.

But to me, this video is the ur-supporting evidence of journalist Jia Tolentino’s argument in her essay “The ‘I’ in Internet,” which holds that it is more valuable within society to be seen caring about an issue online than to actually do anything about it. It is the #BLM black Instagram square times a thousand. It is the feeling that you don’t get to care about something unless you prove it, and that the burden of that proof is simultaneously nonexistent. And most importantly, it is the feeling that one’s bad poetry is beyond the need for nuance and indisputably worth our time.

Which brings me to a recent honourable mention for worst take on a news item in the history of the world, mostly because it’s shocking to me that I spent that many words on that fucking video. This one comes courtesy of Bari Weiss, a former op-ed editor at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I don’t know much about her, but at a glance, she seems to be one of a growing number of journalists who have carved out a career for themselves by claiming left-wing credentials and resigning from mainstream outlets citing of rampant wokeness, then farming Substack subscriptions from self-styled centrists and closet conservatives. Think Glenn Greenwald or Tara Henley. She’s Joe Rogan catnip.

Bari Weiss on Joe Rogan (Screenshot, YouTube, via IMDB)
Bari Weiss on Joe Rogan (Screenshot, YouTube, via IMDB)

Anyway, in a lengthy and largely incomprehensible blog titled “Things Worth Fighting For: What we can learn from President Zelensky,” Weiss included this lovely little derangement:

Screenshot, Bari Weiss’ Substack, via Twitter
Screenshot, Bari Weiss’ Substack, via Twitter

I don’t even know where to start with this, except that it barely conveys a coherent point to make fun of. At least McCord’s piece was clear about her desires. I think what’s happening here is Weiss is attempting to contrast some vague, unopposed specter of “Cancel Culture” in American society with Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty against a nuclear-armed power, but that’s honestly giving this section more credit than is due, because it’s borderline unreadable. 

First of all, if one were to actually engage with this baffling pseudo-poem, one would notice that almost everything under “we” here applies to Bari Weiss, as was pointed out by journalist Nicole Hannah Jones. Second of all, Lincoln wasn’t a founding father. And third of all, shut the fuck… shut up. If your first instinct after news of war breaks out is to figure out how that news fits into your personal worldview or pet social grievance, and then write a garbage, weird, off-putting, and inappropriate poem about it, I don’t know how to help you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and try to purge AnnaLynn McCord’s existence from the list of things I know of.


Written by: Colman Brown


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