A Russian journalist spoke about her reporting on Russian President Vladimir Putin and how she thinks he is similar to the current U.S. president Wednesday night.
Masha Gessen incorporated her analysis of Putin’s rise to power and compared it to President Donald Trump’s administration and governance style in an event hosted by UCLA Resistance Against Violence Through Education in Moore Hall.
Gessen said she has found nine similarities between Trump and Putin. Some of the similarities were that both leaders lie to the public and media, govern by gesture, depend on other governing bodies, disdain moral authority and react strongly to protests. She added she thinks they see protests as an immediate threat to their power rather than as an act of free speech.
“The way they lie is especially concerning, because they will not change their stance even when caught in the lie,” Gessen said. “You could tell them that there’s a lunchbox in their right hand, and they will respond back with ‘There’s nothing in my right hand, what are you going to do about it?’ even when the evidence is physically there.”
She added she thinks fact-checking is not effective when a politician such as Trump has lied nearly 80 percent of the time, and that people should try to focus on his rhetoric as a whole, rather than try to point out the falsehoods.
Gessen also said she thinks both presidents are under the impression that they have been specially chosen to lead. She added she thinks their thought process stems from the idea that some consider the two leaders accidental presidents, who were previously absent in the political world.
“Putin was plucked from obscurity and put into power,” Gessen said. “One would think that this would humble him, but rather, he found himself to be even more special because it was such an unexpected choice.”
Some audience members said they appreciated Gessen’s discussion with the audience because it allowed them to expand on and argue certain points.
Jennifer Evans, a UCLA alumna, said she decided to attend the talk because she wanted an easy way to understand the facts about the Trump administration and its connection to Russia.
She added she enjoyed the ideas Gessen brought up about the presidents’ use of language to warp reality.
“After the election I was devastated, so hearing someone present these ideas as factual information helps me cope emotionally,” Evans added.
Tamara Levitz, a member of UCLA RAVE and comparative literature and musicology professor, said the organization hopes to put on similar events in the future to ensure the discussion continues. RAVE previously hosted Judith Butler, a renowned gender theorist, who discussed how she thought people should resist the Trump administration.