Thursday November 19th 2015
By Zecharias Zelalem
“FORGIVING THE TERRORISTS IS UP TO GOD. BUT SENDING THEM TO HIM IS UP TO ME.”
This quote allegedly said by none other than Russia’s President, a man with a well known hardline stance when it comes to dealing with terrorists has been requoted, retweeted, shared and liked hundreds of thousands of times across social media over the course of the past 72 hours or so. The image of the passionate, furious, dangerous bear of a man promising to take on evil and swearing to come out victorious for the good of the world has left many with an endearing and in some case even romantic heartwarming feeling for the former KGB operative, fueled even more by his uttering of such powerful ground shaking words. For others, it’s a sort of Spartan war rallying cry which makes you feel like instinctively grabbing the nearest blunt object and gallantly march towards the foe whose evil knows no limits. During these trying times where people are reeling from the shock, agony, fear and uncertainty brought on in the aftermath of several ISIS engineered atrocities across the world, a manly superhero willing to spearhead the defense of the planet is just what the world was praying for, as the social media fury can testify to that. Even the presence of “Super Vladimir” who with Russia’s decision to go after all armed groups has placed himself somewhat at the helm of the anti ISIS onslaught, has already calmed the nerves of many, although perhaps prematurely. And now that he has sworn to send the terrorists to God the peace loving, tolerant, good people of the world have a reason to hope for the best. I mean if he wasn’t determined to fight ISIS and obliterate the group’s strongholds to smithereens he wouldn’t come out and make such a bold statement, right?
Except one thing: Vladimir Putin isn’t the author of the now infamous quote.
Yes. As much many would love to believe it’s true, Vladimir Putin didn’t actually utter the now viral statement egging ISIS on. When I first came across a post glorifying Putin for his chivalry in making the statement, I decided to Google it and attempted to find a source or any credible media that picked up on it. I failed to do so. How could such a massive statement not make global headlines? People would eat this up, it’s news gold! After a day or so of searching, when all I could come up with was Instagram postings putting the Russian President in a positive light, I started believing that it was either a total hoax, or that he was misquoted.
And today, we can confirm that the warrior’s curse came not from the ultra manly, super deadly, bear wrestler that is Vladimir Putin…but rather from the chic, cute, elegant articulate young woman you see below.
Lebanese journalist Remi Maalouf is a part of the Russia Today news network’s Arabic language broadcast team. She allegedly stumbled upon the quote somewhere on Facebook, and believing it to be genuine, posted it on Twitter with the hashtag Putin, (#Putin) for her over thirteen thousand followers to feast upon. Many took the renown media professional’s Tweet as being based on truth and the quote soon went viral after that. But days later, after being harangued by countless people over when and where Putin made the statements, Maalouf apologized, admitting that Vladimir Putin had most probably never said such a thing and blamed the “danger of social media.”
So Vladimir Putin openly threatening to send terrorists to their maker appears to be a baseless fabrication. But it does give us insight into how gullible the social media using masses can be. Vladimir Putin has been in the political arena for decades now. He knows the precariously tricky world of Russian politics all too well. Being a refined, composed individual, he is the least likely to go on a Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque rant about killing terrorists. Such a quote wouldn’t be surprising coming from his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who was known for his public outbursts. But Putin hasn’t made headlines for odd behaviour in the past.
Then there are those who were just bedazzled by the Hollywood portrayal of a charismatic leader heartbroken over the loss of hundreds of his countrymen and women in the Metrojet Flight 9268 bomb attack over the Sinai. Russia did vow to investigate thoroughly and retaliate against those responsible. But Vladimir Putin has spent his whole career knee deep in war with armed groups, starting with the Second Chechen war during his first term as President back in 2000. If there was ever a time the Russian President were to launch such a stinging tirade against terrorists, it would have been a decade ago, back in 2004 when Chechen gunmen took thousands hostage at a school in Beslan. A 72 hour siege ended with the gunmen killing over 300 Russians, mostly school children. Putin had harsh words, threatened revenge and vowed the blood of the children wouldn’t be spilled in vain. But nothing as over dramatic as what Maalouf apparently concocted. Russia has been fighting terrorism long before the ISIS/Daesh group’s formation. They have also proven to be brutally effective in diminishing the capabilities of such groups to function. In many ways, the current Russian aerial campaign is just another day at the office for the Putin administration.
In 2006, an Al Qaeda in Iraq affiliated group attacked a car driven by employees of the Russian embassy in Baghdad, killing one man and kidnapping four others, including the Russian embassy’s third secretary, and an embassy cook. Weeks later, a video was released online showing the beheading and shooting executions of the hostages. Vladimir Putin, livid, ordered the killers of the Russian diplomats to be “hunted down and destroyed.” Although this order was given to Russian intelligence officials and Putin was never seen or recorded saying the words. Russian media outlet Interfax were the source of the quote in this instance. But even then, despite being blunt, one cannot see the burning passion and emotion in this quote nor do we see the romanticized Vladimir Putin of the past three or four days in that statement.
If anything, this reveals to what extent people are willing to believe things they want to believe and accept things they want to see as fact, without actually double checking the veracity of the alleged events. Then there are media outlets who will prey upon people’s feelings and emotions and help spread the dissemination of unproven rumours in an attempt to rake in viewers and ratings. Unprofessional journalism. FOX News, who helped spread the rumours of an emotionally charged Putin promising to send terrorists on a one way ticket to doom, are once again guilty of thriving off emotional hype.
All in all, the fact that these words aren’t Putin’s will not turn his admirers against him, nor does it mean the Kremlin head’s actual stance towards terrorist groups like ISIS/Daesh has withered or softened. In fact, the Russian military released a video today which purportedly shows Russian aircraft conducting bombing sorties over the skies in ISIS territory. Russian military spokesman Andrei Kartapolov told Russian news agencies that his country’s airforce had obliterated 500 ISIS oil transportation trucks. He also promised more was in store for those responsible for killing thousands across Egypt, Lebanon, France and Turkey.
So if it’s any consolation for those caught up in “Putin mania,” the Russian President has put those words into action and as we all know, he packs a mean punch.
My name is Zecharias Zelalem.