The popular Indian media outlet “India Today” broke one of the top taboos in the country by mercilessly mocking Russian President Putin for falling a few days ago during a game of hockey, thereby violating the almost sacred spirit of “Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai” and unprecedentedly provoking what might even be the first-ever indirect reciprocal response from Russian media to its Indian counterparts.
President Putin is an avid sportsman whose especially known for his love of hockey, which he played once again just a day after commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. Unlike his many previous occasions in front of the camera while on the rink, this time he fell while waving to the crowd during a victory lap because he didn’t see the big red carpet that was inexplicably laid out on part of the ice. The footage of him falling and then quickly getting back up has been reported on by countless media outlets, most of which mocked the Russian leader.
This was regarded as such an offensive low-blow to Russia’s international prestige that its publicly funded international media outlet Sputnik published a piece the day after titled “MSM Gleefully Report on ‘Putin Faceplant’ During Hockey Game, Get Owned Online“, in which they editorialized against the “endless series of flippant jokes”, “facetiousness”, and “haters” by embedding tweets of random people criticizing the Mainstream Media for focusing on this story instead of whatever else was happening across the world that they could have reported on instead.
The message was clear, and it’s that Russia won’t tolerate others disrespecting its leader in such a cheap way, but the last thing that the country could have thought would happen is that its Indian partners would “join in the fun” and mercilessly mock President Putin. Many average people in both countries still remember the Soviet-era slogan of “Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai” (“Russians and Indians are brothers”), which is why it was such a shock to Russians to see that the popular Indian media outlet “India Today” just ran a story titled “Vladimir Putin trips on rug and falls flat on face during ice hockey match in Russia. Internet dies laughing“.
That “article” read just like the many Mainstream Media ones that Sputnik criticized and was a major disappointment for Russians. “India Today’s” editors selected some very nasty tweets to embed in their piece including “The fall of Putin”, “That was sooooo satisfying”, and a bunch of others joking around that President Putin is a murderous dictator who will either kill the person responsible for putting that carpet on the ice or “murder” the carpet itself. For as funny as the last-mentioned style of jokes might be for some folks, they’re nevertheless seen by Russia as playing into the West’s infowar narrative against the country’s leader.
That’s why no one could have expected that none other than Indian media — Russia’s “bhai” (“brother”) — would purposely embed such inflammatory tweets in an “article” specifically written to mock President Putin, especially after Sputnik condemned the Mainstream Media for doing exactly that and therefore sent a very strong signal to other outlets that those sorts of stories will be met with a firm response. Whether coincidental or not, a few hours after “India Today’s” piece, Sputnik published its own about Prime Minister Modi written in a very similar style with a bunch of mocking tweets embedded within it.
“Modi Mocked for Saying Indian Jets Could Use Clouds to Hide From Pakistani Radar” includes sharp commentary from random Twitter users who attacked Modi’s age (“This is what happens when you’re stuck in the past”) and even implied that the devoutly religious man is actually a drug addict (“How’s the PM?
High sir.”). One person called him an absolute idiot (“Narendra Modi is the kind of absolute Idiot who will ask ISRO to send a Spacecraft to Sun during night because it will be Cooler”) while another used the word for a Hindu devotee (“bhakt”) in a disparaging manner to describe Modi’s supporters (“All bhakt friends please support this campaign #PhysicsNobelPrizeForModi”).
There should be no doubt that the inclusion of those specific tweets was just as intentional as “India Today’s” because the content of both articles went through standard editorial procedures before publication, strongly suggesting that Sputnik’s response might have been an unprecedented tit-for-tat reciprocal move to Indian media’s disrespectful reporting about President Putin’s fall. As it stands, Russia and India are now “even” after Sputnik put “India Today” in its place, unless of course the Indian side decides to escalate this “media war” even further at its new American patron’s behest, in which case there won’t be any telling how far this might go.
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