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July 28, 2016

CARL DIGGLER EXCLUSIVE: What I Learned About Putin During My Time As a POW in Russia

By now, it’s been well-documented that Vladimir Putin is personally influencing the presidential election. The Russian president is using the web forum “Wikileaks” to cause Donald Trump to make absurd, dangerous, and unfounded statements. This could very well cause a ground war with Russia, which would be justified.

Russia and Trump is the biggest story of the year. But with all due respect to my fellow journalists, they are, for the most part, discussing a place they’ve just read about. They’ve never actually been there, much less been held captive in the heart of America’s greatest enemy in its entire history.

Yes, I was a Russian prisoner of war. I don’t want to detail too much of the circumstances that took me from Syria to Moscow, lest to say that men over 40 are simply not meant to date 20 year olds, in most circumstances (but there are always exceptions).

My captors were devious. They wanted me to close a strategic “gap” between the Russian Federation and the United States, that being the “Mark Halperin gap.” They believed that if they had an American journalist who knew how to assign winners of the week, their nation would be catapulted into the 21st century.

They planned a slot for me on Russia Today, and subjected me to dozens of hours of screen tests. I faced grueling retakes, rudimentary makeup professionals, and was forced to recite meaningless drivel such as, “can Ramzan Kadyrov silence the haters?” and “is Putin appealing to vodka moms?”

As a journalist, I’m not prone to exaggeration, but I realized what Nelson Mandela went through during that awful day.

But my time there gave me insight to the Russian mind. For Americans unsure of what Russians’ motives, tactics, and “culture,” look no further.

1. Russians are personally rude

During my short stay in Moscow, I was subjected to frequent personal attacks. They called me “rotund American pedant,” “divorce failure,” and simply “news idiot.”

Because Russia lacks the unique civility of American culture, their civil society is a series of assassinations and stolen elections, and their foreign policy is all treachery and war.

2. Russians lack family values

When I was transferred into Russian custody from Damascus, my brutal GRU interrogators were totally uninterested in my upcoming family court battles. Instead, they rudely asked me questions about what agency I was with (none of them thought my “Air America” quip was funny, even though it would have gotten around 50 retweets if it were a tweet) and if I was trying to sabotage their operation.

In America, we realize that red or blue, #BlackLivesMatter or white nationalist, Sonic or Five Guys, we’re all just people at the end of the day.

3. Russia isn’t as good as America

The fact that the Russians didn’t already have a Mark Halperin-level pundit initially shocked me, but then it dawned on me: this country is simply garbage. Russians have contributed nothing to this world outside of chintzy toys, violent soccer fans, and promising cam dates that end up going nowhere.

Vladimir Putin’s goals are simply those of jealousy: he seeks no strategic advantage but to destroy America, because it’s a better place. There’s no Russian “Hamilton.” There is no Russian Michelob. There is absolutely no Russian equivalent to “How I Met Your Mother.”

We must be continually vigilant, Digheads.

Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.