Both Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un have presided over face mask mandates. I don’t know the details for North Korea but in Russia, the mask has been technically mandatory indoors as per regional decrees for 17 months now.
Despite that, you can’t find a single photo of Putin wearing one. This can’t be a random coincidence. 17 months is too long a time for there not to emerge a single such photo, if he indeed ever wears a mask and doesn’t mind being photographed wearing one.
Besides he is quite notorious for his photo-ops. If such a photo not existing was a matter of “accident” and not design, he could have easily rectified the situation with a pro-mask photo op where he appears in a muzzle himself — something he has never done.
Kim Jong-Un on the other hand, has been photographed numerous times with a bare face surrounded by masked-up officials.
Where Putin avoids such situations by sticking to Zoom or barring photographers, Kim is entirely unperturbed about having himself photographed ignoring the muzzle requirement.
In Russia, the mask mandate is widely (but not universally) ignored. A leader who donned the face diaper would lose the respect of many. Additionally, my personal impression is that Putin himself is enough of a man that it disagrees with him at an intuitive level at least when it comes to himself.
That part can be commended. Yet there is also a measure of hypocrisy in presiding over universal mask mandates but never donning one yourself. The hypocrisy is greater in Putin’s case than in Kim’s. Kim sits at the top of an openly hierarchical, downright feudal system, but Putin claims to preside over a democracy and a system with equality under the law.
Humans are a social species which means they are a deceptive species. They are especially good at deceiving themselves. That is why you should always believe their actions before you believe their words. Putin and Kim may be pro-mask in words, but their actions say otherwise.
Another way in which they reveal their true intuition on masks is that whenever it’s time for a military parade it proceeds unmasked.
Russia’s 2020 Victory Day parade was famously postponed due to COVID hysteria, then it was rehearsed in masks, yet when the real thing came the troops marched unmuzzled. Intuitively the Russian leadership understood there was something undignified and unworthy about a military parade in muzzles. You just can’t have a Victory Day worth a damn with face nappies.
Similarly, North Korea’s constant state-sponsored civilian rallies are a strictly masked affair but when it comes time for the major military celebrations masks are suddenly off, including for the spectators:
Thousands of North Koreans have packed into Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square to pledge their support for the government –– all of them wearing masks, unlike at a military parade only two days earlier.
Authorities held the rally on Monday at the start of an “80-Day Campaign”, a mass mobilisation drive to boost the economy ahead of a ruling party congress in January.
Such efforts, often dubbed “battles”, feature extra-long work hours and additional duties and are commonplace in North Korea in the lead-up to major events.
Troops, workers and students, all of them wearing facemasks, packed into the square, holding slogans including “Let’s keep pace with the steps of our dear leader, Comrade Kim Jong Un”.
It was a change from the military parade the North held at the weekend as part of the commemorations for the ruling party’s 75th anniversary when neither Kim nor any other participants had their faces covered.
Of course in the West, the level of self-respect at the top is lower, but the level of hypocrisy is not. At the G7 Wales meeting, the western leaders famously opened with a fully-masked, fully distanced photo-op, then drank, hugged, and mingled unmuzzled — all the while the servers around them were still muzzled. You would think they thought themselves feudal lords in the vein of Kim Jong-Un. As democrats and egalitarians (hah!) at the very least they could have invited the servers to likewise take off their muzzles and join them in unobstructed breathing.
Of course, if the muzzle is not good enough for Kim, Putin, or even the Western “creme” it especially isn’t good enough for the rest of us.
PS. If someone can find a photo of Putin in a Covid mask I would be very interested to see it, but I don’t think that just one or two such photos would change the gist of the article — that Putin is either very reluctant to wear one, or at least very reluctant to be photographed in one.