A private conversation between Vladimir Putin and Igor, his programming consultant, about his just-launched presidential Web site:
Igor the Programmer: I am so sorry Mr. Putin, I had no idea the website would lead to this.
Vladimir: Tell me about it. That is one suggestion I should definitely not have taken. You're consultancy is so over.
Igor: I completely understand. That said, we are getting millions of hits and making a ton of money on advertising, so it is not a completely bad thing.
Vladimir: How can you say that? They all hate me? Look at this one from Andrei Antonenko. It says, Please leave politics; it is obvious that power is a narcotic, but it is the right thing to do. I work out every day and have never taken a drug in my life. They don't call me iron Vladimir for nothing!
Igor: Actually I thought Bush called you Pootie-Poot?
Vladimir (glaring): Don't even go there. Do you know what I had to go through to drag that little man into Afghanistan? But it was worth it. They did to his army what they did to ours, thereby restoring the balance of the superpowers. And he was the President of the United States, so I had to tolerate the humiliation. You on the other hand, with your stupid website, have humiliated me and you are just a consultant.
Igor: It's not that bad. Really. People always say things like that online. It's just cyberbullying.
Vladimir: Well it hurts. I don't do drugs. And look at this one: Arkady Vishnev says, The most useful thing you could for the country, and then says I should drop out of the Presidential race! Who does he think I am, some Donald Trump?
Igor: Of course not.
Vladimir: Or this Svetlana Sorokina woman who says if I don't, I will turn the situation into a revolution. They nerve of these people.
Igor: The Internet is a democratizing force, Vladimir. We discussed all this before I launched the site. You knew that there would be certain difficulties in controlling your branding after we went live.
Vladimir: Live, Ha. Sometimes I remember the old days. In the old days at the KGB, we had very simple ways to deal with this liveness...
Igor: It's a new age, Vladimir, you have almost limitless funds. The key is to deploy them to create the illusion of freedom. Just look at the Citizens United decision and all that Super Pac money flowing into the U.S. Republican Primaries now. Doesn't that look like freedom? They sure think so.
Vladimir: Point taken. But what are we to do about all this negativity!
Igor: I have already taken care of it. We call it moderating. I have moderated the bad comments off the site and only allow the good ones in.
Vladimir: And what if there aren't enough good ones?
Igor: Not to worry. I outsourced that to India. Got the name from some of Romney's people.
Vladimir: Well that's a relief, at least. But will it really blow over?
Igor: It's the Internet. Trust me, in a few days our information flow will completely wash whatever those people had to say right out of existence.
Vladimir: Well it still hurts. After all I've done for Mother Russia. I guess it's like I told Bush. We have an old saying in the Kremlin: if you want a friend in Moscow, get a dog.