The Volokh Conspiracy

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Arnold Schwarzenegger's Appeal to Russians, as Persuasion

A lot of our readers are persuaders by profession. What do you think of Schwarzenegger's video?


I watched this video (see also this news story), and thought it was very effectively crafted. (I'm sure it was also heartfelt on Schwarzenegger's part, but sincerity by itself isn't enough.) I thought the opening about the Russian weightlifter hero of Schwarzenegger's childhood was especially effective, as was the connection back to him in the end. Nothing counterintuitive, to be sure; one is told to try to build a connection with the audience, and make clear that you're on their side even if you're attacking someone connected to them.

I just thought this was particularly well-executed, in part because the story was so concrete and vivid. Even the little touch about the 14-year-old Schwarzenegger's handshake with the Russian weightlifter (Yuri Vlasov), and how Schwarzenegger (now 74) still had a child's hand that was out of proportion to the powerful Vlasov's, struck me as affecting. Same with the story of how he kept Vlasov's photo in his room as an inspiration, despite his father's objections.

I think Schwarzenegger's forthright admission of his father's having been in the Nazi army in World War II was also effective. To Russians generally, and I expect especially to Russians who have been listening to Putin's propaganda, those wounds remain fresh. It was necessary for Schwarzenegger to "draw the sting," as trial lawyers say, of his Germanness (Russians understandably wouldn't much distinguish the Austrians from Germans here) and of his family connection. But I thought he did this especially well, and turned it around against Putin. Indeed, he painted a story of change—of the father's Nazi past being replaced with the son's respect for Russia and desire for peace, and implicitly of the dark days of World War II being replaced by a more peaceful time. And that, I think, helped send the message that a similar change in Russia was possible as well.

Of course, much depends on Russian public attitudes, of which I know little. I assume Schwarzenegger, as a memorable movie action hero, is big there (as he apparently once was); but I'm not sure, and I'm also not sure how his visible age will affect that message. As I tell the students in my Persuasion class, one thing to remember about persuasion is that it's often unfair, and you can't expect it to be fair. At 74, one is surely entitled to look old, but that may well unfairly undermine one's persuasiveness in certain contexts, or unfairly strengthen it in others. (Indeed, perhaps it's unfair that one's persuasiveness should be strengthened by the fact that one was an athlete and a movie star; but, again, none of this is about fairness.) And of course I can't speak about the degree to which such appeals to the Russian people will indeed affect the actions of those who can actually control events.

Still, my tentative reaction is that this is quite effectively done, speaking as someone who is a student of persuasion, entirely apart from the merits of the matter. What do you think?

NEXT: Federal Court Applying W. Va. Law Issues Anti-Libel Injunction, Which W. Va. Law Appears to Forbid

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  1. "I want ordinary Western people hear me, too. You are being persistently told that your current difficulties are the result of Russia’s hostile actions and that you have to pay for the efforts to counter the alleged Russian threat from your own pockets. All of that is a lie.
    The truth is that the problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of many years of actions by the ruling elite of your respective countries, their mistakes, and short-sighted policies and ambitions. This elite is not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in Western countries. They are obsessed with their own self-serving interests and super profits.
    This can be seen in the data provided by international organisations, which clearly show that social problems, even in the leading Western countries, have exacerbated in recent years, that inequality and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and racial and ethnic conflicts are making themselves felt. The myth of the Western welfare society, the so-called golden billion, is crumbling."

    V. Putin

      1. Sorry lawyers, words are not persuasive. Substantive self interest is persuasive. Facts are persuasive.

        1. Most Americans would not defend their country. They would run away if invaded.

          Why? They have been feminized by the lawyer profession. They do not want to be sued for killing the enemy.

          1. most Ukrainians aren't defending theirs.

            1. The best defense would be to drone Putin and all his supporters.
              The more of their families are killed, the better. Those families need to run and to denounce their oligarchic criminals. End the agony of Ukraine and of Russia. Seize their assets and give the assets to Ukraine for reconstruction. With the entire Putin mob dead, the Russian economy takes off like a slingshot.

              1. Next? The Chinese Commie mafia gang.

  2. Maybe a German-Amurican-son-of-a Nazi who's lived in Amurica for 53+ years isn't the best spokesman to speak to Roosh-uns???

    But Hey, everything else is working so well...

    How about something from a real Roosh-un, not the son-of-a-Nazi, and who's lived in Roosh-a for a while...
    "There was a network of dozens of laboratories in Ukraine, where military biological programmes were conducted under the guidance and with the financial support of the Pentagon, including experiments with coronavirus strains, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever and other deadly diseases. Frantic attempts are being made to conceal traces of these secret programmes. However, we have grounds to assume that components of biological weapons were being created in direct proximity to Russia on the territory of Ukraine."

    Is anything Vlad said not true?

    1. Frank Drackman, useful idiot.

      1. Nobody said he was useful.

        1. Useful idiot. Whore for the murderous Putin. Potayto, potahto.

          1. I know the reference. I'm saying he doesn't even rise to that level.

        2. We need emojis here, as "100" is a good reply. Clearly useless idiot. Yep, the good ol WMD casus belli. At least Bush *probably* believed it was true.

  3. If you have a pulpit you should use it.

    I thought the rejection of the father was effective theme.

  4. Was his dad an SS officer or just a conscript in the Wehrmacht? That is a big difference. I don't think every German enlisted, NCO or CO was a member of the Nazi party. Semantics do matter here.

    This area of Europe is very complicated (Putin's invasion of Ukraine aside). Hundreds of years of civil wars, ethnic fighting (hell just look up the Romanian Peasant Revolution in the early 20th century), the Holodomor, Nazi atrocities were the latest in this history which to an American is pure insanity. Putting Ukraine on the pedestal as comparable to our founding colonies might leave one disappointed when this all ends. Expecting Russia to overthrow Putin and put in a nice woke leftest greenie is also likely not to occur.

    1. He was a member of the Nazi party and joined their paramilitary. During the war he was part of the military police and ended up an NCO. It does not sound like he was a nice man.

  5. Arnold "fuck your freedom" Schwarzenegger's father was a Nazi, huh?

    Like father, like son.

    1. Please differentiate conscripted citizen from Nazi volunteer.

      Were all American soldiers FDR Democrats?

      1. Arnold's father voluntarily joined the Nazi party and the SA.

        I'm not sure how much I believe Arnold's attribution of his father's drunkenness and abuse to remorse over having been part of the Nazi regime. If Gustav was remorseful, that says at least a little about his character, but that is outweighed by abusing his family.

    2. Diversity means we tolerate anyone, no matter how stupid.

  6. It was effective. Sad that the current generation thinks that bullying speakers into silence constitutes effective persuasion.

    1. Unfortunately, it is effective persuasion. Silencing one's critics means it goes uncontested. If people competing views are silenced, people accept the narrative they hear as truth.

  7. Ah-nolt is a much smarter man than he appears to be. He only plays dumb characters.

    I wish he would produce and direct movies of the four operas in the Ring of the Nibelung cycle. It would be utterly fantastic.

  8. He mentions my very favorite of his movies: Red Heat. Damn, that is one fine movie.

  9. I thought it was effective, but then, I'm not the audience.

  10. Problem is, how to get the message past Putin, so ordinary Russians can see it? One suggestion, direct delivery.

    Fill the payload of a Minuteman III with Arnold's appeal, in leaflet form. Take advantage of reliable 30-minute service, on the Minot-to-Moscow route, and scatter leaflets at a few thousand feet. A guaranteed attention-getter around Red Square.

    Better yet, start negotiations. Invite Putin to retaliate, with an ICBM leaflet shot of his own, over the DC Mall. Maybe coordinate both shots in advance, set up so they arrive simultaneously at their destinations. It could become a show of mutual trust. Diplomacy by other means, a mutual test of nerve, followed by a reward of catharsis.

    History would never forget it . . . unless something did not go as planned.

    1. Problem is Roosh-a still has an ABM system, unlike the US.

      1. I've seen someone else make that claim; maybe it was you under a different name on a different website. But it strikes me as wishful thinking on behalf of Kremlin propagandists.

        Both the US and Russia have these and just how effective they would be in the event of a nuclear attack by either side is a crap shoot.

        If both nations wanted to blow up the world, either could do it by overwhelming the other's ACB system.

        So, sorry, it's still a Mexican Standoff.

        1. The USA has a limited ABM system, designed for minor nuclear troublemakers like North Korea or Iran. It was never promised to be effective against thousands of Russian nukes.

          1. I seriously doubt Russia has anything better, though I've seen people claim they do.

  11. Don't be afraid (or come around): der Kommissar (комиссáр, or whatever) is in town. [ ]

  12. This is why I read Volokh.

  13. Two minutes two long for modern attention spans. And the white facial hair impairs instant recognition of who our speaker is and what he used to represent. Otherwise, excellent.

    1. >And the white facial hair impairs instant recognition of who our speaker is and what he used to represent.

      Anyone who is familiar with Schwarzenegger enough to give a damn will instantly recognize both his face and his voice.

  14. So what does Sylvester Stallone have to say? He actually beat a Rooshun, Ivan Drago.

  15. I found it moving and very persuasive, and I admire Arnie for doing it; as another post said, he's much smarter than he looks. I don't know whether it'll do any good, but it was certainly worth a try. According to the BBC, it's been viewed 25 million times and is trending on Russian Twitter. But of course the question is how many Russians will see it and whether they will like it as much as I did.

  16. Putin speaks fluent German. Ahnold should call him.

  17. Yuri Vlasov. I hadn't had any reason to think about him in years. He has an impressive post-weightlifting career, too.

  18. I'll give Ah-nold props for supporting his bastard child (unlike a certain "First Son") and probably will do down (or his Maid will) as the last California Governor to execute anybody (I guess you could make a claim that the innocent citizens murdered during current Governor Galvin Gruesome's administration are "Executions" but not in the general sense of the word). Watch "Pumping Iron" sometime, the part where Ah-nold compares the burn from weight lifting to ejaculation is priceless.

  19. So this is why Ahnold's always smiling

    "The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let’s say you train your biceps, blood is rushing in to your muscles and that’s what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute and its really tight and its like someone is blowing air into your muscle and it just blows up and it feels different, it feels fantastic. It’s as satisfying to me as cumming is, you know, as in having sex with a woman and cumming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of cumming in the gym; I’m getting the feeling of cumming at home; I’m getting the feeling of cumming backstage; when I pump up, when I pose out in front of 5000 people I get the same feeling, so I am cumming day and night. It’s terrific, right? So you know, I am in heaven.”

  20. Became very uninterested when he started talking about Jan 6th as an "insurrection".

    "Riot", yes. "Insurrection", not even close.

    I understand the Democrats want it to be their Reichstag Fire.

    1. More like a "putsch." The Beer Hall Putsch (1924) came eight years before the Nazis were capable of serious mayhem, and made them look a bit ridiculous.

    2. Not only that, but Arnold says that the J6 protest was exactly the same as the Ukraine war.

  21. I still remember Vasily Alekseyev. Russia has a tradition of great weight lifters

  22. Stopped listening after he called Nancy Pelosi's false flag Reichstag Fire an attempted overthrow of the U.S. government.

    A head that feeble cannot possibly have anything of interest to say.

  23. Schwarzenegger's speech was sincere and effective, but his comparison of the Russian invasion to the events of January sixth was stupid, disproportionate and ridiculous.

  24. I think a word of apology would make it more persuasive to Russian audience. Something like, "I am really sorry my father was serving the Nazis enforcing Leningrad blockade during WW2, where many thousands of Leningrad civilians died of starvation. Believe me, this is not who I am."

    1. He can apologize for that when you apologize for Stalin's mass starvation of the Ukraine or something along those lines.

      The Allies had to make a deal with the devil (Stalin and Mao) to rid the world of Nazism/fascism. Hitler comes in #3 in terms of body count rack up, behind 1. Mao, and 2. Stalin.

      Not saying Hitler was less evil, rather that he had less time to do his evil because he, unlike the other two, was removed from power.

      It's a shame that we haven't gotten beyond these grievances.

      1. Dear Jon Rowe,

        I don't need Arnold's apology. I simply said that I think offering an apology would make his message more persuasive. That is what Prof. Volokh asked us to do, to evaluate Arnold's video as persuasion.

        Why should I apologize for Stalin's crimes is beyond me.

        1. "Why should I apologize for Stalin's crimes is beyond me."

          Like replying with "Arnold Schwarzenegger had nothing to do with his father's crimes."

          1. This is not about holding anybody responsible for anything, it's about crafting a persuasive message for Russian people.

  25. Invoking Soviet champion weightlifter Yuri Vlasov was classic Hollywood mix of ignorance, exploitation and stupidity.

    Yuri Vlasov was Russian national from Donbas area in Ukranian SSR, which is now Donetsk People's republic. After retiring from sports he became a writer and later entered into Russian politics. His political agenda quickly moved to radical Russian nationalism. He died about 1 year ago, so Arnold can safely exploit his name now. Without a doubt Yuri Vlasov would support Putin actions to separate Donbas from Ukraine.

    To invoke a loving memory of radical Russian nationalist from Donbas to advocate against actions of Russian nationalists in Donbas, that's Hollywood, baby!

    Of course, not so many people remember Yuri Vlasov now, but those who do would be much less persuaded by Arnold's spiel.

    1. But the people of Donbas, like the rest of Ukraine's Russophone "Surzhyks" (about half Ukraine's population), are not interested in Putin's idea of "liberation." If they had folded the way Putin's propagandists expected them to, Putin would have won in less than a week.

      1. Sorry, but I fail to see the connection between my comment and your follow-up.

        Schwarzenegger produced a video to address Russian people, Prof. Volokh inquired how persuasive that video may be for Russian people, so I offered my opinion on the subject of persuasion. I am not trying to win a war here.

        If you want to fight in this war, you should know where to go.

  26. Considering the question, how persuasive is Arnold's video for Russian audience, I don't think patronizing is an effective persuasion.

    The whole premise of the video is Arnold taking upon himself the mission of informing the Russian people about things they already know much better than he does. He goes as far as solemnly telling the Russians that many of them have relatives in Ukraine! This is simply ridiculous level of patronizing.

  27. As a former communications person for Arnold Schwarzenegger, I am still amazed at his reach and recognition. When we would enter elementary schools with him, I would wonder if the small children would have any idea who this man is. Granted, they may have been told in advance but Schwarzenegger's worldwide recognition is staggering. Why else would nearly every international news outlet reach out to discuss the issues we were advocating? Does Japan, for instance, otherwise have interest in California's initiative minutiae?

    In terms of how well this was done, both in messaging and production....Arnold knows more than anyone how to connect with people (Zelensky has given him a run for his money...I trust Schwarzenegger would be more than pleased to concede).

  28. Arnold's piece must have been somewhat effective, since it has attracted the attention of a couple of Putin's trolls.

  29. I'm not a huge Arnold fan, but thought he came across quite well in this video. I'm dubious that it will do much good, but glad he tried.

  30. Dear




  31. Sorry, bad keyboard.
    i thought it was an effective appeal for a return to sanity,
    but you must be in tears, Professor, at the shitty responses by the usual suspects. Pearl guzzling swine who do what pigs are known for in the comments. No one should judge this blog by the reactionary comments it engenders. I appreciate the chance to hear the thoughts of serious people. Thanks for that. Also, the storming of the Winter Palace--insurrection or riot? Location, location, location.

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