Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Appeal to Russians, as Persuasion

This video was excellently crafted. It was obviously heartfelt by Schwarzenegger. But sincerity is not sufficient. The opening was about Schwarzenegger’s Russian weightlifter idol was particularly effective. I also liked the return to Schwarzenegger at the end. It’s not counterintuitive at all. One is instructed to make a connection and to show support for the audience even when they attack someone you know.

This story is so vivid and concrete that I thought it was exceptionally well executed. I found the touching touch of Schwarzenegger, 14 years old, handholding Yuri Vlasov (Russian weightlifter), and Schwarzenegger (now 74), still holding a child-sized hand in his hand that seemed out of place to Vlasovs’s was quite moving. The story about how Vlasov was photographed in Schwarzenegger’s room inspired him, even though his father objected.

Schwarzenegger was honest in admitting his father served in World War II’s Nazi army. I believe that this is also a very effective admission. These wounds are still fresh to Russians, I think, especially for those who listen to Putin’s propaganda. Schwarzenegger had to show “the sting”, as the trial lawyers said, about his Germanness (Russians can easily distinguish Austrians and Germans in this country) and his familial connection. He did this exceptionally well and turned the tables against Putin, I think. 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. That, in my opinion, was a signal that similar changes were possible for Russia.

Much depends on Russian attitudes and I don’t know much about them. Schwarzenegger is a well-known movie hero and it’s my assumption that he’s popular there. But I don’t know if he’s still around, nor how his age might affect this message. My Persuasion students know that persuasion has its fair moments and can expect to win. Although one can be 74 years old and have the right to appear older, it may not unfairly affect one’s persuasiveness or make it stronger in certain situations. Perhaps it is unfair to say that persuasiveness can be boosted by one’s status as a star athlete or movie actor. But again, this is not fair. Of course, I cannot speak to how much such appeals to Russian people can affect the actions and outcomes of those who have control over events.

My initial reaction to this seems to be that the task is accomplished well, and I say that as someone who studies persuasion rather than the merits. Do you agree?