- Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines with a viral video to the Russian people about the invasion of Ukraine.
- His compelling style of communication has garnered 35 million views, many of which stem from Russia, where the video is now trending.
Schwarzenegger used a combination of facts, storytelling, and imagery to powerfully convey his point that the Russian regime was lying to the people about the invasion.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the former Republican governor of California. He has starred in more than 20 major Hollywood movies, and before that, was a champion bodybuilder and Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger found himself back in the news after he posted a nine-minute video on social media attempting to set the record straight about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The video gained at least 35 million views in just a few days and reportedly made waves on Russian social media as well. What made the video and the way Schwarzenegger communicated in it so powerful? Here is a breakdown of Schwarzenegger’s techniques.
Reach Your Audience
Schwarzenegger called his video “A message to my Russian friends,” and directly addressed the Russian populace to tell them some things about the invasion that he didn’t think they knew.
Because many Russians don’t speak English fluently, Schwarzenegger used Russian subtitles to translate his message into a format all literate Russians would be able to understand. If Schwarzenegger had not used an easy-to-comprehend format, his message would not have been able to reach its intended audience, and its effectiveness would have been lessened.
Schwarzenegger also has some additional credibility on this issue, as he is of European descent. His family is Austrian and German, so the issue of the invasion being so close to his original home has affected him deeply.
State Facts Simply
Schwarzenegger offered facts to his audience in a simple way that was easy for them to understand. Facts that were intended to make them question what Russian state-controlled media was telling them. Here are some of those facts:
- Ukraine is not a Nazi-led country as Russia claims. President Volodymyr is Jewish.
- 141 countries voted that Russia is the aggressor against Ukraine. Only four countries voted that Russia was not the aggressor.
- Russia has attacked Ukrainian civilians and civilian locations, including a maternity hospital and a children’s hospital. It has also flattened entire city blocks.
It is important to state these facts because many Russians have not heard them before, and Schwarzenegger knows this.
Forbes pointed out that Schwarzenegger spends 60% of the video telling three stories that support his narrative that Russia is lying to its people. The first two stories are about his devotion to his Russian friend, former bodybuilder Yuri Petrovich Vlasov. They are intended to show that there are many Russian heroes and that he is a friend to the Russian people.
The third story used Schwarzenegger’s father as a cautionary tale about what can happen when you trust the wrong government officials. His father was “broken” and in pain for the rest of his life after going into Leningrad to fight under what he later learned were false pretenses. Schwarzenegger is making it clear that Russian soldiers could end up in the same position if they keep fighting loyally for their country.
Storytelling increases the power of almost any message and helps people personally relate to the message, increasing their understanding and empathy for what someone is saying.
Use Meaningful Images
Schwarzenegger also used two meaningful props to bolster his message. He showed the blue coffee mug he said he uses every morning, which was given to him by Vaslov. This is intended to show how much Vaslov, and by extension the Russian people, mean to him.
The second prop used by Schwarzenegger was the sword from his Conan movies, which he used as a metaphor for democracy. “Now, here’s the thing about swords. The more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes,” he says. “Now, I’m not telling you all this because I want you to become an expert sword maker, but our democracy is like the steel of this sword. The more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes.”
Less Is More
Some celebrities or former politicians have worn out their welcome with fans or the public by posting about every issue, but Schwarzenegger has avoided this by picking and choosing only the most important subjects for his infrequent posts.
Other than Ukraine, the last time Schwarzenegger posted anything like this was after the January 6 Capitol breach, which he condemned in the strongest terms despite his political leanings. The end of that video features the same sword-for-democracy metaphor shown in his message to the Russian people, suggesting the ideas of freedom and democracy are incredibly close to his heart.
Because he didn’t spend all his political capital chasing down minor issues, people are more willing to listen when he chooses to speak.
Give a Call to Action
Schwarzenegger gives two main calls to action (CTAs) during the video. The predominant CTA he gives is for the Russian people to realize their country is lying to them and to refuse to cooperate if they can. This is a huge ask from Schwarzenegger, since there could be dire consequences in a regime like Vladimir Putin’s for their defiance.
He also gives a CTA to Putin directly. He comments, “To President Putin, I say you started this war. You’re leading this war. You can stop this war now.” This is not the predominant CTA in the video, however, since it is clearly addressed to the Russian people.
Putin is highly unlikely to respond to Schwarzenegger’s plea, but even that CTA shows that he is on the side of the Russian people, not Putin, which furthers his main message.
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