Link of the Day

Here’s a good thread that explains why it’s not true that there’s no support for the war in Russia. Not only is there support, it massive, overwhelming, and gleeful. Those who oppose are a tiny minority.

The idea that there’s a brutal dictator in Russia who tyrannizes 140 million unwilling victims is based on a denial of reality. It’s cute and comforting. Get rid of the big bad wolf, and a happy Little Red Riding Hood can skip away into the sunset with her adoring grandma.

But there’s no wolf to slaughter and no unwilling victims to liberate. Putin won all of his elections. Yes, he added a few percentage points out of vanity. He likes having overwhelming majorities at the polls. But his actual results were always by far higher than of any US president since Reagan. The maximum you can falsify is 10-15%. Nobody can falsify 60% or 70%.

The guy at the link is absolutely right. The problem isn’t Putin.

5 thoughts on “Link of the Day

  1. “A thread about ‘ordinary Russians’, whom many Western media portray as victims of an authoritarian regime. But that’s just not true.”

    In my mind, those unfortunate enough to live in an authoritarian regime, who are not themselves part of the ruling elite, are more likely than not to be a “victims” of one kind or another.

    But, as for war culpability – let me go out on a limb and suggest that in the modern age public opinion tends to follow rather than lead ruling elite decisions to engage in wars. This is true even in democracies.

    Good recent examples of this might be the wars against Serbia and Iraq.

    It’s not well remembered that in the case of the Vietnam war, it took several years for peace activists to chip away successfully at the American public’s support for the war. As is often the case, moral arguments against Vietnam were less effective than growing battle losses and a military draft that swept up not only the working class but the sons of the elite.

    Reaching back further still, how do we assess the responsibility of the German public in 1930s and 1940s for the Nazi regime, the wars of aggression that were launched in their name, and for the murders of millions upon millions of untermenschen so that their herrenmenschen bloodlines would not be polluted? Were they all equally guilty or should we remember the context of the political rise of the Nazis where German society was deeply polarized between ‘right’ and ‘left.’?

    War is almost always multi-causal and requires careful examination of the historical legacy of past events and decisions, the balance of international economic and military power, the configuration of domestic politics, domestic political culture, and domestic political institutions, the personalities of leaders, and, yes, public opinion. BTW it’s no accident that I listed public opinion last.

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    1. When people you know – acquaintances, colleagues, relatives – people you know in person scream into your face “I hope you are wiped off the face of the Earth by a nuclear bomb!” it’s hard to see them as victims. This is a true story. Back in 2014, my father’s lifelong Russian friends told him they were burning his books because he’s from Ukraine. These books are completely apolitical. They are about the beauty of nature and his love of Borges and Cortázar. What needs to happen to a person to do something like this to a friend? Or to scream “I wish you were dead”?

      Last week, a friend I’ve known since age 11 insistently mocked me, literally laughed at me, when I was grieving the destruction of my city. I wasn’t even addressing her personally. I posted on FB and she started showering me with mocking messages. It’s hard to see such people as victims of anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “it’s hard to see them as victims…”

        Yes it’s hard. But there it is. In the end, what else is there?

        An admittedly weak analogy – do I blame the public opinion constructed by millions of basement-hiding cowards for our neverendum plague lockdowns? Yes, to some extent. But I know where the responsibility lies for their opinions. They weren’t born cowards, they were led in that direction by more powerful forces.

        The rest of the world has skin in this conflict too as we would all like to avoid nuclear incineration and at the end of the day if peace is to be made here it will have to be with our enemies.

        Please, I’m not trying to school you on how you should feel or think about this. And, you know I oppose without any reservation the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities that have been visited on its innocents.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “I know you’d never support this atrocity.

    And, I thank you for that!

    Please allow me to share a couple of anecdotes that might help to explain my view of “ordinary Russians” as to a greater or lesser extent victims/prisoners of their poisoned politics.

    In my youth, it was fashionable/even mandatory to view “ordinary Russians” through a highly negative lens. By nature, I resist generalizing about people (my sainted mother’s influence) so I was always a bit skeptical of this narrative but…

    Russians were said to be monsters who were threatening to nuke us. They were oppressors who had cruelly enslaved Eastern Europe – this was a view noisily expressed by the numerous Hungarian and later Czech refugees in our midst. They were mindless robots who only appeared to be good at hockey but were doomed to fall before all-star Canadian teams because Russian players lacked the capacity for creative individualism.

    As it happened, my first serious university girlfriend was of Ukrainian origin whose family had entered Canada as refugees after World War II. In the view of her parents, it was her job to marry a nice Ukrainian boy and produce children who would go home to liberate the homeland – seriously!! (I thought this was deranged but I was crazy about her at the time – no, we did not marry lol)

    While doing my undergrad, I took courses in the institutions and ideologies of both contemporary Russian and Chinese communist regimes so I had a pretty good idea of how the political architecture was used to cage individuals.

    After my M.A., my first full time job was as a contract teacher for two years in a very rural area in central Africa. The school was staffed by foreigners as qualified locals to fill these teaching positions were as scarce as hen’s teeth.
    It so happened that as an extension of the USSR’s foreign aid programmes, there were 5 young Russians teaching at this isolated school.

    Over months and years that we worked together and lived cheek by jowl in the same compound, I became friends with these Russians and gradually learned some of the details of their lives as they increasingly came to trust me.

    Only one of the five fit the western stereotype – he was a drunken monster with a high rank CPSU family connection and his wife (also a teacher) was the price for getting her family out of political trouble back home. You read that right. He beat her up periodically. They had a young baby. So she was definitely a “victim” imho. (Deliver us from the Evil One!)

    The other two were also “victims” at least in my eyes. Although they were more privileged than most in being able to travel outside Russia, they had to pass in their passports to the Russian embassy on arrival and so were not allowed to travel outside the country. Their salary was paid to the Russian embassy which paid them a very small living allowance out of it. On their weeks off at the end of terms, they had to spend significant time in the capital at their Embassy where they could be debriefed. They always, always had to be careful about what they said as they feared being reported on and punished or their families at home punished. When my contract was over, it was clear without being said that we could not maintain any contract even by mail in case this raised suspicions. I could go on but I hope I’ve made my point.

    Fast forward to the 1990s when I had the opportunity to visit Moscow twice on research business. To make a long story short, it was my very strong impression that the level of political fear/paranoia amongst the population was still very high even though the CPSU was no longer in charge, at least formally, and the general political situation was unsettled. Since then, it seems that repression of all kinds is significantly worse, not better, now as the Putinites have two decades to organize themselves.

    So this is how I come to think that “ordinary Russians” can be victims and victimizers at the same time.

    Finally, hope this link makes you smile if only for a moment.

    https://www.sportsnet.ca/nhl/video/axios-ukrainian-mens-ensemble-sings-ukrainian-anthem-oilers-canadiens-game/

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