Yesterday I was giving one of my regular talks at the community center. The topic was the Spanish Empire. A large crowd showed up, and they all wanted me to talk about Ukraine. Mind you, I have great material on the Spanish Empire. It’s not the usual Zinnian “bad, evil Spaniards genocided the poor innocent indigenous people.” I’ve got really interesting stuff, plus I blasted the BLM and the Latinx crap, creating a lot of confusion among the very liberal crowd at the community center. But they love me, so I can say whatever I need.
In any case, what they really wanted was to hear about Ukraine, so I wrapped up the Spanish Empire and gave people what they wanted. The last time I’d spoken to this group was a week before the war and I told them that I did not believe Russia would invade. There was some gentle ribbing of me over that. It’s well-deserved and I ate crow, recognizing that I’d been in denial because I just didn’t want to believe it.
The listeners were completely on our side and had a profound understanding of why Ukrainian military strategy is so much more successful than the Russian. I know that at least two of the listeners are retired career military men and one is a professor of military history, so they know this stuff. There was a lot of cussing out of Biden for dawdling on providing aerial defense. I didn’t join in and only said that we are deeply grateful to our Western allies, particular the US, Poland and the UK.
The only area where I felt that people didn’t fully get it was the belief that Russian propaganda is at fault and the Russian people simply don’t know the truth. I don’t know why so many good people still cling to this talking point about propaganda. Propaganda is only successful when it tells people what they want to hear.
Take, for instance, the chief Russian (well, Russian in terms of his citizenship) propagandist Solovyov. I’m so old that I remember how he was one of the leading lights of the anti-Putin opposition. He was a great darling of the Khodorkovsky crowd when Khodorkovsky was in jail. Solovyov was so anti-Putin that he even lost his show at some point and had to hawk weight-loss supplements to make ends meet. He had a bit of a Milo-Yannoupolis strategy back then.
Eventually the guy must have thought, “hey, why am I putting my livelihood at risk to bring freedom to the stupid gits who don’t want it?” and started giving people what they want. Now he’s a mega-star in Russia, fabulously rich and very popular. He clearly doesn’t believe any of the crap he spouts but that crap is what brings viewership, and viewership is money.
There are no circumstances that can bring out of people what isn’t already there. Propaganda doesn’t change people. It flatters them. It mirrors their deepest feelings at them, making these feelings normal and comforting. If you aren’t already a stinking piece of excrement, no propaganda can turn you into one.