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The two simplistic and naive narratives about the Ukraine conflict

The NATO narrative for the average citizen is: NATO only wanted peace and love, but the Russians unfortunately got in the way and want to expand their empire in the old-fashioned way. The Russian narrative is: Russia only wanted peace and love, but evil NATO unfortunately got in the way and wanted to expand the NATO empire in the old-fashioned way. We are asked to choose one of these two completely simplistic, absurd and naïve narratives.

But this is nonsense. The superpowers need each other as a pretext to maintain their status and to expand. They have much more to gain as a secret cartel, working together and staging proxy wars such as in Ukraine. Or Vietnam in the past. Or in Korea.

No matter who does the talking, whether it’s a politician, a journalist, an online influencer or a standard activist, you only get one of the two standard narratives. The same talking points are delivered; often times using the exact same language. Russia supposedly was humiliated after the cold war. The NATO expansion in eastern Europe was supposedly very susbtantial, even though it wasn’t. Promises were broken. Russia is being encircled. And so on and so forth. Nobody seems to be providing a deeper analysis.

In the US, the Republicans will have a problem if Ukraine is invaded by Russia. The Russian regime markets itself as conservative, and it looks like an ordinary war of aggression no matter how you twist it. The Republicans are trying to ignore the situation, downplay it, and they pray it will just go away . But they make themselves pretty unpopular. Trump was considered pro-Russian. Other leading Republicans are considered pro-Russian. That can cost a lot of votes in the midterms this year and in the presidential elections in 2024. The fact that Joe Biden looks so old and tired may even play into the hands of the Democrats, because Biden just doesn’t come across as an aggressor. He doesn’t look like a cold warrior, like a Ronald Reagan. The rightwingers are in panic. In the event of a war, citizens tend to support the president and that’s a Democrat right now.

Tucker Carlson on FOX News tried to downplay the whole situation: Conservatives should ignore an invasion of Ukraine and focus instead on domestic issues. Traditional conspiracy media outlets such as Infowars are trying as hard as they can to steer the narrative In a way that would get the Republican party more votes. Alex Jones is claiming that Russia is now christian-conservative and an ally for American conservatives. They will say anything to not lose any ground to the Democrats. However, many actual and potential GOP voters don’t like the Russian regime so the narratives on FOX and Infowars may be adjusted over time to reflect what the voters want to hear.

Classic conspiracy media is framing the crisis in the old-fashioned way. A leftwing world conspiracy is supposedly trying to destroy conservative Russia. This interpretation is based on the old bestselling books from the John Birch Society, which was financed by Koch Industries. These books tried to tone down anti-jewish myths but ultimately preached the core fairy tale that very small jewish banking families took over the British Empire after the battle of Waterloo, and then took over the US, unhindered of course. The Birch books strongly advocated that you trust rightwing billionaires and certain established rightwing circles. You were supposed to follow these influential circles. They would lead you to victory.

It is now quite clear that an alliance between Republican media and conspiracy media is happening. During the Bush administration, the two were kept very separate. Questioning 9/11, the “war on terror” and the Patriot Act was considered treason by Fox News hosts. It is very contradictory when American conservative influencers on one hand tout the spirit of American Independence, 1776 and George Washington, and at the same time whitewash the Putin regime. Not only is the Russian regime a totalitarian dictatorship and not a free republic. But Russia today is increasingly monarchist, aristocratic. A new tsarist empire is established. The Russian tsars belonged to the same high nobility as the British King George III, against whom George Washington had fought a war of independence.

Russian conditions today and then are deeply un-American. 1776 stands in the tradition of the Enlightenment movement. But Russia never had an era of enlightenment. One went directly from serfdom to communist serfdom. Then from 1991 there was a few years of chaos and then the Putin era started. The audience is willing to belive anything, as long as there is the hope of not losing any ground to the Democrats. The US elite is not divided into left and right. There are no two blocks fighting each other to the death.

Since 2008 Russia has increasingly spun a broad web of media, politicians and individual influencers in the West, while at the same time massively increasing censorship at home. Any significant, systematic opposition to the regime is no longer possible. It has long been practiced to separate the Russian Internet from the West, so that Russian citizens will no longer have a chance to access information that has not been thoroughly censored by the state.

How has Russia changed, how was it in the 1980s, and how is it today? In the 80’s there was no way for the citizens to change their miserable circumstances. Not even the demand for a new, better socialist model was allowed. Strikes were not allowed and similar forms of left-wing protest. Even grumbling was considered a dangerous form of protest. Complaining can spread collectively and lead to stronger forms of protest. A joke during the Stalin era could mean tens of years in a labor camp. Even in the East German GDR, long after the Stalin era, forms of nagging or jokes were tricky. It was a kind of social credit system. Complaining made you lose points.

Today in Russia you can grumble in the private sphere, but as soon as you are looking for an audience and want to build structures, you are a target. As soon as you have foreign contacts, you are considered a spy. There is no remotely fair justice system. There is systematic torture. In the 80s Russia had a centrally planned economy, today you have a largely planned economy. In the 80s privileged party functionaries had moderate wealth, but today there is extreme wealth accumulated in the upper class. Russia today is just an evolution of Soviet Russia. An ideological mishmash, more influence of the state-controlled church.

Before 2008, during the Bush era and also during the Clinton era, conspiracy media influencer Alex Jones was firmly against the Republican Party, the Democrats and firmly against Russia. Now he says the Putin regime is a key ally in the fight against the left world conspiracy of the international bankers. I doubt Alex Jones really believes the garbage he tells about Russia. I suspect this is purely tactical: he knows that Russia is a shabby dictatorship, but he thinks there is no alternative to aligning with the Russians. A recent guest on the AJ show was the “leading Russian journalist” Arkady Mamontov who looks like an overweight Count Dracula. He graduated from the philological faculty of Moscow State University in 1988. After graduation, he worked as a special correspondent for the Novosti Press Agency (APN).

Mamontov and Jones exchange the same old worn out talking points we have heard from so many others. In the past Jones suspected a secret cartel of the superpowers. But after Russia re-branding as conservative, Jones no longer entertains that notion.

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