The U.S. empire’s censorship of anti-imperialist voices on Ukraine, & its dire consequences
Since the U.S. empire provoked Russia into intervening in Ukraine by threatening to put nukes right across Russia’s border through NATO expansion, and by installing a belligerent fascist regime in Ukraine that was about to invade the newly independent DPR and LPR, the empire’s Russophobic censorship has exploded. With the invention of the concept of “fake news” as a pejorative specifically targeting anti-imperialist online content, and the shaky intelligence narrative that Russia “hacked” the 2016 U.S. election, the foundations for an unprecedented censorship campaign were constructed. Now they’re being made full use of.
Since Washington started off the Ukraine crisis in 2014 by carrying out the Euromaidan coup, and especially since the beginning of the “Russiagate” media hysteria two years later, tech companies have orchestrated successive waves of suppression against all who challenge imperialist propaganda. These neo-McCarthyist narratives have been so effective at stoking fear, hatred, and closed-mindedness that they’ve played a major part in the persecution of Julian Assange, who’s been vilified as a Russian asset. With the empire’s intensification of its cold war escalations, the silencing of these voices has gone further than ever.
The suppression of anti-imperialist reporting on the intervention has been all-encompassing, carried out by every level of institutions in the range of U.S. hegemony. The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has kicked out its Russian members, forcing RT America to permanently shut down after years of politically motivated intensifying legal pressure upon the network. Tech companies have restricted Russian state media—and naturally independent “Russian disinformation” spreaders along with them—at the direct urging of the imperialist governments. In Australia, a national current affairs program has engaged in unprecedented political censorship by making a participant leave when he began pointing out the atrocities of Ukraine’s government-backed fascist militias. The EU has banned RT and Sputnik within its member countries, and subsequently had to defend itself from accusations that it isn’t living up to its supposedly democratic aspirations.
More concerningly, the U.S.-aligned governments that are closest to the conflict—and that have incidentally become dominated by ultra-nationalism—are directly criminalizing anti-imperialist sentiments. In Latvia, those found expressing support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine are to be imprisoned for 10 to 25 years. The Czech Republic has made open support for Russia’s intervention illegal as well. Since the coup, being pro-Russian has been effectively illegal in Ukraine, bringing political imprisonment, torture, or paramilitary execution upon those the regime judges to be enemies of the state. This reign of terror has naturally been extended to communists, general socialist sympathizers, and people of disfavored ethnic backgrounds like Jews and Romas. With this spreading of laws against pro-Russian speech, such anti-democratic and racist measures will be easier for Ukraine’s neighboring ultra-nationalist regimes to get away with. And they’ll likely spread to more countries that have been undergoing extreme right-wing takeovers, such as Poland—which already criminalizes “supporting a crime of aggression” with a penalty of 5 months to 3 years in prison. Poland clearly applies a double standard to this penalty, since Poland has backed the crimes of the Ukrainian nationalists.
All of these attacks against free speech have been rationalized with emotionally charged demagogic rhetoric, lacking in nuance and designed to tap into xenophobic prejudices which have been cultivated in the consciousness of so-called “Westerners” for generations. As shown by how the host of the Australian program shut down the speaker, there’s no room in this mindset for anything other than demonization against the designated enemy. He claimed that “We can’t have anyone who is sanctioning, supporting violence and killing of people,” implying that the speaker was excusing war crimes (real or imagined) on Russia’s part. But he said this in the context of a discussion about the violence against non-combatants that’s been committed by the Ukrainian side, including Ukraine’s National Guard, in an effort that’s amounted to an ethnic cleansing of Russians. Therefore by taking this stance, he himself was excusing the violence and killing of people who don’t deserve this treatment by any reasonable argument.
This and the other hypocrisies within our discourse, such as the fact that the U.S. has violated the sovereignty of innumerable countries, or the fact that Yemenis and Palestinians are currently being targeted with genocide yet don’t receive the solidarity that Westerners are performatively extending towards Ukrainians, get pushed aside by this narrative control campaign. The cold warriors will never engage in introspection over the inconsistencies of their stances, and in many cases they’re outright on the side of atrocities like the Israeli occupation and the siege on Yemen. They’ve reduced the world to an utterly simplistic story where the heroic West is seeking to thwart the villainous Putin.
If this is the ideological orthodoxy that dominates our highest levels of power, with the more nuance-open academics and commentators being relegated to obscurity or attacked as Russian assets, the U.S. empire is set for an even worse predicament than it’s already in. You can argue that Putin miscalculated when his Ukraine intervention ended up unifying his adversaries, but his adversaries have miscalculated by imposing extreme sanctions on Russia that will end up hurting Americans and Europeans more than Russians. And the unintended negative consequences of the U.S./NATO bloc’s decisions will ultimately be more costly for this bloc than whatever blowback that Putin has created for himself. Because Putin is leading a country that’s too lacking in economic leverage to function as an imperialist power, whereas the U.S./NATO bloc is an empire. An empire that’s been in unprecedented decline since the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, and that’s subject to the perils which declining empires encounter when they act recklessly. What they’re doing is unsustainable, whereas Russia can more easily overcome this crisis by virture of not having the baggage of a collapsing empire. Even if Russia is under economic siege, it’s still a rising superpower, and will remain so.
Despite the insistence from millionaire celebrities that higher gas prices are worthwhile sacrifices for “freedom,” the working class within the imperialist countries are in abysmal circumstances due to the pandemic and decades of austerity. And the economic consequences from the sanctions will drive down their living standards even further, provoking an intensification of class conflict. Every neoliberal social ill that these countries have is going to be exacerbated by this economic war that our ruling class is waging. As will the elite excesses at the root of these ills, such as endless increases in military spending when the people are going hungry, neglect towards issues like systemic racism, and governmental prioritization of industries that are accelerating the climate crisis—with the cold war’s pivot away from Russian oil to U.S. oil fueling a regression in climate progress. All of these destructive trends are going to blow back at the U.S. empire.
At the same time, Russia is going to come out of this stronger. Putin’s fulfillment of his moral imperative to protect the people of Donbass from Ukrainian aggression has increased his popularity, satisfying the vast majority of the Russians—including the Russian communists—who’ve from the start desired a demilitarization of the neo-Nazi menace in Ukraine. The sanctions will cause a rally around the flag effect among Russians, solidifying the country’s resistance towards U.S. schemes to incite a color revolution that installs a U.S. puppet. This will position Russia better for the scenario that the imperialists see as even more dreadful than the continued domination of Putin’s camp: a return of the communists to power, and a reestablishment of the Soviet Union. Which this weakening of Ukrainian fascism’s military power will make all the more easy when the time comes to turn Ukraine back into a Russian-aligned workers state. The reactionaries are being neutralized in advance of a restoration of peace and prosperity to Ukraine.
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