Ideologues Air Their Grievances While Putin Slaughters Ukrainians
Why pay attention to the suffering of Ukrainians when you have an opportunity to get some attention for yourself or your cause?
by Ben Cohen
As Russian troops pulverize Ukraine with thermobaric weapons, illegally target civilians, blow up government buildings, and send children with cancer into underground bunkers, millions are rallying to help those in need. People are donating money, lobbying politicians, refusing to do business with Russian companies, and raising as much awareness about the plight of Ukrainians as possible. The conflict has quite literally turned the entire globe against Vladimir Putin and made Ukraine and its citizens into heroes.
It has been heartwarming to see the goodwill and generosity shown towards Ukraine and is has no doubt given the Ukrainian people a modicum of solace during their darkest hour.
Fringe ideologues however, are busy airing their long list of pet grievances to anyone who will listen, because of course, the war in Ukraine is really all about them. Why pay attention to the suffering of Ukrainians or Vladimir Putin’s psychotic aggression threatening to plunge the planet into a nuclear standoff when you have an opportunity to get some attention for yourself or your cause?
The Alt Right
The far right has been working diligently to convince the public that not only is Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine none of America’s business, but actually a good thing. According to America’s chief MAGA K̶r̶e̶m̶l̶i̶n̶ propagandist Tucker Carlson, “Ukraine is not a democracy. It has never been a democracy in its history, and it’s not now. It’s a client state of the Biden administration.”
Knowing his audience admires Putin’s strongman politics and flagrant ethno nationalism, Carlson asked them the following:
“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”
The subtext of course, is that Joe Biden is.
Deep in MAGA land, things are even crazier. "It's no surprise to anyone that Putin invaded Ukraine," Marjorie Taylor Green opined on Twitter. "Biden gave him the green light by saying the US is not going to war with Russia."
Just a month earlier though, Greene had this to say about Biden threatening to go to war with Russia:
The grift is so obvious that the Taylor Greenes of this world don’t bother trying to be consistent. When your sole objective is to “own the libs”, whatever works that day will circulate until a new talking point emerges your can squeeze some mileage out of.
The Alt Left
Sadly, it isn’t much better on the fringe left. The talking points aren’t quite as insane, but they are equally evidence free and designed to distract from Ukraine’s suffering. Ideologues are currently claiming that the Biden administration is not only responsible for what is happening to Ukraine, but actively working to hurt Americans in the process. Just look at Alt Left heroine Tulsi Gabbard.
After claiming that war could have been avoided had Biden “acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns” over Ukraine’s desire to be in NATO (Biden has never advocated Ukraine’s NATO membership), Gabbard had this to say to Tucker Carlson on the West’s sanctions:
“These sanctions don’t work. What we do know is that they will increase suffering and hardship for the American people. And this is whole problem with the Biden administration: They are so focused on how do we punish Putin that they don’t care and are not focused on what is actually in the best interests of the American people.”
Firstly, given Gabbard was talking before the sanctions were put in place, she had no idea whether they would work or not (and we still don’t). Second, anyone with the vaguest understanding of history knows that allowing a psychopathic dictator with a huge military to attack a sovereign nation rarely ends well for anyone. Americans might suffer at the gas pump and their stock portfolios might take a hit for a few months, but giving a territorially ambitious dictator the green light to take whatever he wants will have far more severe consequences. Furthermore, what exactly is Biden supposed to do? If he commits troops, Gabbard would complain that he is escalating the conflict. If he does nothing, Gabbard would claim he is incompetent and weak. Sanctions are a powerful tool and one of the reasons so many countries around the world are applying them to Russia.
It is highly unlikely that Gabbard believes what she is saying or has any coherent strategy of her own, but she knows her audience despises Joe Biden and moderate Democrats. Just like her counterparts on the right, she will say almost anything to please them. And as many in the Alt Left griftosphere know, even bootlicking white nationalists like Tucker Carlson is preferable to agreeing with a political moderate.
Me, me, me
Another glaring example of his navel gazing is the growing chorus of “anti-woke” newsletter publishers like Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, and Bari Weiss. Taibbi so spectacularly botched the coverage of the Ukraine conflict that he even sent an apology to his readers after mocking US intelligence predictions that Putin was about to invade Ukraine. “My mistake was more like reverse chauvinism,” Taibbi wrote. “Being so fixated on Western misbehavior that I didn’t bother to take this possibility seriously enough.”
Taibbi took a few days off from commenting on the topic, then returned to form penning an article exonerating himself and claiming that actually, he was right all along.
Glenn Greenwald has taken his pet grievances to entirely new levels during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Having made the same basic errors as Taibbi (putting his own hatred of the West ahead of any rational thoughts he might have about the conflict), Greenwald didn’t bother apologizing and instead doubled down on his tiresome list of complaints about “media elites”, censorship, neoliberals etc, etc:
Forget the bombing of innocent civilians, focus instead on a privately owned tech platform kicking off a vile propaganda media outlet for spreading lies!
Bari Weiss has also been busy banging the “anti woke” drum publishing ludicrous articles to her Substack blaming Great Thunberg and the left’s green energy policies for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Wrote guest contributor Michael Shellenberger:
As the West fell into a hypnotic trance about healing its relationship with nature, averting climate apocalypse and worshiping a teenager named Greta, Vladimir Putin made his moves.
While he expanded nuclear energy at home so Russia could export its precious oil and gas to Europe, Western governments spent their time and energy obsessing over “carbon footprints,” a term created by an advertising firm working for British Petroleum. They banned plastic straws because of a 9-year-old Canadian child’s science homework. They paid for hours of “climate anxiety” therapy….
Germany has trapped itself. It could burn more coal and undermine its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Or it could use more natural gas, which generates half the carbon emissions of coal, but at the cost of dependence on imported Russian gas. Berlin was faced with a choice between unleashing the wrath of Putin on neighboring countries or inviting the wrath of Greta Thunberg. They chose Putin.
As one Twitter user commented, “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a culture war nail.”
It takes a truly potent combination of arrogance, narcissism, and indifference to use the ongoing humanitarian crisis to peddle this kind of nonsense, but then this is what is required in today’s media industry and political system. Marjorie Taylor Greene needs money from QAnon followers to keep her political ambitions alive, while Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger have subscriptions to sell.
It is one thing to have a different perspective on what is happening in Ukraine right now, but ignoring facts and evidence to suit your ideology isn’t just dishonest, it is shameful beyond belief.
The Banter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Read an excerpt from the latest for Banter Members. Get 50% off a membership today:
"Not letting Ukraine into NATO had more to do with the US being afraid of Putin than Ukraine's government."
Welcome to the latest Members Only installment of “Letters to The Editor”! If you have a question or something you’d like to get off your chest, email us at: email@example.com and we’ll do our best to answer you each week.
Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion on The Banter this past week was centered on Russia.
A reader blames the West for what is happening in Ukraine:
During WW2 America knew about what was happening to Jews and others and twiddled their thumbs. And yes, the west abandoned Eastern Europe after war, in the 50s and 60s, practically in the Balkans and now Ukraine. We missed a chance with Gorbachev and Yeltsin and never should have trusted the murderer Putin. Once KGB always KGB. I'm disgusted with the Republicans AND Democrats. No excuse for Trump and Fox - half the US will follow them no matter what, and you can't reason with them. Though look at the UK. What did they do after the Litvinenko and Novichok poisonings? Nothing. A British citizen died and a policeman and two others almost did. That and Putin taking over the Crimea should have been a huge wake up call to the west. NATO should have started preparing in the Baltics because they will be next. Biden and Harris are disappointingly useless. Afghanistan. Total disaster. Biden cared nothing about the women there. Watch the clip of him and read the Atlantic article. Of course, neither does Trump and his ilk. Just like they care nothing about Ukraine or anybody except themselves. Not letting Ukraine into NATO had more to do with the US being afraid of Putin than Ukraine's government. The US convinced them to give up their nuclear weapons and now have deserted them. It's all about the money. The far-right is dangerous and so is the far-left. If the Democrats don't wise up, they're going to lose in 2024.
I do think there have been failures on both sides of the aisle when it comes to Russia. The Democrats have underestimated Putin’s territorial ambitions, while Republicans have enabled him because of his ethno-fascist ideology and allegiance to Donald Trump….
This is an excerpt. To continue reading, please go here.