America’s Imaginary Moral War on Russia

In the last several decades, summer has become the season of Hollywood. It is during the warmest months of the year that the American film industry traditionally releases a barrage of blockbusters, most of them depicting a militaristic or pseudo-militaristic battle between easily identifiable forces for good and even more readily recognizable emissaries of evil. Alas, the perpetual pandemic has brought this practice to a partial halt, and in the absence of more familiar entertainment, the masses are being treated to something equally inconsequential but much more pretentious: a conversation between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

The conversation, which the mass media has advertised as assiduously as it may have promoted a Marvel movie, is the latest development in America’s fictitious moral crusade against the Russian Federation. The American campaign to depict Russia as the nucleus of contemporary evil extends several decades, at least, but the most recent variation pertains to murky allegations of “electoral interference”. The charge, one forged in political partisanship, is that Russian military intelligence agents have conspired to “interfere” in American elections to assist the Republican Party. We have yet to receive a coherent definition of this “interference” nearly five years after it was first proposed by the Obama Administration, but the ominous suggestion is that Russia is somehow attempting to effect the worst possible outcome of the American democratic process.

This hypothesis is predicated on a number of untenable propositions, the first of them being the idea of a functional democracy in the United States. The American masses are woefully misinformed on any number of subjects, but they understand all too well that there is something fundamentally wrong with their political system. Supposedly, the system is meant to serve them, but it obviously does not, and their frustrations with its malignant dysfunction have threatened to boil over. In fact, many people believe those frustrations already have, and that this “boiling over” was manifested in the election of Donald Trump. For all of his flaws, Trump appealed, at least initially, to some of the disaffected and disenfranchised, and it is hardly incidental that the intelligentsia have relentlessly attempted to attribute his electoral victory of 2016 to the Russians and to their alleged electoral interference.

Another important hindrance, one to which I alluded previously, is the unsubtle partisanship of the allegation itself. The allegation has sought to demonize not only Russia, but the Republican Party as the supposed beneficiary of this “electoral interference”. Concordantly, the Democratic Party is granted victimhood and, more importantly, a license to invoke this victimhood, and the claim of electoral interference that precedes it, whenever there is a convenient opportunity to do so. This mitigates the effect of the charge and inevitably makes Republican voters suspicious thereof. If the campaign to allege Russian electoral interference is a propagandistic and psychological experiment executed by the American state, as I believe it is, then the time has come to acknowledge its failure.

However, the mass media is unwilling to abandon this synthetic controversy. Without it, there would be little reason for anyone to care about Biden’s impending vis-à-vis with Putin. In advance of their discussion, NBC News conducted an exclusive interview with Putin, which, the agency eagerly declared, was his first with an American outlet in more than three years. I have included a link to that interview, and to an article expanding upon it, above, but it will be immediately clear to the audience that it is only an unimaginative exercise in glorification of the United States and condemnation of the Russian Federation. For example, the article begins with a reference to Alexei Navalny for the obvious purpose of castigating Putin for his hostility to journalism. The authors of the piece dial up the melodrama by warning their readers that Navalny could die in prison, as if to suggest that only in a nation as morally decadent as Russia could something like this occur.

The purpose of the piece is to remind Americans that their government abides by certain stringent moral standards and that the Russian government does not. Putin argues in the interview that this is untrue and that the American government is guilty of every unvirtuous transgression of which it accuses his own administration, yet the authors dismiss this as a matter of mere “claims” or baseless allegations. The readers’ capacity to take this narrative bias seriously is contingent on the extent of their civic ignorance and to the depth of their programming. If, for instance, they are unaware of the meaning of the prosecution of Julian Assange (whose name is conspicuously absent from this piece), then they might be able to believe that the Navalny situation is a patently foreign phenomenon.

Another characteristic of American propaganda is childishness masquerading as moral fervor, and to this end the authors remind their audience that Biden allegedly told Putin he is soulless. This appeals to the same sense of indignation that fuels the outrage over electoral interference, but it also reveals the impotence of the American government to combat this supposed menace. If the United States were truly capable of halting Russia in its malevolent ambitions, then it would do so. The most it can do, it seems, is to flood the mainstream press with sophomoric content critical of the Kremlin, and this it has done, regardless of which president occupies the White House.

This uninterrupted behavior brings to mind the media’s incessant calls for the Trump Administration to be more aggressive in its interactions with Russia, and raises questions about what, exactly, they expected the Trump Administration to do. If the only action desired was a verbal condemnation of electoral interference, then the stakes might be as meaningless as the moral battle itself.

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