Remember a few months back I wrote about how I turned down an easy $185-200 for a voice over job because it was for a RenTV hate documentary all about how kids in Europe are being taught that they can choose their gender and sexual orientation? Well today we have a classic case of doing it wrong when it comes to standing up for your principles.In my case, there were basically two options, insofar that I disagreed with the content and purpose of the slanderous documentary. The unprincipled route would have entailed going ahead and doing the work, supposing that it was unlikely that anyone would ever find out anyway. I happen to believe that moral principles are about what you do when no one is watching, or at least when you think no one is watching. Hence I turned it down.
To understand today’s case, however, we must imagine another, absurd option. Suppose I actually agreed with the content of the video, i.e. I really believed that Europe is run by perverts who want to force post-modernist theories of sexuality on the youngest children possible for…reasons. Suppose after turning down the money, I went on to blog about the experience, condemning the attempt to buy my services while admitting in the same post that I agreed with all the talking points from the documentary nonetheless. To most people this would seem idiotic. If you agree with the content, and if you regularly write the same talking points, you might as well take the money. If there was some wealthy individual who almost entirely agreed with everything I write, and they were willing to pay me to write it without question, I would most likely not turn down that offer either.
Apparently David Swanson doesn’t understand this, as he is today’s case of doing it wrong. Swanson is some kind of anti-war blogger who recently claimed that he was approached by an official from the Russian embassy and offered money to publish some pre-written articles on his blog. Swanson makes a big deal about being a “journalist” and refused the offer. Then, in the same post, he writes this paragraph.
Many of us are well aware of the lie that NATO and the U.S. told Russia upon the reunification of Germany to the effect that NATO would not expand eastward. We’re outraged by the expansion to your borders. We condemn the U.S.-backed violent coup in Kiev. We denounce the Nazi and foreign-imposed government of Ukraine. We oppose the U.S. arms shipments, the U.S. “National Guard” now guarding the wrong nation, the war games, the baseless characterizations of Russia’s behavior, the lies about your aggression.
Congratulations, Mr. Swanson. You just wrote exactly what that Russian official wanted you to write, only you did it for free. That paragraph alone makes you qualified to be a regular guest on RT.
Hell, if I already agreed with all of those talking points, several of which are laughably wrong, I’d have my own show on RT. It would have some stupid, Alex Jonesey-sounding name like Through the Looking Glass or Behind the Curtain, and every episode I’d prattle on about how the neoconservative ex-Trotskyites and their international “bankster” minions want to overthrow the Russian government so they can get its oil and impose their neoliberal economic system. As the Joker says in The Dark Knight: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
I may seem hard on the guy, but I think that if his story is told in good faith, there is hope for Mr. Swanson. Russia attracts the support of people like him due to two factors- lack of critical thinking skills and more importantly, lack of knowledge about Russia. Regardless of your specific beliefs, the more familiar you become with Russia, the more you realize that it doesn’t coincide with them. In this case, if you’re anti-war, you’re supporting a nation which annexed part of another sovereign nation, invaded that same nation, starting and maintaining a conflict that has now killed around 6,000 people while displacing tens of thousands more. Why? All because some people didn’t want to join Russia’s Customs Union, a free trade initiative that would have been most favorable to its biggest member. If the US were doing something like this, you can bet Swanson would be all over it. So would Chomsky, Pilger, and Oliver Stone.
What is more, we’re talking about a country whose leader said on camera that he was considering using nuclear weapons, ostensibly against Kyiv, if the annexation of the Crimea didn’t go well. Russian propaganda regularly features nuclear threats against the United States and Europe. This material is primarily aimed at the regime’s base, bitter, cynical people who feel utterly humiliated by their government yet are too afraid to rock the boat. Therefore the idea of nuking countries where people live better or at least ensuring that Ukraine is worse off than Russia makes them feel warm and fuzzy. Or perhaps that’s just the cheap alcohol. Either way, this is no place for pacifists. The treatment of the country’s minuscule anti-war movement makes that clear.
So the way I see it, Swanson might be at a crossroads. If everything happened as he tells it, it’s possible that he might start to ask questions when he sees other bloggers regurgitating Russian talking points. Could they be paid too? Or if they aren’t getting paid, are they taking advantage of free press junkets funded by the Russian government? Are they getting air time on RT? What are the actual politics of these people? Do they speak out against wars only when the US is involved? Have they ever criticized Russia’s interference in other sovereign nations?
If he asks these questions and gets real answers, he will see that not only is the Russian government no better than that of the US, but that it is actually worse on a number of levels. Aside from openly and officially promoting militarism, war, and conquest, the Russian government treats its own citizens as cattle, robbing them of their natural wealth and giving them staggering wealth inequality. The Russian government doesn’t care about the sincerely-held beliefs of American anti-war activists. To them, they are national traitors just like those few anti-war activists in Russia. The Americans just happen to be useful traitors. There is no solidarity, no principle. In fact there’s no concern for the young men who will have to fight in these wars. Most of these Russian propagandists avoided their military service, and the sons of the elite study or live abroad, often in the same countries they condemn on a daily basis.
Yes, there might be some hope for this one yet.