A friend of a friend posted this a few days ago. …
When I arrived in Moscow, I felt like the proverbial frog that got tossed into a pot of boiling water. There I saw 144 million other frogs that had been sitting in the pot for 22 years. I yelled at the crazy frogs “Why don’t you jump out?” and they all looked at me like I was the crazy one and said “You’ve been lied to. Boiling water is the ideal environment for frogs.”
It didn’t make sense at first. Well-educated people that I have known my entire life were saying absolute nonsense. Like deja vu, I kept having the same conversation word for word (no joke, really word for word) with different people, as if everyone memorized the same text. For some reason seemingly apolitical topics, like Russian classical literature, kept prompting angry anti-Western monologues.
And then it dawned on me — what we’re dealing with is the world’s biggest cult. Yes, a cult. The people on the other side of the Ukraine conflict have been brainwashed, trapped in an intricate and extraordinarily effective web of Putin’s propaganda. Few of them can read foreign media, most of them have lost sight of reality and what seems outlandish to us, makes perfect sense to them because narratives have been written for them and historical facts reinterpretted to fit those narratives.
Remember the Jim Jones followers? The ones who willingly drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid? That’s the level of cult we’re dealing with.
A small, but important nuance is that the Russian people have not been conditioned to be loyal to Putin. Believe it or not, Putin is secondary. They have been conditioned to be loyal to the greatness of Mother Russia.
According to the rhetoric, Russia is (and has always been) a victim of the imperialist West. If it were not for constant attacks on it’s sovereignty, the traitorous dissolution of the Soviet Union and constant interference from said Western imperialism, Russia would be the great nation it deserves to be. People will often tell you that they don’t support Putin and don’t believe the propaganda on TV. Then they immediately proceed to spew the official party line of “the world is treating us unfairly”, “the West put us on our knees, but we will get up and be strong” and “we must protect the Russians in Ukraine from Nazi oppression”.
And if your opinion doesn’t fit into that world view? Well, then any good Russian will happily inform you that you are a victim of Western propaganda.
Naively, I thought this would change when Russia invaded Ukraine. I couldn’t imagine that a whole nation of people could do anything other than condemn Putin’s unprovoked attack on an innocent nation. I thought it might be the beginning of his end. And it is true that at first Russians were as shocked as the rest of the world. Maybe even more so, because while Western media spent all of February talking about Russia’s plans, Russian media was busy making the West look stupid and hysterical, claiming all the while that there was nothing to worry about. Very quickly, however, the Russian population came around to the idea that it was necessary.
So where are we today?
Lots of Russians truly believe that Ukraine was a threat to Russia’s national security and the “special military operation” (the words “war” or “invasion” are illegal now) in Ukraine was necessary for the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.
They believe that Ukraine is run by a Nazi government and was developing nuclear weapons. They also believe that the Russian military is carrying out strategic, targeted attacks on military targets while all is quiet in cities.
Yes, Russians don’t know (or don’t want to believe) that their military is shelling Kyiv and Kharkiv. Any photo or video evidence thereof is immediately labeled as a fake and as of a few days ago, distributing fakes carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years.
They are fed images of the great Russian military fighting for the people of Luhansk and Donetsk, of the humanitarian aid that is being provided to refugees of those regions, of all the support and Russian flag-waving. No mention of any other fighting anywhere else in the country. The official party line is “everything is going well”.
And sanctions? They’re just another example of how Russia is a victim of the imperial West (where were the sanctions when US invaded Iraq).
So now what?
I have no idea. The people are past the point where a simple conversation and some logic will change anyone’s mind.
Sanctions are going to bring the economy to its knees, but they will not turn anyone against Putin (Putin is not to blame, you see, it’s the evil West that ruined our economy). And I’m not even sure that a change of leadership would achieve anything. What needs to die is the idea that Russia is a victim of Western imperialism. And how do you kill an idea?
This in a nation with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the world. I preferred the idea of a rational Russia, and that the West were more deluded with the left’s political fantasies.