Both the Washington Post and Huffington Post have recently condemned the anti-Obama street art display near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which taunted Barack Obama on his birthday with racist references.
Interestingly enough, the same media organs, notorious for their unwavering support of this president, had neglected to cover a series of recent better-executed and more tasteful anti-Obama displays by American street artists in Augusta, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley.
Granted, the American anti-Obama artists didn’t give the media an opportunity to cry “racism.” Is that why the U.S.-based artists weren’t deemed worthy of a story? In defense of the pro-Obama journalists, it’s a lot harder to defend their protégé when the charges are not race-related. The prank in Moscow, however, was a smorgasbord of monkeys, bananas, and dog whistles — everything the left-wing media requires to reinforce its own narrative: all criticism of Obama is based in racism. “They just hate him because he’s black.”
As usual, their anti-racist sanctimony has once again blinded the media to the real story.
To describe the Moscow display as merely “racist” would be just as parochial and myopic as to describe the Islamic Caliphate in Iraq as a threat to gender equality in the workplace. Both statements would be somewhat true, but they would also reveal the superficiality of an obsessive-compulsive mind focused exclusively on pet-peeve issues. They might have just as effectively scorned the unhip cut of the Nazi uniforms as the Germans advanced across Europe.
Of all the problems with the Obama-mocking display, racism is probably the least disturbing. Trust me as someone who comes from the former USSR: those “patriots” don’t hate Obama “just because he’s black.” They hate him because in their minds he represents the “vile” America — including its “stupid” people, its “horrible” history, its “materialistic” values, and its “unfair” economy.
Make no mistake, the insult was directed at the United States — a country they love to hate for a whole lot of reasons — outlandish reasons without a doubt, but among which racism won’t even make to the top hundred. More precisely, the actual object of their hatred is not as much the America we know, but an ugly, far-fetched and perverted depiction of it — something that Putin’s jingoistic propaganda has been creating and planting in people’s heads for quite some time. If this attack on Obama was indeed an act of citizen activism, that would be the best evidence of how successful Russia’s state-run media machine has been.
The amount of militant nationalism and xenophobia Putin has been able to whip up inside Russia would have made Hitler look like an amateur. While no true patriot would support a regime that is destroying his country like cancer, in new Orwellian Russia the “patriots” are the ones running the country into the ground. As they hysterically pledge to fight “fascism” everywhere, they support everything that fascism stands for. Even their enormous pride over Russia’s victory over the Nazi Germany in WWII has become indistinguishable from the pride of a gang of soccer hooligans who beat up an opposing gang that dared root for the other team.
The Putin media’s calculated national-chauvinist propaganda is causing many a Russian to simmer with righteous anger over America’s “imperialist” policies, as every latest “news report” sets off a tsunami of neurotic online comments and, perhaps, as many stomach ulcers. On a better day we might pity these people as victims of media brainwashing, but their passion and their massive support of their president’s foreign policies make them a force to be reckoned with.
Today’s average media consumer in Russia believes that the recent Ukrainian revolution (and all other “color” revolutions around their borders) was engineered and paid for by America with the sole purpose of hurting Russia, destroying its spirit, conquering its land, and taking over its natural resources.
The majority of Russians now believe that the CIA and the State Department had planted their agents in Ukraine in order to spread Russophobia and stage a bloody “fascist” coup. They believe that the Pentagon is now arming and training Ukrainians to kill ethnic Russians, having effectively split the brotherly Slavic nations and turned them on one another. Why? “They just hate us because we’re Russians.” Sound familiar?
These quixotic delusions motivate Russian “patriots” to sneak into eastern Ukraine and shoot at ordinary Ukrainians while imagining they’re fighting “fascists.” The worst Don Quixote could do with his spear was damage a windmill thinking it was an evil giant. Armed with anti-aircraft missiles, his paranoid Russian counterparts have shot down a Malaysian airliner.
It doesn’t even occur to the brainwashed Russian supremacists that all the crimes that the Kremlin’s propaganda is falsely attributing to America, Russia is doing in real life, point by point. It is actually Russia that sends agents to a sovereign county, arms violent thugs, spreads ethnic hatred, creates the appearance of a popular uprising that is really controlled by military intelligence, and orchestrates bloodshed in order to achieve its imperialist geopolitical goals.
One can learn a lot about actions and intentions of a paranoid autocratic regime by examining what it is accusing its “enemies” of doing, be they real or imaginary. The Russian state-run media is painting a picture of a U.S.-dominated world as a violent, dark, cynical, and corrupt dystopia. If we understand that the latest anti-American propaganda campaign is actually a projection of Russia’s own impulses, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the above dystopia is exactly what the world would have looked like if the roles were reversed and humankind were dominated by the Kremlin.
Granted, Russian citizens aren’t the only target of the Kremlin’s lies and distortions; stories of a similar nature are also being written in foreign languages and planted in the Western media, including the United States. This is hardly new, as the KGB/FSB masters of disinformation have always used their client network of left-wing media operatives in the past. What’s new is that they have also begun to engage right-wing blogs and online media. In part, such a development can be explained by the right’s animosity towards Obama and the willingness of some bloggers to swallow everything that undermines this administration’s policies and to gloat at Obama’s misfortunes.
As an Obama critic from even before the election, I’m glad that for once he is taking the right side in this conflict, although he could surely do a lot more. One of the things he absolutely should have done is to direct his administration to counter the harmful anti-American propaganda emanating from the Kremlin. Once the dirt settles, it is always harder to clean up. It would probably cause him a severe case of cognitive dissonance to do so, as he obviously grew up believing in Moscow’s own cold-war clichés that all the world’s problems are America’s fault. His belief that the world would be a better place if only the U.S. played nice earned him an advanced Nobel Peace Prize, which obviously made defending America in the eyes of the world even more difficult.
Whatever the case, Obama failed to nip Putin’s aggressive ambitions in the bud when he still had time to do so. Instead of using available resources to counter Moscow’s world-wide subversion efforts, he and Hillary Clinton engaged in amateurish theatrics with the misspelled “reset button.” Indeed, he may have brought this “Moscow cheer” on himself, but one thing is certain: racist references made by the worked-up Russian nationalists are among the least of his problems.