I’ve been watching the headlines about Ukraine. I’m horrified at the violence and death, I’m in awe of the courage, and I’m devastated for the mothers in bunkers underneath the city.
I hope Vladimir Putin has underestimated the world’s commitment to Ukraine. But I’m well aware all of my emotions could be used.
Back when I was writing about guns and the NRA, I was astonished – at the beginning – at how often I encountered Russian propaganda in my reporting. Eventually, I realized the Kremlin knew guns were an almost uniquely divisive issue, so they invested some time and propaganda to make us crazier. It was a strategy that suited the global military industrial complex just fine: They sold more weapons.
The realization led me to read some histories of the Soviet Union’s work in Eastern Europe to destroy people’s capacity to think critically, with a combination of physical and psychological torture. You can read a good summary of the way the Kremlin makes use of some features of our current media platforms here, in the Rand Corp.’s Firehose of Falsehoods.
We’re in a vulnerable moment. The war in Ukraine is a clear-cut good-guy-bad-guy narrative that is keeping us glued to the TV and the Internet. Anger can be addictive – and platforms like Facebook, for one, uses anger to keep us stuck to its platform, as Jim McKelvey recently reminded me.
I’m not turning away from a responsibility to understand the war in Ukraine. In the face of a brutal character like Putin, and clear aggression, it’s hard to see how to combine peace and justice. But I’m trying to remain aware that there are many players that will try to use the current state of affairs to weaken America further by division, and that would like to see a world dancing closer to a wider war.