This Easter day, 2014, is fraught with meaning, at least for me. This is a holiday of hope, and I’m wondering: is there any?
I have to admit, at times, that pessimism overcomes me. The way lies take hold, and persist, does not bode well for the triumph of truth. Take, for example, the recent story about a leaflet supposedly distributed by the "Peoples Republic of Donetsk," the breakaway region of eastern Ukraine that wants union with Russia. Handed out by mysterious individuals in black balaclavas standing in front of a synagogue, the leaflet instructed Jews that they had to register with the local authorities or face deportation and the seizure of their property: it bore what looked like the official stamp of the Republic and was purportedly signed by the Republic’s self-proclaimed chief executive.
Such an obvious provocation was quickly denied by the Donetsk rebels, and just as quickly debunked by responsible journalists – but that didn’t matter. The story is still circulating all over the place: indeed, I’ve never seen a story spread quite so quickly. Even well after its dubiousness was clear, American and British "news" outlets ran with it, albeit appending comments by various locals as well as the Donetsk authorities describing it as a "provocation" meant to discredit the pro-Russian side.
The US government ran with the story: immediately after the Geneva talks produced a shaky Easter truce – which was soon broken – John Kerry gathered about him a veritable thundercloud of self-righteousness and denounced the leaflet. US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt declared it "the real deal" – except it wasn’t.
But that no longer mattered. The story had spread beyond the realm of truth and falsehood and ascended to sheer truthiness. It was part of the "narrative" being woven by Western governments and their media handmaidens, a word-cloud of epithets and vague associations that now hang over the Russians and their Ukrainian supporters – and, as it happens, a complete inversion of the facts on the ground.
For the real anti-Semitic presence in Ukraine is clearly in Kiev, not the east: there the outright fascist cadre of Right Sector and Svoboda, the two ultra-nationalist right-wing parties that provided the "muscle" for the Kievian insurrection, enjoy widespread support – and they aren’t shy about their origins as the spearhead of the neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine.
The Donetsk leaflet was clearly "black propaganda" – an incident staged by the Ukrainian coup leaders (or their Western backers) to impugn the pro-Russian rebels and muddy the waters when it comes to accusations of fascism leveled by many Western commentators at Kiev. Such concepts as "truth" and "falsehood" don’t enter into it: with the help of the Western media, the Russians-are-Nazis meme enters the public consciousness – a public that skims headlines without actually reading the story below.
On the other hand, the core mission of this kind of propaganda remains unfulfilled. For the intended audience – not Ukrainians but Americans – is still vastly uninterested in what is happening in Kiev. Americans overwhelmingly oppose US intervention in the region, and the prospect of handing Kiev a cool billion in "foreign aid" is not something that has them leaping for joy. It will take more than a transparent provocation to turn them around.
And that is a source of hope.
Americans are, at present, profoundly alienated from their own government. No, that distrust hasn’t reached Ukrainian levels quite yet, but we’re getting there. It wouldn’t take much to bring them out into the streets: another economic disaster, another ginned up war, a fresh revelation of government overreach as in the Bundy Ranch incident. This country has been on the brink of open rebellion for quite some time, and a seemingly minor albeit dramatic incident could be enough to set it off.
That’s one big reason why our rulers are constantly coming up with new foreign "enemies" – to take Americans’ minds off their real enemies, who live Washington, D.C., rather than in Moscow or some cave in Afghanistan.
The War Party’s big problem, however, is that Americans aren’t falling for this old trick anymore. The past decade has wised them up considerably, and their cynicism when it comes to their own government is boundless. Every poll taken over the past few years has shown that their foreign policy of choice consists of "minding our own business" – the exact opposite view of our warlike elites, who constantly warn us against the alleged dangers of "isolationism."
The way the War Party gets around this – or hopes to – is by creating an atmosphere of "emergency," as they did in Libya. We were told then that the Gaddafi forces were about to unleash a "massacre" in Benghazi: that if we didn’t act, we would be responsible for the murder of thousands – perhaps tens of thousands! It was a lie, of course, but it worked: the massive propaganda campaign managed to up the level of emotionalism to the point where reason fled and the alleged need for "action" was dominant. This is the perfect atmosphere for the War Party because it gives them a free hand – and they are trying the same routine in Ukraine.
Will it work? Somehow, I doubt it. The news cycle moves much faster, these days, and lies are exposed as quickly as Washington can generate them. This, indeed, is our full-time job here at Antiwar.com – not only debunking the lies but also getting the truth out there before falsehood congeals into another phony Washington-created "narrative."
That’s our job – and we are able to do it thanks to your continuing support. This is one big reason why my natural pessimism is overcome, these days, by a burst of optimism. Your continued support is a good indication that the American people have had it with the War Party: they are sick unto death of perpetual war and looming conflict. As the warlords of Washington shift their focus from al-Qaeda to the Russians, now is an excellent time to challenge the doctrine of eternal belligerence and make the case for a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Even as dark clouds gather on the horizon, and the news is a constant stream of war propaganda, there is reason for hope: politicians in both parties are taking note of the new "isolationism" – and this is even constraining the actions of our wise rulers, as in the Syrian "crisis."
Easter is the harbinger of hope and resurrection – and this year the hope is real.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.