The Monstrous Drama: Ukraine as Media ProductionMark Gullick
Today we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery [the press] that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. — Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West
The day Russia invaded Ukraine I was rereading Anna Karenina 40 years after I first had the pleasure. Towards the end of the book, one of Tolstoy’s minor characters considers the Serbian War, lately started in 1876 and with effects on society we might recognize today:
In the circle to which Sergey Ivanovitch belonged, nothing was talked of or written about but the Serbian War. Everything that the idle crowd usually does to kill time was done now for the benefit of the Slavonic States. Balls, concerts, dinners, matchboxes, ladies’ dresses, beer, restaurants — everything testified to sympathy with the Slavonic peoples.
Sound familiar? We’ve got our new Serbian War. This is a great relief to the media because they were trying to prop up COVID as it limped on. The media generally act, if it’s feasible, like Kirk Douglas in the 1951 movie Ace in the Hole. Douglas plays an unscrupulous reporter who is covering a story about a treasure-hunter trapped in a mine shaft. A party to information which could rescue the man straight away, Douglas keeps it to himself, as this is becoming the story of the century and he wants to prolong it. With a brand-new, box-fresh distraction, the media will help to keep the Russian invasion going as long as the public are there to lap it up. Every media consumer has a weapon the news conglomerates fear: the potential to become bored. But by the time Ukrainian flags are being used as tea-towels in European kitchens or gathering oil in the trunk of the car, the media will undoubtedly have another ace in the hole.
When Putin made his move I knew it wouldn’t be something I would be writing about, because I am not equipped to. What could I add to the avalanche of prose that sprang immediately from the presses? So I didn’t binge-research the history of Ukraine like every mainstream media journo undoubtedly did in a state of panic. Why not? Because I don’t care about the history of Ukraine. Why would I? I don’t really take much of an interest in the history of other nations, and I am not even sure where they all are on the globe. And I am only really interested in Western Anglophone politics. I’ve lived in Costa Rica for six years and there was a general election at the start of April I only found about when my Spanish teacher told me the day before polling. Not that I could vote, but you would think I might have noticed. I just assumed the cars careering round town with gaudy flags fluttering from the windows was just football-related, as it usually is. The guy they call “Right-wing” won, by the way. He ran on an anti-corruption ticket. I nearly spat my coffee out when I read that. Running an anti-corruption campaign in Latin America is like running on an anti-gravity ticket.
But I found nothing to write about Ukraine because I was viewing it as a geopolitical, military event funded by historical claims on territory about which I know nothing. I should pay more attention to my Tolstoy. Sergey Ivanovitch reminds us that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine triggers a range of effects. Yes, it affects people and power and grain and gas, but it also affects “dinners, matchboxes, ladies’ dresses.” Let’s return to Tolstoy’s official as he ponders Russian society’s response to a foreign crisis:
From much of what was spoken and written on the subject, Sergey Ivanovitch differed on various points. He saw that the Slavonic question had become one of those fashionable distractions which succeed one another in providing society with an occupation.
Fashionable distractions. That’s where we are now. The chattering classes of today are not in the ballrooms of St. Petersburg, of course, but on social media, and the immediate switching of avatars from rainbow to blue and yellow after war was declared almost broke the mainframe, I would imagine. Ukrainians celebrate their national flag every August 23 and I hope stores have stocked up. Assuming everyone isn’t a bit bored with Ukraine by then, of which more later.
At the moment, the interest is still alive, but I wonder for how long. I look at Amazon to see if any good books are on sale within my monthly budget. A banner pops up asking me to donate to some Ukrainian charity who claim that the money will do some good rather than be absorbed by the officials who run these “countries,” or some inefficient non-governmental organization. I go to PayPal to look at my account and have to wait to find out while another ad appears, asking me to give money to people I neither know nor care about. To catch up with the British media, I go over to GB News.
The Ukraine ad there is the first thing I see. It is not too schmaltzy, although everyone involved has that fake look of serious concern that media folk have perfected. The ad is a lot less annoying than the ad GB News plays on the hour to get you to watch the channel you are already watching. The ad flashes up a freephone contact number to which to donate, and it’s called Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. I wonder, if I called them and said I wanted to make a donation to their Russian equivalent so I could (or at least could feel that I could) give something to bereaved Russian families, would they give me the number for humanitarian reasons?
Here, on a lazy Easter Sunday, the guys in my local bar have heard of Russia, but not Ukraine, and certainly have no idea there is a war on. I explained that it was sort of like Mexico invading Guatemala. They laughed. “Never happen, signor.” We didn’t ask why, but we all knew the answer: The Mexican army would still be getting out of some fat whore’s bed three weeks after the commencement of hostilities, and although Guatemala has an army (Costa Rica hasn’t had one since 1948), the last Guatemalan soldier I saw was smoking a good-sized joint. There would be no war, just a bar fight with some smuggled dogs.
I can’t do fake concern, and the only thing that concerns me about the Russia-Ukraine war is that it might expand and someone will drop an atom bomb on my mum in London. Other than that, the result reminds me of a football joke. It’s accepted in some quarters that the two most hated soccer teams in England are Liverpool and Manchester United. When they play each other, Londoners look at each other and say, “I wish they could both lose.”
One thing is for sure: This is the shortest war in history. Not temporally, as it is still ongoing at the time of writing. I mean the head honchos, if you can see their respective heads. Napoleon Bonaparte would have towered over these two. We have Dwarf 1, a mid-ranking KGB spook with short-man syndrome, and Dwarf 2, who looks a fat little boy and who was a sitcom actor. These are the people who, in a nuclear-armed world, decide the fate of me and you. And my mum. Elon Musk, who the mainstream media keep reminding us is the richest man in the world, says he believes Putin has more money than he does. If this is the case, why invade? If you have more money than Musk, you could probably just buy Ukraine. Zelensky, of course, has what he probably always longed for: a soap opera he could star in and which more than 20 or 30 pig farmers watch.
The next point about this war and nuclear weaponry I remember mulling over many years ago on some long-deserted weblog. What happens if the leader of a nuclear-armed state gets a terminal disease? It might be quite an enticing prospect to spend the remainder of your life not being pushed round the clinic garden in a wheelchair, but to go out as a destroyer of worlds. And, if you finish the job, then posterity won’t be uncharitable to you, because there won’t be any posterity.
As I say, if it stays non-nuclear, I am more interested in the contents of my handkerchief after I just blew my nose. That said, inflation has arrived on the rich coast (the literal translation of “Costa Rica”). Cat food has gone from 800 colones (about a $1.25) to 1,000, and my daily staple of red beans and rice has gone up 25-30% in six weeks. Putin’s fault, I suppose.
So I guess the locals in my sleepy Pacific town are being affected by Ukraine’s plight. They just don’t know it. Personally, I suspect that Western governments know that, as it were, it’s payback time for all the fake money they printed over the years. When, come Christmas, you are paying £5, or six or seven bucks for a loaf of bread, and not even the nice bread, it will be Putin’s fault. Or COVID. Or whichever the next of Sergey Ivanovitch’s national distractions is in place by then.
People’s reactions are absurd and sinister. From the man who removed all the bottles of Russian vodka from a British store to the Russian athletes banned from competing, there is a sort of mania abroad. COVID was good for those who wished to broadcast what good citizens they were, but this war lets compassion completely off the leash and gives us a new bad guy now that Trump is resting.
Putin offended against the cult of transgenderism, of course, which marked his card with the Left. Zelensky, on the other hand, has had to sweeten up the fact that his army is apparently full of Nazis. The real Nazis, that is, not people who think it’s okay to be white or that Nigel Farage is a good guy. In a world where, increasingly, a sort of laissez faire moral atmosphere is assisting in the West’s decline, it is a little galling to see a parade of moral high horses ridden by the usual suspects. It’s the old dialectic. Putin man bad, therefore we are good.
Of course war is human and tragic if you are involved in it, but the outpouring of concern over Ukraine is just the latest fashion, like a hemline or a haircut. Where is the outrage over the wars in Mali or Myanmar? In the meantime, media saturation has to mount a cover-up of all the events it isn’t covering. Violence creeps up across the West, as does crime in general as police forces are neutered or themselves distracted by pursuing actions which increasingly are not, or should not be classed as, crimes. We have the World Economic Forum and our friend Klaus Schwab. He’s the one who looks like some space federation commander from the 1980s low-budget but enjoyable British version of Star Trek, Blake’s 7. No doubt he is waiting for his Great Reset, which looks more like his great train set with his curious affection for the sinister plans he unveils.
Truth is said to be the first casualty of war, but this time I think she got whacked before hostilities even commenced. Each time I glance into the mire, it’s all changed since the last time I looked. The Russian tanks have run out of gas. No, they haven’t. These corpses are real. No, they aren’t. This photo is from yesterday. No, it’s not, it’s from another war years ago. If the media is such big business, why is it always so difficult to find out what’s going on?
The only person I have believed on the subject of Ukraine is a woman I have never met but got to know online. At one time we had discussed the design and commission of a new deck of Tarot cards. Sadly, this didn’t materialize, but we had a recent conversation which gave me more of a feel for Ukraine than any other from the media.
She was born in Ukraine but left 20 years ago and has only returned once. She speaks Russian, as do her mother and brother, who can also hear the Russian artillery grinding closer beyond the hills. This woman despises Ukraine. She claims that the presence of Nazis at several levels of government is absolutely true. She considers herself a Russian and is proud to be so. I admire her, actually. With her Ukrainian credentials she could probably have milked the situation, but she has made no attempt to hide the fact she is Russian.
So I have rather gone against my stated intention — like NATO — not to be dragged into this war and, whatever is happening on the ground and for whatever historical reasons, it is unquestionably vile for the victims and families. It is war. But there is a bad odor about the world at present that emanates not just from the embattled country that is suddenly everyone’s darling. Voices speaking against Putin and for Ukraine seem smugly self-satisfied rather than genuinely concerned. It is as though even war has to make them feel better, as though the horrors of combat are not important unless the gutmenschen get something out of it. It all smells of moral laziness, a lack of seriousness displayed as the utmost gravity. You can imagine the big media moguls at the start of the war saying among themselves: “Showtime! That’s entertainment, folks!”
Towards the start of Anna Karenina, Levin, the central character, is expressing his surprise at how well-off people can take so much time over their meals, unlike country folk, who must finish quickly and get back to work. His companion, Stepan Arkadyevitch, seems quite satisfied with his answer, but I wonder if it is the source of the modern malaise: “But that’s just the aim of civilization — to make everything a source of enjoyment.”
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Collateral Damage: The United Kingdom’s Lockdown Files
The Quiet Man: John Foxx’s Ultravox!
La Russie et l’Ukraine, à nouveau
Twelve Months Later: Anthony Burgess’ 1985
The Union Jackal, February 2023
Nothing Is True, Everything Is Possible
Zelensky’s Future as “Our Son of a Bitch”
Red Flags in Ukraine
Perhaps this war touches us because it seems so familiar: unfinished business from the horrors of Europe’s catastrophic twentieth century. The very stumbling block to Western peace and progress, shoved in our faces yesterday again. I know some here don’t like to confront that history, but for a treatment that is evenhanded and not at all mawkish I highly recommend Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands.
The overwhelmingly vast majority of Americans emotionally touched by this war are so touched because the media controls them via bizarre hypnosis. They have absolutely no concept of unfinished business from 20th century Europe (except that maybe we didn’t punish the nazis hard enough?). After the first salvo of media, they were ready to take Volodomir into their bed with no condom on the first date. When I saw the first barrage, I knew with sickening, 100% accuracy who in my circle of family and acquaintances would be all in for Ukraine
It is always nice to know there is somebody who does not lose his mind over this bad theatre and just sighs and sees the absurdity of it all. Thank you.
This is the healthiest perspective I have seen concerning the Ukraine War.
For UK news, may I suggest UK Column news as a more truthful and honest outfit than an already corrupted GB news? Though I know that some watch it for Neil Oliver’s heartfelt laments…whose video-clips can be found online anyway…
Although I find Greg Johnson’s argument about the prioritizing of nationalism in this mess a compelling one, I also find little enthusiasm for it. It’s a bit like how I would feel if, under their current regimes, Germans invaded France. What I’d feel most of all is sadness and regret at the loss of White lives.
And yes, the current pep-rally atmosphere among the Caring Conscious Class is clearly just one more episode of the long running mad puppet show that our societies have become.
According to the Finnish media, this initiative is being closely followed past representatives of other law enforcement agencies, who would also be interested in having a permanent diminish with a broker fit the trading of cryptocurrency and selling it as it becomes available. According to the media, the Finnish watch currently have around 188.5 bitcoins, which have been accumulating in requital for the third year in a row.
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