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The one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen countless emotional news segments and heartstring-plucking articles, wall-to-wall social media posts, and public demonstrations decrying the evils of Vladimir Putin throughout the western world.
For what’s probably the first “anti-war” protest of most of their lives, American liberals gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC over the weekend to bravely condemn the leader of a foreign government thousands of miles away. There they were joined by empire managers like the virulent warmonger Samantha Power, who spoke at the rally opposing Russian warmongering at the capital of the most warlike nation on the planet.
For the last year, mainstream westerners have been using this war to act out their fantasies of being courageous up-punching anti-imperialists, fighting powerful bloodthirsty tyrants in defense of the needful, all while living directly under the thumb of the most tyrannical regime in the world. They mindlessly regurgitate the propaganda of the most powerful empire that has ever existed, parrot the same lines that are already being said all day long by all the most powerful institutions in the western world, all in service of the hegemonic agendas of the largest and most murderous power structure on earth, while pretending to be standing in opposition to the powerful.
The way the war in Ukraine allows mainstream liberals to play-act as rebellious anti-imperialists is a good illustration of how the empire gives people the illusion of fighting the power without their ever opposing the empire.
We saw this same trend take place in the US throughout the Trump administration, where mainstream liberals branded themselves “The Resistance” like they were socialist revolutionaries or insurgents opposing Hitler in Nazi-occupied France. In reality Trump’s presidency had little actual impact on the comforts of their lives, because beneath all the narratives Trump was a fairly normal US president whose most heinous crimes were all of the customary variety we see in all US presidents — including his predecessor and his successor. Democrats just spent four years LARPing as brave revolutionaries, and then he left office and the game ended.
In exactly the same way, Trump’s presidency allowed right wingers to pretend they were part of a movement against the establishment, despite Trump never actually challenging the establishment in any meaningful way. They believed he was fighting the Deep State even after he imprisoned Assange. They believed he was “ending the wars” even as he ramped up aggressions against Russia which helped bring us to where we are today, killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans with starvation sanctions, vetoed attempts to save Yemen from U.S.-backed genocide, worked to foment civil war in Iran using starvation sanctions and CIA ops with the stated goal of effecting regime change, occupied Syrian oil fields with the goal of preventing Syria’s reconstruction, greatly increased the number of troops in the Middle East and elsewhere, greatly increased the number of bombs dropped per day from the previous administration killing record numbers of civilians, and reduced military accountability for those airstrikes. They believed he was draining the swamp after packing his cabinet with establishment swamp monsters.
Trump supporters are just George W Bush supporters LARPing as Ron Paul supporters. They role-play a fight against the empire that is never actually happening anywhere except in their imaginations.
For four years this went on, with Democrats acting like they were fighting the power because Trump was the power and Republicans acting like they were fighting the power because Trump’s enemies were the power. And the entire time real power went completely unchallenged, because the empire always marches forward regardless of the imperial puppet who’s sitting in the White House.
And as the war drums with China heat up we’re seeing Trump supporters turn into the mirror image of the mindless Ukraine flag-waving liberals we’re seeing today, swallowing every narrative their media feeds them right down their throats without the slightest twinge of critical thinking gag reflex. Now we’re seeing the same people who used to spew vitriol about Muslims in the Middle East suddenly metamorphose into heroic human rights champions for Muslims in Xinjiang, and the same people who’ve been shining the bright light of truth on propaganda about Russia suddenly switch it off because they believe Biden is a Xi Jinping puppet.
Imperial narrative managers actively foster these delusions of revolution and up-punching among the mainstream herd because it’s a great way to kill the possibility of any real revolutionary zeitgeist. If you can give people the illusion that they are fighting the power without their ever actually fighting the power, then you can always remain in power.
It doesn’t take much. Just a few trusted voices in their ideological echo chamber posing as passionate opponents of tyranny and abuse, and people’s natural desire to oppose those things does the rest. It naturally feels right to oppose the depravity of the powerful on behalf of the weak and defenseless; all they have to do is divert that healthy human impulse into something illusory.
Here’s hoping enough of us learn to see through the illusion one day.
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Feature image via Vladimir Yaitskiy (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic), altered for size.
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Articles, poems, stories and thoughts by Caitlin Johnstone. Will always remain free.
Categories: Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy, Geopolitics
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