A substitute teacher at an Arlington, Virginia middle school has been suspended for teaching an insufficiently one-sided perspective on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Apparently one of the students recorded the lesson and showed it to their parents who complained to the school.
The virulent post-9/11-like hysteria about Russia that has been promoted by one-sided mass media reporting on the war, and by the five years of fact-free conspiracy mongering which preceded it, has created an environment where you’ll get shouted down on social media for voicing any opinion about this conflict apart from saying Putin invaded because he is evil and hates freedom. Voices calling for diplomacy, de-escalation and detente are being systematically drowned out.
Meanwhile you’ve got massively influential pundits like Sean Hannity calling for a direct NATO airstrike on a Russian military convoy in Ukraine, without the slightest risk of losing his immense platform for advocating a move that would probably lead to a very fast, very radioactive third world war.
“You know, if we can see on satellite imagery where the convoy is, I don’t know, maybe some smart country, maybe NATO might take some of their fighter jets, or maybe they can use some drone strikes and take out the whole damn convoy,” Hannity said on Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show on Wednesday. “And then nobody takes credit for it, so then Putin won’t know who to hit back.”
Hannity hastily adds that he’s “not talking about nuclear war,” but then adds a “but” which completely contradicts him.
“But at what point is this gonna end?” Hannity asks. “Cuz nobody did anything after Georgia was taken in ’08, nobody cared about Crimea being annexed in 2014.”
Hannity has also made repeatedcalls for Putin’s assassination, saying that “if you invade an innocent sovereign country, and you kill innocent men, women and children, you don’t deserve to live.” An interesting position for one of the most aggressive defenders of Bush’s Iraq invasion.
On the other side of illusory US partisan divide you’ve got MSNBC pundits like Richard Engel and Clint Watts also calling for direct hot war with Russia.
“Perhaps the biggest risk-calculation/moral dilemma of the war so far,” tweeted Engel on Monday. “A massive Russian convoy is about 30 miles from Kyiv. The US/NATO could likely destroy it. But that would be direct involvement against Russia and risk, everything. Does the West watch in silence as it rolls?”
“Strangest thing – entire world watching a massive Russian armor formation plow towards Kyiv, we cheer on Ukraine, but we’re holding ourselves back,” tweeted Watts less than two hours later. “NATO Air Force could end this in 48 hrs. Understand handwringing about what Putin would do, but we can see what’s coming.”
“Putin knows stop the West throw ‘nuclear’ into discussion and we’ll come to a stop, but the world should not be held hostage to a killer of societies, the west has nuclear weapons too, and Putin’s track record is clear, every war he wins is followed by another war,” Watts added.
You’ve also got increasingly bold calls for no-fly zones and close air support from the western political/media class, which would also mean hot war with Russia.
Now, theoretically, the actual decision-makers of the imperial war machine know better than to initiate a hot war with Russia because it would likely lead to an unthinkable chain of events in which everyone loses. But what these insane Strangelovian calls for nuclear armageddon do, even if they never come to fruition, is push the acceptable spectrum of debate far toward the most hawkish extremes possible.
When you’ve got the hawks screaming that Putin is Hitler and calling for airstrikes on the Russian military while the doves are using extremely mitigated both-sides language and taking great pains to forcefully condemn Putin to avoid being shouted down and censored, what you wind up with is a spectrum of debate that has been pulled so far toward insanity that the “moderate” position becomes support for unprecedented acts of economic warfare and funding a brutal insurgency in Ukraine.
As a result, advocating for western powers to initiate de-escalation, diplomacy and detente becomes an extremist position, comparable to or worse than advocating for hot war with a nuclear superpower. In reality it’s the obvious moderate, sane position on the table, but taking that position unequivocally would be disastrous for the career of any mainstream politician or pundit in today’s environment, because the spectrum of debate has been pulled so far toward hawkish brinkmanship.
Noam Chomsky outlined this problem clearly when he said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
And that’s exactly what we are seeing here. Look at this soup-brained take by comedian Tim Dillon, for example:
Ideally this kind of insane extremist talk would get you chased out of every town and forced to live alone in a cave eating bats, but because the Overton window of acceptable debate has been dragged so far away from its center, people think it’s a moderate, heterodox position. Dovish, even.
This spectrum of debate has been further shoved away from moderation with the help of pseudo-left narrative managers like George Monbiot and The Intercept, who have both published obnoxious finger-wagging articles scolding leftists who’ve been insufficiently servile to the US/NATO line on Ukraine. As though there’s somehow not enough promotion of the State Department narrative on this subject by every single one of the most powerful governments and media institutions in the entire western world, rather than far, far too much.
The worst people in the world have their foot on the accelerator driving us toward escalations that should terrify anyone with gray matter between their ears, while those who want to tap the brakes get their foot immediately slapped away. This is not leading good places. And we know from experience how profoundly unwise the power structure overseeing all this can be.