According to President Biden in his State of the Union, the war between Ukraine and Russia is a “fight for freedom,” a “battle between democracy and autocracies.” Those countries opposing Russia’s invasion are a “coalition of other freedom-loving nations.”
Perhaps for Ukraine, the war really is about freedom (though Ukraine is neither as free nor as democratic as Western media portray it). But for the Globalist American Empire, the crusade against Russia has nothing to do with “democracy” or “freedom.” In fact, the war provides them with a golden opportunity to act out their increasingly dystopian fantasies. The battle against Russia is a new frontier of American policymaking: It is the globalization of BLM tactics and “cancel culture.” It is George Floydism converted from domestic cudgel to foreign policy doctrine.
This is the first time that the contemporary mechanism of "cancellation" has applied to a foreign state
The underlying machinery behind George Floyd response pretty much identical to what's going on here.
Same levers, different inputs https://t.co/vHB1yJZ03Q
— Darren J. Beattie 🌐 (@DarrenJBeattie) March 6, 2022
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To those who remember summer 2020 or the days after January 6, the tactics used against Russia will sound quite familiar.
After January 6, major banks systematically cut off President Trump. Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank, and Banks United shuttered his accounts. Signature Bank took the added step of saying it would refuse services to any lawmaker objecting to the results of the 2020 election. Stripe halted payment processing for the Trump campaign as well as anybody present at January 6. Recently, Axios reported that American oligarchs have launched a “dark money” campaign to “target the livelihoods” of hundreds of lawyers who assisted President Trump in challenging the suspicious results of the 2020 election.
But where we once had the deplatforming of individuals or companies, we now have the deplatforming of whole countries. Russia has been officially debanked. On the first weekend after the invasion, Western nations booted Russian banks off SWIFT. On the second weekend, Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal shut down their services in Russia, hitting tens of millions who used them for ordinary purchases. Even cryptocurrencies weren’t spared:
RIA reports that Coinbase has blocked 25 thousand crypto wallets held by Russian citizens
— Russians With Attitude (@RWApodcast) March 7, 2022
After 2020, America’s most powerful law firms lined up to pay homage to George Floyd and pledge vast pro bono resources to BLM. After the presidential election, the press browbeat major firms into refusing to represent Trump in cases challenging the results.
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Now, law firms are being weaponized against Russia too. Covington and Burling, the #1 law firm in Washington DC, announced it will represent Ukraine pro bono in the International Court of Justice, while elite British firm Linklaters is simply closing up shop in Russia entirely.
In 2020 and especially after January 6, domestic US cancel culture has meant an ever-tightening grip over the Internet. Conservative podcaster Nick Fuentes was methodically kicked off services as varied as Facebook, Instagram, Apple’s podcast app, TikTok, Discord, Clubhouse, Spotify, DLive, PayPal, Venmo, Patreon, Shopify, Amazon Web Services, Stripe, Streamlabs and Coinbase. America First activist Michelle Malkin is an American dissident, so AirBNB banned both her and her husband from renting rooms. In 2019, Facebook entirely banned all links (even in private messages) to Unz.com, and right before the 2020 election, Twitter banned all links to the Hunter Biden story.
Back in 2015, the news and discussion website Reddit heralded the wider cultural shift against free speech when it banned pages ridiculing fat people. Today, it is once again on the cutting edge of new speech controls. On Thursday, the website announced a complete, worldwide ban on all links to the Russia-backed news outlets RT and Sputnik, as well as a ban on links to any website with a .ru domain.
A cringey Internet forum may be one thing, but Reddit is not alone in its mission to ‘cancel’ a sovereign nation. Multinational internet service provider Cogent Communications is shutting off Russian services, and apparently, some unnamed governments are pressuring billionaire Elon Musk to block Russian websites:
Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint.
Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 5, 2022
In the US, it is now routine for the regime and its media adjuncts to target unwanted media outlets, no matter how marginal. In January, DirecTV cut off OAN, a longtime objective of activists who despised the network for supporting President Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud. Alex Jones’s InfoWars is perpetually trying to rebuild from its latest ban. When Ukraine itself banned several Russian-language TV networks last year, it was apparently done as a “gift” to the United States, which would be pleased at the initiative.
So it’s no surprise that when America’s wrath finally turned directly on Russia, one of its first thoughts was to obliterate Russian television. Sputnik and RT are already banned throughout the EU, and the National Association of Broadcasters has called for a total shutdown of Russian-origin TV broadcasts in the US.
The National Association of Broadcasters has issued a statement calling on broadcasters to stop carrying Russian-sponsored programming that's affiliated with the Russian government "or its agents."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 3, 2022
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Bloomberg opinion columnist, former New York Times reporter, and MSNBC talking head Tim O’Brien made clear how the anti-Russian cancel culture campaign will soon be used to target dissenting domestic political and media actors:
What are the implications for Fox? https://t.co/wrPM7uPmEM
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) March 4, 2022
In America, athletes who become the target of ire, from Hulk Hogan to Curt Schilling, have been smeared and crushed. Now, the principle extends to anybody from the wrong country.
In China, while the Olympics are over, the Paralympic Games for handicapped athletes are still ongoing. The International Paralympic Committee decided a week ago that it would allow handicapped athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete, but only as neutral athletes unconnected to any flag, anthem, or national colors. But, it turns out that the authorities determined that was simply too much mercy to show to handicapped Slavs participating in a global goodwill event.
This massive hysterical (dare we say, feminine?) reaction to Russia is very similar to domestic cancel culture and George Floydism, and different from other recent international crises, in several key facets.
First, this explosion is operating like a frenzied moral panic, a purity spiral, a virtue signal, or whatever you want to call it, and not clearly following any kind of rational plan. Prior to Russia’s actual invasion, when such threats may have had a deterrent effect, America instead signaled that it would not retaliate with the most aggressive possible sanctions. In his February 24 speech on the first day of Russia’s invasion, President Biden explicitly said that Russian oil and gas would not be sanctioned, and Russia would not be kicked off SWIFT. Within three days, though, he reversed course on SWIFT, and on March 8, he announced a ban on Russian energy imports. There is no strategic vision and no off-ramp for these sanctions, no specific objectives to be achieved, only constant escalation in order to show the West’s amorphous rage. No one is in charge, save perhaps the hivemind of blue checkmarks on Twitter.
Second, much as the George Floyd moment quickly shifted from anger at Derek Chauvin or violent cops to a generalized attack on police, American history, and white people generally, the backlash against Russia has quickly turned from an attack on Putin and his inner circle to a mob retribution against Russians worldwide.
In a demented tweet Wednesday morning, President Obama’s former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul endorsed collective war on the Russian people, using the same reasoning that Timothy McVeigh used to justify the Oklahoma City bombing, and Al-Qaeda used to justify 9/11.
This is the ex US ambassador to Russia echoing the ideology of terrorists like ISIS & al-Qaeda
This fascist idea that there are no innocent people leads to terror attacks on civilians
Imagine if people said this about Americans after the US wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc pic.twitter.com/EbsAjF3Rl7
— Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) March 3, 2022
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McFaul later deleted his tweet and apologized, but so what? The original tweet was a more authentic glimpse not just at his own thinking, but the frenzy that has consumed the entire Western elite as they sense their power and authority crumbling around them.
This desire to viscerally hurt the Russian people, independent of any real diplomatic goals, was also apparently in the New York Times‘s reporting on sanctions:
As they impose historic sanctions on Russia, the Biden administration and European governments have set new goals: devastate the Russian economy as punishment for the world to witness, and create domestic pressure on President Vladimir V. Putin to halt his war in Ukraine, current and former U.S. officials say.
The harsh penalties — which have hammered the ruble, shut down Russia’s stock market and prompted bank runs — contradict previous declarations by U.S. officials that they would refrain from inflicting pain on ordinary Russians. “We target them carefully to avoid even the appearance of targeting the average Russian civilian,” Daleep Singh, the deputy national security adviser for international economics, said at a White House briefing last month.
The thinking among some U.S. and European officials is that Mr. Putin might stop the war if enough Russians protest in the streets and enough tycoons turn on him. Other U.S. officials emphasize the goals of punishment and future deterrence, saying that the carcass of the Russian economy will serve as a visible consequence of Mr. Putin’s actions and a warning for other aggressors.
Supposedly, sanctions are supposed to inspire ordinary Russians to “rise up” against Putin (that won’t happen, but that’s the theory). Yet much of the backlash clearly has no relation to inspiring resistance to Putin at all, and only a general attack on Russianness as a concept.
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The University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy ordered professor Paolo Nori to halt his class on Russian literary titan Fyodor Dostoevsky. Later, the school relented… only to say the class’s resumption was contingent on adding “Ukrainian literature” to the class. Nori quit rather than go through with the farce.
Update: The professor who was asked to suspend his course on Dostoevsky resigned.
The University told him that he could reinstate the course if he included Ukrainian authors.
He said he wasn’t an expert on Ukrainian literature, so he decided to teach Dostoevsky elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/HQdKjhTUeS
— Alessandra (@alessabocchi) March 7, 2022
Video game developer EA has announced it will digitally purge Russian soccer teams from its video games.
A statement from EA SPORTS FIFA: pic.twitter.com/v3pZvpblgS
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) March 2, 2022
Traditional diplomatic or strategic thinking has been overtaken by the logic of “cancel culture.” Cancellation routinely relies on over-the-top, collective punishments whose intent isn’t to punish a malefactor, but to terrorize onlookers. In 2020, an MLS soccer club cut a player because of his wife’s social media posts. When a Georgetown professor’s comments lamenting the poor performance of black students in her classes leaked, not only was she fired, but the professor she was speaking to lost his job as well.
Anyone and anything of Russian origin anywhere in the world is subject to retaliation. Film festivals around the world are barring the screening of Russian films, even those produced by Putin critics. Prior to last week, Valery Gergiev was a living legend and the “world’s busiest conductor.” But after the Ukraine invasion, the city of Munich fired him as conductor the Munich Philharmonic after he refused to swear a loyalty oath:
Dieter Reiter, the mayor of Munich, said that Mr. Gergiev, who had held the post of chief conductor there since 2015, had failed to respond to a demand issued on Friday by Mr. Reiter that he condemn Mr. Putin’s “brutal war of aggression” by Monday or be fired.
“I would have expected him to reconsider and revise his very positive assessment of Russia’s leader,” Mr. Reiter said in a statement. “He didn’t.”
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Important, longstanding norms and institutions are being torn down suddenly and all at once in the service of a short-term panic, just as they were domestically in America over the past several years. Now, this same destructive focus on emotional short-term goals has decisively triumphed in diplomacy.
For decades, America has benefited from the dollar’s status as global reserve currency. But now, by booting Russia off SWIFT and freezing its foreign reserves, America has pushed a button that can only be pushed once. China, Russia, and any nation that desires independence from US control now have a massive incentive to develop alternative systems that will preserve their economic and strategic autonomy. In a fit of pique, America has destroyed one of its key economic advantages forever.
SWIFT is not the only tool of economic advantage that the West has just casually tossed in the trash. America’s dominance in credit cards and tech is similarly imperiled. Why would any country let Visa and ApplePay dominate domestically if the US might turn it off at any time? Why would a country let Google and Facebook hold its Internet hostage? Besides China, right now only Russia is scrambling to create alternatives. But every other country, even those currently aligned with the US, is surely taking notes.
So, Russia is getting canceled just like “racists” and “insurrectionists” in the US have been canceled for the past five years. What does that indicate? For one, it reveals that the ideologically blinkered American regime megalomaniacally equates both foreign and domestic opposition as the same moral “evil.” All obstacles, be they a rival military power or simply an online political dissident, are within the same class, “the enemy,” and the harshest tools of ostracism or outright violence may justifiably be used against them.
Right now, Russia is being treated exactly like it is a wayward US political dissident. In the future, expect all domestic opposition to the Globalist American Empire to be equated with treason on behalf of a foreign power, and any general sympathy for Russia to be treated as a criminal act. In fact, there are already signs of this happening.
Merrick Garland’s recently announced an “operation” that deserves our attention:
The Justice Department created a task force spanning multiple agencies to enforce sanctions imposed against Russian officials and oligarchs in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The government said it would use its authority to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate the sanctions.
The task force, called KleptoCapture, will be run by the Justice Department and include agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and other agencies.
Investigators will seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals and assets identified as the proceeds of illegal conduct, the announcement said. They will also trace cryptocurrency that could be in use to evade sanctions or launder money. [Barron’s]
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To most onlookers, this sounds innocuous enough. The DOJ is going after Putin’s inner circle, right?
But Americans have every reason to distrust a massive interdepartmental manhunt supercharged with moral fervor. Remember, this is the same DOJ that ordered FBI agents to investigate parents protesting critical race theory as potential domestic terrorists, and the same DOJ launched the largest investigation in history, with 140 prosecutors, to track down every last person who entered the Capitol (or simply stood outside it) on January 6.
So, what will the campaign to punish oligarchs actually look like in practice? We got a glimpse on Thursday, when federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against former Fox News producer John Hanick:
The Department of Justice on Thursday revealed that Jack Hanick was quietly arrested in London on Feb. 3 for dodging U.S. sanctions by helping a sanctioned Russian oligarch, Konstantin Malofeyev, start his right-wing Tsargrad TV.
The DOJ simultaneously unsealed a grand jury indictment against him, accusing Hanick of knowingly engaging in business dealings with Malofeyev, who had been formally sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in financing Russia-backed soldiers in eastern Ukraine who have violently tried to break off from the democratic country since 2014.
Strip away the DOJ’s boasting, and the situation is this: Malofeyev, the billionaire in question, is a conservative Orthodox Christian who has funded efforts promoting traditional values, Russian nationalism, and Orthodox Christianity. Hanick moved to Russia in 2013, before any sanctions were in place. He took a job with a Russian company and helped Malofeyev set up a right-wing, religiously conservative TV network. He did all of this quite publicly; news outlets wrote about it seven years ago, and specific hitpieces against Hanick (and Fox News, by extension) came out all the way back in 2018. It’s clear that Hanick never saw his behavior as illegal; it doesn’t even seem to have occurred to the very liberal journalists writing about his conduct. Since Hanick is an expat, the main legal violations the DOJ has hit Hanick with are passing some money through a New York bank account, and Mueller-probe style “lies” to federal investigators.
A lawyer with experience in the world of sanctions enforcement described the targeting of Hanick as practically unprecedented.
“OFAC sanctions enforcement is famously aggressive, stretching the constitutional and practical limits of extraterritorial jurisdiction,” the lawyer told Revolver. “But in the past, our application of sanctions law to foreign transactions has at least targeted big fish — things like European banks processing wire transfers for Iranian oil.”
“It’s one thing to go after [Dutch bank] ABN Amro for sanctions violations — they have an internal compliance department to vet SWIFT transfers,” he continued. “Hanick appears to be a random citizen who didn’t even live in the United States, but took a job with a privately-run Russian Orthodox media network, and is now being extradited to face prison. This is much more aggressive enforcement than we’ve seen before.”
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There is no need to beat around the bush: Hanick is being prosecuted for a political offense, for being a US citizen who worked for an officially-labeled state enemy, just like those criminally prosecuted under the Mueller probe’s only real offense was being involved in Donald Trump’s election. With the DOJ given a blank check to target Russians, their assets, and their “allies” anywhere in the world, don’t expect Hanick to be the last person so targeted.
In fact, don’t even expect them to necessarily have any ties to Russians. Already, there is not even a pretense that what is called “Russian disinformation” need come from Russia. Simply being useful to Russia is enough to earn the label “disinformation” and, by extension, invite censorship. A 2020 State Department report on the “pillars” of the Russian “disinformation ecosystem” includes anyone, anywhere in the world, who wittingly or unwittingly proliferates “Russian narratives.”
There is good news, though: As it tries to widen the scope of cancellation machinery, the Globalist American Empire may have overreached, and dug its own grave. In America, censorship and deplatforming has led to efforts by dissidents to create their own social media sites, payment processors, web hosts, and more. But this is naturally limited. We wish luck to anybody trying to create parallel institutions within the GAE regime, but the ultimate bottleneck is not MasterCard or PayPal or Facebook. Gab is making a heck of a go at it. But the ultimate bottleneck is the regime itself.
If the Globalist American Empire decides a parallel institution is too powerful or too subversive, the regime is ultimately equipped to crush any threat within its jurisdiction. Once the threat is labelled a national security issue, all bets are off. Parler learned that after January 6, and there are already signs a similar fate is planned for YouTube rival Rumble (tech website Engadget helpfully informs its readers that Rumble, rather than being a free speech platform, is a “free speech” platform).
But this power to crush parallel structures is importantly not guaranteed on a geopolitical scale. For dissidents in the US, “just build your own Internet” is a meme rooted in despair. But China, Russia, and others really can build their own Internet, their own banking systems, their own credit cards, and more. And from now on, having seen what the US is capable of when whipped into a panic, every nation aspiring to even a smidgen of autonomy will ensure that these same tactics can never be used against them.
Globalization is dead. Every country has seen how global brands like Visa, Mastercard, and Apple have effectively cut off a nation.
pay attention VCs — every country will soon start to build their own local versions of these businesses
— simp 4 satoshi (@iamgingertrash) March 6, 2022
This growth of real alternative institutions independent of the West, as well as the profound collapse of the West’s moral authority, will be dominant trends in the years and decades to come. And once other nations have created parallel institutions to rival those of the Globalist American Empire, then dissidents within the GAE will also have alternatives they can look towards themselves.
America has shown it is willing to cancel an entire country. In applying the ruthless machinery of cancellation to the geopolitical arena, however, the Globalist American Empire might just find out that the country it ends up cancelling is its own.