Bad Takes on Russia-Ukraine
Observations from the Twitterverse
People are weighing in on Russia-Ukraine for obvious reasons, and that means a lot of bad takes are flying. Here are some of my least favorites…
Any take that supports Russia
It should be self-evident that when it comes to the invasion of Ukraine, pro-Russia takes are bad, but even as prominent Fox News pundits try to backpedal from recent pro-Putin cheerleading, a swath of the right-wing is still firmly behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A certain brother of mine has been regurgitating obvious Russian propaganda of late, with claims for example that Russia is doing god’s work and cleaning up U.S. corruption in Ukraine. His perspective on Russia isn’t new though. Going back almost ten years, both my brothers used to share a lot of articles from RT (the Russian English-language news channel) and Zero Hedge (which was recently accused of spreading Russian propaganda). Maybe my brothers still share “news” from these sources (I haven’t followed them on Facebook in years, and I rarely log into Facebook at all anymore, so I can’t say), but I imagine they are still consuming Russian propaganda on the regular.
I don’t mean to single them out though, because it’s clear that Russia has been waging an information war against the U.S. and Europe for years. I would speculate that Russia has specifically targeted right wing pundits and influencers like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Steve Bannon, who sure behave as if they have been groomed by Putin.
The other morning I heard Scott Simon on NPR waxing sorrowfully about what’s happening in Europe, ending his segment with this:
Just a generation after so many walls were brought down, it is hard not to feel that the world has plunged back into darkness.
I understood his sentiment, but two parts that phrase, “the world” and “back into darkness” bother me. Maybe if he had said “Europe” instead of “the world,” I would have just nodded sadly with him, because that was the context. Most of his references in the segment were about Europe after all, but to conflate Europe with “the world” in this way is to echo a different dark history, a dangerous Eurocentrism, and to perpetuate it along with the racism it implies.
This kind of Eurocentrism is ugly, and we should be on alert for it, but even a more generous interpretation of Simon’s “back into darkness” phrase is naive. The world has too much darkness. It has ever been so, and to imagine otherwise is to admit blindness.
It may be true that Europe had seemingly escaped the darkness of war and totalitarianism, but the world most certainly has not. What about Syria? Palestine? The Royhingya? What about what’s happening with the Uighurs in China, or the atrocities in Yemen that the U.S. is exacerbating through our support of Saudi Arabia?
Any take that paints attention on Russia-Ukraine as hypocrisy or as applying a double standard
It’s possible to venture too far from the previous take and dismiss any expression of concern about Ukraine made by anyone who can’t pull up a history of their comparable expressions – about Syria say, or Palestine, or the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. But we can express sympathy for Ukraine or condemn Russia without having to prove our moral bona fides in this way. And we, as Americans, aren’t disqualified from weighing in on Russia-Ukraine just because our own government has a long history of problematic foreign interventions.
This is not to say we should ignore actual hypocrisy. It is right to call out people who actively defend one problematic intervention but condemn another, or who rationalize one humanitarian crisis but lament another. Let’s aim to stand on higher principles.
The bad take I’m talking about is one that paints insufficient attention (to Yemen, Syria, etc.) as tacit acceptance, so as to disqualify any opinions about Russia-Ukraine. It’s an old trick and the basis of many a meme.
Any take where someone uses Russia-Ukraine as a pretext to spout about unrelated pet issues
When I lived in New York City, it was not unusual to see a group of people marching in protest (or support) of one thing or another. There were protests related to Israel-Palestine, affordable housing, criminal justice, and lots more, but no matter the issue, it always seemed like there was one dude (almost always a dude) with a “legalize weed” sign. The same thing seems to happen whenever a big crisis dominates Twitter.
I’m sure there are other kinds of bad takes, but these are some that I’m seeing a lot.