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Dispossession & The Ruling Class Narrative

Why you should not believe everything the media say about the Ukraine war
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This is true:

Along those lines, anything that deviates in any way from the Narrative — even simply to attempt to understand what is going on — is denounced as pro-Putin, pro-Russian, etc. Even though I always say that I support Ukraine in this war — not because I think Ukraine has a fine government, but because I stand with a small nation against the warmongering of a larger one — and even though I praise Zelensky for his great valor (though condemn him for the propagandistic lies he tells to try to drag NATO into this war), and even though I routinely condemn Putin for his unjust aggression and repression of antiwar dissidents at home … I still get crap from some readers, like the accusation that I “always” defend Putin and condemn Zelensky. I don’t think readers who do this are being cynical. I think that they have so plugged their brains into the Narrative Machine that they really do see this conflict as one of Uncontestably True Facts.

Here is a true fact:

Here’s a trigger warning for sensitivos: I am going to attempt to explain something to you about why not everybody in the world hates Putin. This does not mean I endorse his invasion (see above). This is about trying to get the nuance of what’s happening here — what it means, and what it is likely to mean, and what it means more deeply. This is, in part, an explanation of why I am unwilling to join the mob. I know that trying to understand one’s opponents, or enemies, is considered an impure act by many today, but there will be some of you for whom this is a valuable experience. It was only the day before yesterday that all good classical liberals knew that listening and understanding is not the same thing as endorsing. This is a valuable principle to live by.

Yesterday Putin gave a fairly frightening speech, in which he spoke of the demonization of Russians by the West (true, alas), said that Russia is being “cleansed” of a Western “fifth column,” and denounced oligarchs who live abroad as traitors to the good Russian folk who live at home. It was a demagogic tour de force — as if Putin hadn’t created, and didn’t sustain, the oligarchs, and as if he didn’t have a $99 million superyacht. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider why this demagoguery might be effective. He’s building on a deep and longstanding fear and loathing Russians have for the West, and using it to deflect anger at him for crushing the Russian economy with his foolish Ukraine war.

But there’s more to it than that. Let’s consider this “news analysis” by NYT correspondent Stephen Erlanger.Excerpts:

Mr. Putin’s concept of a nation is an ethnic and autocratic one, in contrast to the Western idea of a multicultural state built on civic responsibility, the rule of law, and individual rights. To be an American, many have suggested, it is necessary simply to swear allegiance to the flag, obey the law and pay your taxes.

Erlanger thinks this is self-evidently a good thing. There are many Americans who think this is a terrible thing! This deracinated, placeless understanding of the nation is historically aberrant, a feature of postwar modernity, but is considered to be the ideal by the ruling class in the US, the European Union, and among the globalist Davos class. It is true that the US is a multicultural society, and we have (so far) been able to make it work, though as the scholar of ethno-demography Eric Kaufmann has observed, America is going to face a difficult period of shifting from having a dominant ethnic minority (whites) to one in which no minority dominates.  From an essay Kaufmann published in 2019; don’t skip over this — it’s important:

We need to talk about white identity. Not as a fabrication designed to maintain power, but as a set of myths and symbols to which people are attached: an ethnic identity like any other.

In the West, even without immigration, we’re becoming mixed-race. This is not speculation, but is virtually guaranteed by the rates of intermarriage occurring in many Western countries. Projections reveal that faster immigration may slow the process by bringing in racially unmixed individuals, but in a century those of mixed-race will be the largest group in countries such as Britain and the United States. In two centuries, few people living in urban areas of the West will have an unmixed racial background. Most who do will be immigrants or members of anti-modern religious groups such as ultra-Orthodox Jews. The reflex is to think of this futuristically, as bringing forth increased diversity, or the advent of a “new man.” But, if history is our guide, things are likely to turn out quite differently. Many people desire roots, value tradition and wish to maintain continuity with ancestors who have occupied a historic territory. [Emphasis mine — RD]

I would wager that Stephen Erlanger, as a New York Times correspondent and member of the globalist cultural class, does not know many of these people. I would also wager, on the basis of this news analysis, that he fears and loathes them. That old Cajun man in the photo above? I bet if he’s still alive, that he holds opinions that would make Stephen Erlanger and his colleagues shit their New York pants and want to see him crushed. I know lots of old men like this, and not-so-young men. You know who’s going to go fight the war if the US gets involved? The same ones who fought the last wars: that old man’s grandsons.

More Kaufmann:

The loss of white ethno-cultural confidence manifests itself in other ways. Among the most important is a growing unwillingness to indulge the anti-white ideology of the cultural left. When whites were an over-whelming majority, empirically unsupported generalizations about whites could be brushed off as amusing and mischievous but ultimately harmless. As whites decline, fewer are willing to abide such attacks. At the same time, white decline emboldens the cultural left, with its dream of radical social transformation. The last time this blend of ethnic change and cultural contestation occurred, in fin-de-siècle America, the anti-WASP adversary culture was confined to a small circle of bohemian intellectuals. Today, the anti-majority adversary culture operates on a much larger scale, permeates major institutions and is transmitted to conservatives through social and right-wing media. This produces a growing culture-war polarization between increasingly insecure white conservatives and energized white liberals.

The Western tradition of opposing one’s own culture begins with the so-called “lyrical left” in the late 19th century, which lampooned bourgeois values. After the First World War, the cultural left turned against the nation, to the point that by 1930, according to the liberal George Orwell, “in left-wing circles, it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman.” In the more diverse United States, the lyrical left’s critique took the form of an attack on their own ethnic group, the Anglo-Protestant majority, whom they saw as oppressing European immigrants and enforcing puritanical laws such as the prohibition on selling alcohol. In the 1960s, this countercultural movement, which I term left-modernism, developed a theory of white ethno-racial oppression. Its outlook superseded the logical, empirically grounded, left-liberal Civil Rights Movement after 1965 to become a millenarian project sustained by the image of a retrograde white “other.” Today, left-modernism’s most zealous exponents are those seeking to consecrate the university campus as a sacred space devoted to the mission of replacing “whiteness” with diversity.

It’s important to have people criticizing their own group: What Daniel Bell termed the “adversary culture” spurs reform and creativity when it collides with the majority tradition. But what happens when the critics become dominant? In softer form, left-modernist ideology penetrated widely within the high culture and political institutions of Western society after the 1960s. This produced norms that prevented democratic discussion of questions of national identity and immigration. The deviantization of these issues in the name of anti-racism introduced a blockage in the democratic process, preventing the normal adjustment of political supply to political demand. Instead of reasonable trade-offs between those who, for example, wanted higher or lower levels of immigration, the subject was forced underground, building up pressure from those whose grievances were ignored by the main parties. This created a market opportunity which populist right entrepreneurs rushed in to fill.

Ethno-cultural change is occurring at a rapid rate at precisely the time the dominant ideology celebrates a multicultural vision of ever-increasing diversity. To hanker after homogeneity and stability is perceived as narrow-minded and racist by liberals. Yet diversity falls flat for many because we’re not all wired the same way. Right-wing populism, which champions the cultural interests of group-oriented whites, has halted and reversed the multicultural consensus which held sway between the 1960s and late 1990s. This is leading to a polarization between those who accept, and those who reject, the ideology of diversity. What’s needed is a new vision that gives conservative members of white majorities hope for their group’s future while permitting cosmopolitans the freedom to celebrate diversity.

Read the whole thing. 

Kaufmann is a British scholar who studies this stuff, but he has been denounced by some on the Left as making excuses for racism (an English academic friend who knows him told me recently, “You cannot imagine what they’ve put him through”). But Kaufmann is right. He’s trying to point out social, psychological, and political realities that must be dealt with, even though the ruling class does not want to deal with them. Putin’s attack on Ukraine, and the immensely powerful Western response to it, is already causing spasms of liberal and neocon triumphalism, which will make it far more difficult for them to understand what it going on within their own societies. And it’s making a lot of knee-jerk conservatives in the US who are reverting to militaristic type fail to understand that they are being played by the same elite ideologues who are making culture war on them and their institutions and ways of life.

Putin is exploiting these realities and forces for his own advantage. But he’s not making this stuff up out of whole cloth. More from Erlanger’s piece:

“What Russia is doing is not just making war against an innocent nation here,” said Timothy Snyder, a professor at Yale who has written extensively about Russia and Ukraine, but attacking assumptions about a peaceful Europe that respects borders, national sovereignty and multilateral institutions.

How quick the West is to forget that the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia did not respect borders or national sovereignty, and was illegal under international law (the UN did not authorize the action). NATO did it claiming humanitarian intervention as its casus belli. Nobody can deny that the Kosovo situation was a serious humanitarian crisis, but Russians know perfectly well that the West has no intention of respecting borders, national sovereignty, or multilateral institutions when it decides its interests. Ask the Libyans and the Iraqis about that too.

I remind you again: I am not justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which I regard as cruel and unjust. I am trying to show you that the Western narrative here is self-serving.

Erlanger cites the Christian ethnonationalism of Putin and his theoreticians as behind the Ukraine invasion. From what I understand, he’s not wrong, and I join fellow Orthodox Christians — including some in Russia — in deploring how the Putin has subordinated Russian Orthodoxy to his imperialist aims. But even that is not so simple, given that Kyiv/Kiev is the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy (in the year 988) and of the Russian nation. It seems that Ukraine has been hotly contested territory for the entirety of it history, and has only been a distinct state with the coming of the Bolshevik Revolution, when Moscow declared it to be the “Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.” This doesn’t make Russia’s invasion right, but doesn’t it complicate matters?

More importantly, I have to say: if you don’t think that Western ideas of liberal democracy, sexuality, capitalism, multiculturalism and the rest are an aggressive ideology, and indeed an ideology we are prepared to fight for economically, diplomatically, and militarily, you are deluded.

President George W. Bush, in his second Inaugural Address to a nation at war in the Middle East, said:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is armed utopianism, justified with religious rhetoric. We do it all the time, but we don’t recognize it as such, because we have convinced ourselves that what we believe in is neutral, and is obviously true. A liberal Democratic president would not likely have used the God talk, but he would have said the same thing in progressive terms, using words like “diversity,” “equity,” and so forth. My point here is that people who are outside of the American and EU ruling class hear things like what Erlanger and his interviewees say, and roll their eyes. They’re not wrong to. Putin’s being wrong about Ukraine does not make Timothy Snyder, The New York Times, and all the Davos men and women, right.

Erlanger:

In Europe, too, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, has promoted Hungarian identity and nationalism despite censure from Brussels. He has handed out Hungarian passports to ethnic Hungarians in Romania and other countries, who are allowed to vote in Hungary, giving him, so far, an electoral edge. But Mr. Orban faces parliamentary elections next month, and his long, close relations with Mr. Putin have hurt him politically, even as he has moved quickly to support European Union sanctions on Russia and welcome Ukrainian refugees.

Oh boy. Once again, American ignorance of history shows itself. Why are there so many ethnic Hungarians in Romania, far western Ukraine, Slovakia and Serbia? Because until 1919 and the Treaty of Trianon settling World War I accounts with the losing Austro-Hungarian Empire, parts of those nations were Hungary. Suddenly Hungarian people found themselves living as foreigners in what used to be their own land, because the victorious Western powers dismantled Hungary and gave two-thirds of Hungarian lands to other countries. A century later, this is bitterly resented here in Hungary today. I am neither praising nor condemning the Trianon Treaty, but you have to understand that Orban is not doing this for cynical reasons. Hungarians living in those lands really do see themselves as part of the Magyar nation.

Erlanger:

Mr. Putin has done more to build Ukrainian nationhood than anyone in the West could have done, Mr. Krastev said. “Putin wanted to be the father of a new Russian nation, but he is the father of a new Ukrainian nation instead.”

I think this is true, but look, do Erlanger and his interview subjects understand the irony here? Do they imagine that Ukrainians are Slavic Swedes? They are rather conservative, as are most people in this region, and they certainly can be ethnic chauvinists. For example, do you know why Hungarians, though helping Ukrainian refugees out of humanitarian concern, do not fully buy into the Ukraine-worship in the West? Because prior to the war, they battled with the Zelensky government over what Hungarians regard as brutal and unjust treatment of Hungarian minorities living in Ukraine. Since at least 2018, the Kyiv government has been trying to suppress the use of Hungarian in schools attended by minority Hungarians. The Ukrainians also have a case for their side; they want to suppress ethnic separatism. Again, I don’t want to take sides here — it’s not my place to do so — but I want to point out that the world is not nearly as simplistic as the Narrative would have you believe.

Erlanger is trying to smear Viktor Orban as a Putinist, which is standard operating procedure for the Western media. It is fair to say that Orban has been close to Putin, relative to other European leaders, but do you know why? A lot of it has to do with the fact that Orban and his party, Fidesz, are the party of people who, to use Eric Kaufmann’s phrase, “desire roots, value tradition and wish to maintain continuity with ancestors who have occupied a historic territory.” They correctly see the globalist EU ideology as a direct threat to that, in that globalism seeks to abolish borders and peoples, and their particular traditions, to create a frictionless capitalist entity. The Orban supporters are proud to be European, but don’t understand why, in order to be part of the European community of nations, they have to surrender their roots, traditions, and desire to maintain continuity with their ancestors who have occupied the Carpathian Basin since the ninth century.

There are other Europeans — French, Spanish, Italian, and others — who feel the same way about their own peoples and traditions. These people are slandered routinely in the media and by Brussels as “far right.”

Here is something that went out today on Twitter by the new president of Hungary (the president is a ceremonial position; the political leader is the prime minister):

Fidesz — Novak is a leading Fidesz politician — holds that the EU’s dictates are trying to undermine the traditional family, and with it Hungarian sovereignty. They are correct about that. And look, Vladimir Putin is flat out a warmongering autocrat, but he’s correct when he attacks LGBT ideology promoted as a sacred value by the Western ruling class. Again and again I say unto you: some things are true even though Vladimir Putin believes them.

None of this is to justify Putin’s attack on Ukraine. But it is to explain why the story Americans are hearing in the media is not the whole story, and why we should be wary. One more bit from Erlanger:

But now Ukraine, which also fought and suffered under the Nazis, is using the same tropes against the invading Russians. For Ukraine, Mr. Krastev said, “this is their Great Patriotic War.”

Wait … what?! Many Ukrainians openly collaborated with the Nazis — and frankly, given what Stalin did to them in the Holodomor, it’s not hard to understand why. The Azov Battalion is the main Ukrainian force defending Mariupol now from the Russians. It is openly neo-Nazi — and this is not even in dispute. Again, if I were Ukrainian, I would probably swallow my fear of and disgust with the neo-Nazis and be glad they were fighting against the invaders — but we Americans have no excuse for pretending that Ukraine is free of the taint of Nazism.

Putin is manipulating his own people into supporting his disastrous war. But our leadership class in the West is up to something quite similar, and you need to know that.

You need to know that in part because you should not allow yourself to get caught up in liberal triumphalism, such that you miss what’s happening in your own country (I’m talking to my fellow Americans). A friend from back home sent me this clip this morning, saying he wants it played at his wake one day:

 

My friend is not a rural farmer, but a highly educated urban professional who is sick of what he regards as the ruling class and the overculture’s demonization of people like him and their culture. He’s one of the conservatives I’ve been telling you about who reach out to me and say that they are not interested anymore in defending a regime that despises them, and systematically works to dispossess them of their culture and tradition, and their replacement by liberal market ideology. This is a similar sentiment that this left-wing Quebecois folk band Mes Aïeux sounded a long time ago in the song “Dégeneration”:

Take a look at this English-language cover by the Georgia musician David Mathewes, from five years ago:

Now, if you watch the “Bury Me In Southern Ground” video, you’re going to see an old video clip that shows some white Southern male mud-riding in his pickup truck, with a Confederate flag flying. You might think, “I KNEW IT! RACIST!” He might be … but not necessarily. Personally, I think that the Confederate flag is too tainted by slavery and white supremacy to be displayed in good faith, and I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it as a sign of respect to black Southerners. But I also know that there are Southern whites today who do not regard it as a racist emblem; rather, they regard it as the only sign available to them to show affirmation of their particular culture, especially as it is widely despised by US cultural elites.

But you know what they might also see? The flag of a weaker nation that claimed independence from a stronger nation, which then made war on the weaker nation to forcibly reunite it to the motherland. Me, I am glad the South lost the war because that was the only way to end slavery, but I am not at all persuaded that the South had no right to secede in the first place. Southern whites who fly the Confederate flag may wonder why Ukrainian nationalists with far-right, racist convictions get a pass by right-thinking American liberals for fighting Russians in the name of their nation, its culture, and its independence, but no liberal will ever grant that a white Southerner can be proud of his culture — despite the profoundly evil parts — and display their flag, or even look upon certain statues.

History and culture are not simple stories.

Whatever you think about the rebel flag, and whatever you think about Putin and his rhetoric, don’t lose the broader picture here of the war going on far outside of Ukraine. It is a culture war, and it is relentless. The aggressors see themselves as liberators — but they are lying to us, and lying to themselves. It should be easy for conservatives to decide to fight hard politically against liberal forces that are coming into the schools to try to colonize the minds of children to hate their ethnicity and hate their bodies and families via gender ideology. This is a fight against dispossession and degeneration (in the sense that the Quebecois song above means). And if you do, they will understand what they have to learn from the way Viktor Orban fights for the same things in his country. Unlike US Republicans, he usually wins.

Finally, I acknowledge that it might seem weird for me to be singing the praises of nationalism and sovereignty (cultural and otherwise) as a foreigner enjoying the hospitality of Budapesters. I see no contradiction at all. I am a proud American, and indeed a proud Southerner. I also love traveling the world and meeting people from cultures not my own, and learning from them. I think the French ought to be able to say how people in France should live, just as Hungarians should be able to protect their own heritage and traditions, as should Ukrainians, and everybody else. This is messy, and some things cannot ultimately be reconciled. Nevertheless, I think part of being truly cosmopolitan is recognizing and honoring local particularity. I don’t want Hungarians telling us Americans how to run our country, and I don’t think it’s our place to tell them the same.

In fact, this morning I was talking with a Hungarian friend at the Rudas Baths about the upcoming election. He says Orban will win, and he wants Orban to win. He think Orban will keep Hungary out of the war. He said, “You can see how beautiful Budapest is today, but I assure you, it didn’t look like this 25 years ago. We had to live with all the damage from the [Second World] War, because we were too poor to build it back. And if Hungary gets involved in this war, Russia will beat us, and we will suffer.”

He went on to say he hopes Orban wins because the opposition is eager to surrender even more sovereignty to Brussels. He said that nobody in Brussels cares about Hungarians, or anybody else in this part of Europe. “They pass laws governing us, but they don’t know us, and they don’t like us,” he said. “They treat us as a bunch of ignorant, uncultured Eastern Europeans who need to be taught how to be human. We have been through this before, you know. I’m telling you, when we see Brussels, we see the new Moscow. Wokeness is another form of Communism. We can all see that.”

“I have just the book for you to read,” I said.

“Who are they to tell us that we are backwards bigots because we believe that men have penises, and women have vaginas, and that you aren’t an aardvark just because you identify as one?” he said. I laughed at the line, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. He said he cannot understand what gives people from the more liberal cultures of western Europe the right to stomp into Hungary, Poland, and other more conservative Central European countries and order them to surrender what they believe, and have always believed, about family, sex, and sexuality.

I told my friend that I completely agree, and that we are dealing with the same kind of thing in the US. Unlike in Hungary, though, we don’t have many Republican politicians who have the guts and the brains to fight it. This, I told him, is broadly about dispossession, cultural and otherwise. The Left — and the neocon Right — doesn’t see this, because they are so supremely confident that their version of justice is the correct one, and the only reason anyone could possibly disagree is because they are Bad People — racists, bigots, fascists, Orbanists, Putinists, you name it.

He nodded, and said, “That’s it: dispossession.”

One more thing: I’m really past the point of tolerating bad-faith criticism (e.g., “You always defend Putin!”), so if that’s all you bring to your comment below, save your efforts, because I’m going to spike your remarks before they appear.

UPDATE: Michael Brendan Dougherty is well worth reading on the self-deception of the liberal triumphalists who assume populism and nationalism are over now.

You watch: when Viktor Orban wins the April 3 election, people who trusted the Western media’s assurances that Orban is being hurt with voters by his relationship to Putin will be left sputtering that Orban must have cheated. He simply must have, because they don’t know anybody who voted for him. Maybe they can call Bono for consolation and verse.

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