The ‘Putin Supporter’ Slur Has Jumped Shark
The intellectual bankruptcy of fanatical Ukraine war supporters is laid bare in their wacky equation of Russia and Hamas, and right and left skeptics alike.
“To call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message.” So said California’s Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi recently, before proceeding to call for FBI investigations against pro-Gaza ceasefire protestors.
One may be inclined to dismiss this unsubstantiated claim as the ramblings of an octogenarian Democratic politician, one advancing yet another Russiagate absurdity.
Yet signs suggest it may be part of a broader trend. Recently, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, in a secret meeting with AIPAC donors attributed the pro-ceasefire positions of some progressive lawmakers to misinformation from “TikTok and China and Russia and our other adversaries.”
This is not only relegated to Democrats with Putin Derangement Syndrome. The GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley actually suggested that Putin was “the happiest person in the world” after Oct. 7 (his birthday), and has since “held hands with Hamas and said they were friends.” Not only that, that Russian intelligence “is what helped Hamas know how to get through [Israel’s] barrier.”
This new conflation of Russia and Hamas and the extension of the Putin-supporter smear to skeptics of Biden’s Israel policies demonstrate the psyche of the foreign policy establishment in the current moment. Deviations from the orthodoxy—that is, questioning whether unconditional support for Ukraine and Israel’s current war on Gaza are actually in the U.S. national interest—are now reflexively met with disdain by Pelosi, Gillibrand, Haley, and the like.
Rather than considering the merits of the arguments put forth by those opposed to continued U.S. patronage in either conflict, it is McCarthyism that prevails. Just consider the unhinged response to Tucker Carlson’s sighting in Moscow to interview Putin. “He is a traitor,” tweeted the former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican. “Perhaps we need a total and complete shutdown of Tucker Carlson re-entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” Bill Kristol tweeted.
It need not apply strictly to conservatives though. In addition to the Gaza protestors, Ukraine war dissenters on the left have also fallen victim to the McCarthyism crusade to the point of criminalization. As covered extensively by Glenn Greenwald, four members of the African People’s Socialist Party—a long-standing anti-war party on the left—are now facing considerable jail time on accusations of serving as Kremlin agents. Noticeably, the “Putin fan club” has become quite the diverse, equitable, and inclusive posse.
This irony aside, dissenters on both Israel and Ukraine represent a deeper, more substantive threat to Washington’s war party by asking a simple question: How does bankrolling these appalling conflicts help the United States? Displaying an unwillingness and incapacity to answer this question and self-reflect on their own policy stances, the War Party instead turns to name-calling in a manner meant to gate-keep permissible foreign policy discourse.
Such a tactic has been commonplace in the Blob’s rhetorical toolbox for years. Those on the right skeptical of American military adventurism have long been maligned as “isolationists,” clearly to evoke pre-WWII fascistic connotations. Such language is alive and well, even in describing those opposed to fanatical neocon calls for bombing Iran.
One must ask if this speaks to electoral machinations, both as a cudgel to enforce Democratic conformity around Biden’s policymaking and as a means of scaring Democratic voters ahead of the primaries and general election. Such an approach was clearly employed by Biden in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, in which he linked Republican ideology to “semi-fascism’’ and MAGA with authoritarian movements in Europe and Putin.
Yet with Biden’s approval rating at the lowest point of his presidency and the majority of Democratic voters having supported a ceasefire for months, such an approach now seems questionable. Pelosi’s accusations have been met with considerable criticism from progressive and anti-war organizations, highlighting the deep intra-left tensions surrounding the war in Gaza. It is clear to many that Democratic leadership is seeking to gatekeep and enforce conformity to silence dissenters among their progressive ranks by any means possible.
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One may ask, too, whether this speaks to an internalized pathology that has come to plague much of the D.C. establishment, that of an all-encompassing Russiaphobia hindering sober analytic reasoning.
Accepting this assessment, it is easier to understand how one may come to the conclusion that a Putin fifth column exists in the United States, one composed of Muslim pro-Palestinian advocates, rural Trump supporters completely disillusioned with endless war, and everything in between. These sudden fellow travelers couldn’t be bound by a common distaste for reckless American warmaking. No, it must be pro-Russian isolationism.
While Biden will feel increasingly pressed to pursue a peaceful end to the war in Gaza, it appears unlikely that this general line of reasoning will subside. The McCarthyite pathology is fully ingrained in the uniparty psyche—perhaps incurably.