The New Observer Uncategorized Eugene – cancelling Russians

Eugene – cancelling Russians

This is just a little anecdote. Maybe it sheds some light on a public mood in the US.

I started an online ‘Chat’ today with a sales agent for some software. The company is based in California.

It seems they are using IP detection. Once I started the chat I got a message saying something like “we are not supporting customers in Russia and Belarus after the brutal invasion of Ukraine in which thousands of civilians have been brutally killed”. I can’t remember exactly what it said and I didn’t keep the transcript. Just after this Eugene came on the line. He may have manually posted the message. I was struck – the messaging was really aggressive – like they were at war and speaking to an enemy. I replied “good for you” and Eugene replied. We then had a bit of tooing and frooing. The phrase “brutal killing of civilians” appeared – not sure if in the first message or a later one.

I made the obvious point about NATO and Ukraine being a provocation. Would the US accept China placing missiles in Mexico? Either you have to say that the US is “superior” and different rules apply, or you have to explain why Russia should have accepted something that the US would not have done. In response to Eugene’s comments about Russia’s brutal shelling of Ukraine I made the point that Ukraine had been shelling Donetsk for several years before 2022. “That story” said Eugene. I mentioned the OSCE. (Russia may have exaggerated the impact of the shelling from Ukraine. [1] But; the OSCE data shows at least that the shelling went both ways; and it is a matter of history that the government in Kiev post-Maidan set about attacking eastern Ukraine rather than looking for a political solution [2][3]). And so it went on for a while. But I had to go to an appointment. As always with these conversations the “pro-Ukrainian” side is strong on denunciations but curiously short on arguments or facts. I did make that precise point to Eugene.

I was a little bit shocked. I signed on to ask if a piece of software supported a certain feature and was subject to a political attack. There are lots of companies which have cancelled Russia and Russians but usually they choose a form of words which is not an attack on Russians and leave it at that. Sometimes they even try to soften it by saying they hope to resume business when all this is over. This was very aggressive. Clearly this reflects one strand of the public mood in the US. Either the progressive-liberal democracy-exporting camp, or the “neo-conservatives”. Such a position “Russia is brutally killing civilians in Ukraine for no valid reason” is a kind of hallucination. It could not survive any serious contact with history, or political analysis. Which is why, when people make it, their speech does not contain these elements. But worrying that such frothing is perhaps so normalised in the US that a commercial company can sanction its employees (I assume) to engage in it.

One final point. This online cancelling of Russia is idiotic. It is immediately circumventable with a VPN. Slightly more difficult is the blocking of Visa and Mastercard in Russia, though I believe that there are “parallel economy” type solutions here. (I’ve seen mention of ‘virtual Visa cards’). On this basis it appears to be largely a strange kind of “virtue-signalling” exercise; “look, we support transgender job applicants and we cancel Russia, so we are an acceptable part of the modern world”. At least Eugene put some energy into his cancelling of Russia.


  1. For example’ this is Foreign Minister Lavrov talking to Serbian TV about the number of civilian casualties in Donbas between 2014 and 2021: “During the years of sabotage of the Minsk agreement, 14,000 civilians were killed” (Google translation from Serbian) [] These are the actual UN figures: OHCHR estimates the total number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine from 14 April 2014 to 31 December 2021 to be 51,000–54,0008 : 14,200-14,400 killed (at least 3,404 civilians, estimated 4,400 Ukrainian forces, and estimated 6,500 members of armed groups), and 37-39,000 injured (7,000–9,000 civilians, 13,800–14,200 Ukrainian forces11 and 15,800-16,200 members of armed groups12). [] The 14,000 figure is all deaths including civilians, Ukrainian army and DNR/LNR militia forces. Assuming Lavrov has been correctly quoted he was mistaken. Possibly badly briefed.
  2. “Fighter jets flew low over the pro-Donbas protests, and it appeared that ‘from the very start, Kiev had been prepared to use force’.” Quoted from Keith Gessen, ‘Why not kill them all?’, London Review by Sakwa, Richard. Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (p. 150). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Despite Lavrov’s errors with the numbers [1] the case that the Kiev Anti-Terror Operation against Eastern Ukraine was excessive is easy to make. For example; “When asked in a famous YouTube interview ‘What should we do now with the 8 million Russians that stayed in Ukraine? They are outcasts?’ Tymoshenko responded: ‘They must be killed with nuclear weapons.’” Sakwa, Richard. Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (p. 152). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition. Sakwa continues in this chapter to detail how Poroshenko failed to find a peaceful way out of the conflict between Kiev and Eastern Ukraine and the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) intensified under his leadership; “The insurgents in the south-east were characterised as ‘terrorists’, and thus their demands and concerns were rendered null and void. The resolution of the long-standing Ukrainian identity, it appeared, would be settled on the battlefield.”