I was struck by this one in the Guardian:
President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine “glorifies” Adolf Hitler’s SS killing squads and vowed to “eradicate nazism” as he opened a memorial marking 80 years since the end of the siege of Leningrad. The Russian leader has repeatedly invoked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the second world war to justify the war against Ukraine. His charge that Ukraine is a fascist state that needs “denazifying” has been debunked as false by independent experts.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/28/russia-ukraine-war-at-a-glance-what-we-know-on-day-704
Personally I think that Russia not so much exaggerates as over-simplifies this question of ‘Nazism’ in Ukraine. On the one hand it is easy to establish that there are/were some extreme paramilitary groupings dominated by Nazi ideology. It is also the case that some of the politicians who came to power straight after the US-led coup in Ukraine in 2014 can be said to have been well beyond the pale in terms of anything which would be considered acceptable in say, UK politics. But I think Putin doesn’t just mean this. The political science scholar Richard Sakwa discusses how there were two political visions in Ukraine around the time of the Maidan; the “monists” and the “pluralists”. By monists he means those who want a single, unified Ukraine based exclusively on the Ukrainian language and culture. The pluralists are those who envisaged a polity for Ukraine that included both Ukrainian nationalism and those who looked to other cultural traditions, including Russian. In Sakwa’s story the problem was that the monists, who came to power in the wake of Maidan, could not bring themselves to compromise with the pluralists and thus blocked resolutions to the conflict. It looks to me like Putin includes all the monists in his designation of Nazis – which I think is a mistake, at least in terms of presentation. Sakwa suggests that Russia needs to show huge generosity to this group. (At one point I saw Putin being reported as saying he “respects Ukrainians” – which may have been an attempt in this direction).
However; my point here is, as usual, about the media, not the politics. “His charge that Ukraine is a fascist state that needs ‘denazifying’ has been debunked as false by independent experts”. This is amazing. The audience for this is supposed to be both educated and free. Does anyone swallow this? The point is not so much the absurd “independent experts” who are, no doubt, the ‘experts’ from various NATO or corporate affiliated think tanks. The point is the belief that a complex political-historical analysis which has multiple strands and complex questions of how much weight to give to each strand can be “debunked”, i.e shown to be false. The progressive-liberal cult project is not just trying to reengineer what you believe but how you treat knowledge. Any kind of nuanced interpretative field of knowledge (for example, history, politics, literary criticism) is collapsed into simple true/false statements. And, of course, the “truth” is then what aligns with cult values. Another example of the same trend is the whole narrative about “election deniers” in the US. The narrative (relentlessly) reminds its viewers that Trump “lies” and makes “false claims”, for example about the election. In reality, while Trump certainly has a bombastic style there is a case to be made about election irregularities. (It is based around some instances of loosening of the rules for showing ID for postal ballots and the use of postal ballots in general; which favour Democrats. There are other issues as well, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg funding NGOs ostensibly to increase democratic participation but which are likely, again to turn out the Democrat vote). It is a kind of epistemological game to try to present a political-social question and, for that matter, a political campaigning claim, as something which can be treated as a true/false proposition. This reductive epistemology leads to the kind of black and white vision of the world that one finds in cults. This love of true/false propositions is a sign that the progressive-liberal project is in fact aiming to transform the whole of Western society into one huge cult. The cult members will be the citizens of the future for whom any kind of intellectual proposition more complex than simple ‘facts’ won’t exist. And the facts will all be pointing in the same way….
This is another example:
Trump falsely claimed on Thursday that Biden’s case was worse than his own. The former president said in a statement: “The Biden Documents Case is 100 times different and more severe than mine. I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more.”https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/feb/08/biden-classified-documents-special-counsel
This is the same news reported in the Washington Post:
“I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more,” Trump claimed. He also repeated his frequent complaint that the Justice Department is engaging in election interference against him by pursuing criminal charges against him even as he runs for office.https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/02/08/biden-classified-documents-special-counsel-report/
The first example is from the Guardian. The second is from the Washington Post. The point is that Trump is making a hyperbolic claim (he is, after all, a politician), which is (based on reality) almost certainly correctly characterised as an exaggeration, even a wild exaggeration; but the are various strands to the argument. It is not simply a matter of truth of the kind “it is raining” – which can be defined on a true/false basis. So, Trump did not “falsely claim”. He is not lying per se. He is expressing a view; quite possibly one which it is easy to argue against, but the claim is not in the realm of true/false. The Guardian is trying to reduce political-historical questions to a simple true-false view of the world. As I have said above, this is the level of truth assessment which prevails in cults. I include the Washington Post quote to show what I consider ‘normal’ journalism. They simply report what Trump claimed; anyone who is following the story can decided for themselves rather than have someone decide for them.