Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destroyed buildings, killed people, and thrown global geopolitics into chaos. It’s tested our global ability to tell truth from lies, right from wrong, good from evil.
It’s also smacked a lot of online smartypantses right in the credibility.
As much as I care about political analysis (I went to school for it), I write about sports because there are concrete rules and definitive winners. You can make evaluating performances and modeling outcomes your life’s work—but at the end of the day, your subjects are what their record says they are.
In politics, anyone can twist words into anything else. The only guardrails are other words. You can assert up is down or black is white and it all just swirls into the yawing gyre of discourse.
Even as Russian troops and tanks were rolling up to the Ukranian borders in massive numbers, even as Vladimir Putin was declaring he would “denazify” portions of Ukraine he’d “recognized” as “independent republics,” a lot of pundits—from cable TV icons to Twitter punters—were finding ways to pretend this was sort of trumped-up hoax.
Then the Russians opened fire:
Vladimir Putin is a fascist and a despot. He’s a warmongerer and a colonizer. He persecutes ethnic and religious minorities. He imprisons anyone who speaks out against him; he kills his political enemies.
And in a speech on Thursday, President Biden said plainly what’s been obvious to anyone who watched the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics and then, days later, Russia annex Crimea: Putin wants to restore the Soviet empire.
Somehow his invasion caught everyone flat-footed, from FOX News personalities to the Chinese government. Most Americans, after 20 years of 9/11-induced navel-gazing, are just trying to remember how foreign policy works. NATO? treaties? Allies? Huh?
But Putin’s invasion especially shocked the Horseshoe Theory people.
From right-wingers who admire Putin’s violent repression of minorities, to “leftists” whose activism starts and stops with criticizing America, the swath of Twitter that confuses snark with wit couldn’t believe the bad man actually did the bad thing.
In the chaos, they were all left scrambling to figure out how this could possibly fit in with their worldview. Glenn Greenwald tried blaming Russian aggression on NATO—because it had considered including Ukraine as a member, to protect against Russian aggression? Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville said Putin was forced to invade, because Russia’s “communist” economy had failed and Russians were starving.
It’s not just conservative dipsticks like Tuberville who are ignorantly equating Putin with Lenin. A lot of liberals are responding to them with variations on, “Aren’t you flag-waving types supposed to hate Russia?” And a lot of Zoomers with “communist” in their bio are straight-up cheering for the fascist.
Dudes rock. (Photo: public domain)
Okay, I don’t normally include academic studies in Everything Awesome.
But in a week where Texas’s Attorney General put in words what trans people and allies have been screaming was coming—open season, effectively, on trans kids and parents who love and support them—this study couldn’t be more timely or important.
Transgender and non-binary kids receiving gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormones treatment, “was associated with 60% lower odds of moderate or severe depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality over a 12-month follow-up.”
In case it wasn’t clear before, forcing children into unnecessary depression and suicide is not protecting them.
Just days after Medium informed me that I didn’t have enough followers to qualify for their partner program anymore (oops, guess I forgot to hit ‘Publish’ on the last dozen Gimmes Schalter that automatically get filed to drafts there), Thompson wrote a great post explaining just a few of his most popular articles are responsible for most of the attention he’s earned over eight years on Medium—and how that’s probably true for you, wherever you’re making content, and how you should consider that when you do.
Since Super Bowl commercials mainstreamed NFTs, the toxic discourse around them has become unbearably so.
That’s why I really enjoyed Noh’s clear-eyed take on this story: An NBA player who appeared to have an honest enthusiasm for building a community around his own NFTs, investors who know full well how scammy NFT launches usually work, and both parties somehow ending up in the usual ugly post-launch place.
An entrepreneur, angel investor, and the Founder/CEO of LittleThings, Speiser wrote with sobering clarity about how a thriving digital-media startup turned to dust with one Facebook algorithm tweak.
I know I say this all the time. But Facebook decimated an entire sector of the economy, on purpose, faced basically no punishment for it and it’s not even the worst of the terrible things they’ve done.
If you’re reading this newsletter, you’ve probably read this story from the workers’ perspective countless times. But it’s worth reading this one from the other side of the desk.
If you were raised on red stars and yellow sickels as symbols of existential danger, if you lived under the omnipresent threat of global thermonuclear war, watching the Soviet Union turn into a bunch of independent democratic republics was amazing. Watching the first-world/second-world/third-world worldview disintegrate into, just, you know, the world was awe-inspiring.
All our dreams of world peace seemed to be coming true: President Bill Clinton of the U.S. and Boris Yeltsin of Russia, having laughs and drinks together whenever they could. The formation of the European Union. International laws and coinciding free-trade agreements. Israeli and Palestinian leaders shaking hands and signing treaties. The World Wide Web! An optimist could draw a straight line from 1998 to Star Trek.
The critics of America, in which I include myself, are quick to point out that this bright and shining “new world order” was cited by George H.W. Bush as a reason to fight the first war against Iraq (which set the table for the second). That Clinton’s push for U.S. intervention in the Balkan War proved how meager the “peacekeeping” ability of NATO and the United Nations really was. And that Bush’s son using 9/11 as a blanket mandate for the U.S. to fight whatever wars it wanted (and under which attendant use-of-force authorization we bombed Somalia this week) is what really shattered the old alliances.
But critique and dissent are essential parts of self-rule. If we want to improve society somewhat, we can’t just point out our past and present failures, but constantly push ourselves to live up to our values.
It doesn’t matter how many treaties the U.S. government has broken before, we should still honor the ones we have. And we promised Ukraine we’d have their backs in exchange for giving up their old Soviet nukes.
If the Cold War taught us anything, it’s that proxy wars are bad for everyone involved. And direct U.S.-Russia conflict is no less likely to result in catastrophic nuclear war than it was 30-plus years ago. But I urge anyone reading this and rolling their eyes about U.S. imperialism or whatever to train their eyes back on the news. On the bombings. On the violence. On the refugees.
Look at what’s really happening.
There’s one aggressor, one agitator, one imperialist, one expansionist. He’s not a communist or a socialist or a leftist. He’s attacking a sovereign, democratic nation we promised we’d help protect. It’s in our best interest, and everyone else’s, to do so however we can.
Progress continues, albeit slowly, on both CODEX 17’s Draft 1.5 and A&A’s first draft. I also got a really encouraging rejection on one short story, and dusted off another and sent it out.
I’m hoping to get all my old shorts back out and on the submission grind over the next few weeks—not just because I could use a win, but because I can see that I’ve grown a lot as a writer since I first started seriously writing fiction back in 2014 (and there are a LOT of new markets that have never seen my work)!