Anyone – especially a Westerner – who disseminates Putin’s propaganda is complicit in his crimes.
Cue in Peter Hitchens, who has been reticent on this subject for a while. Even he must realise that, after a spate of poisonings and other murders around the world, extolling Putin’s regime openly has become socially awkward.
But Hitchens’s adoration of the KGB colonel has finally managed to circumvent common decency. True love will find a way, thereby vindicating Virgil’s adage, omnia vincit amor.
Passion makes people do and say insane things, and Hitchens is no exception. Thus, in today’s article he equates the revolting jacquerie in Washington the other day with the 2014 popular uprising in the Ukraine that toppled the Yanukovych government.
In support, the rattling train of Hitchens’s thought has resumed its runs in his one-track mind. His favourite trick is to vindicate his beloved tyrants by first issuing a disclaimer about their nastiness and thereby trying to preempt a charge of bias (or worse) for the subsequent panegyric.
For example, a few years ago he wrote: “[Putin’s Russia] is a sinister tyranny where those who challenge the president’s power or expose his wrongdoing suffer very nasty fates.” But then, in the same article: “Mr Putin’s Russia [is] now astonishingly the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.”
This is a recurrent device, and today it recurs: “The toppled government of President Viktor Yanukovych was ugly and corrupt, beyond doubt. But by the standards of Ukraine’s young democracy, it was still legitimate.”
Hence, toppling it was wrong, as I hope you understand the implication. Quite apart from repeating Putin’s propaganda almost verbatim, this statement shows a foolhardy belief in the redemptive power of the ballot box über alles.
Yet some unpleasant characters have been known to rise to power by democratic means. Springing to mind are, among others, Messrs Hitler, Perón, Mugabe and Macîas Nguema (who then murdered a third of the population of Equatorial Guinea that had voted him in).
Such examples make it hard to argue both the absolute ipso facto virtue of any democratic regime and the absolute ipso facto evil of removing it from power. Call me a moral relativist and a democracy hater, but I think an assassin putting a bullet through Hitler’s head in, say, 1938, would have done mankind a favour.
But what would be hard for you and me to argue is a doddle for a man in the throes of passion. Thus Hitchens: “I found them [the 2014 events in Kiev] repellent and wrong. Almost alone among Western journalists, I argued that this had been a violent putsch.”
That second sentence is another recurrent theme. For while professing contempt for Trump, Hitchens suffers from the same contemptible trait: propensity for tooting his own horn. In practically every piece Hitchens portrays himself as a sort of Don Quixote, singlehandedly charging the windmills of liberalism with the lance of I-told-you-so. Still, one wishes bad taste were his worst fault.
Backtracking, I think calling Hitchens a useful idiot was wrong. An idiot does bad things out of ignorance, but surely even Hitchens can’t be ignorant of the true nature of the Yanukovych government.
It wasn’t just “ugly and corrupt”. It was a stooge to Putin and a high-ranking member of his crime family, to which Yanukovych owed loyalty in preference to the Ukraine’s national interests. That betrayed the country’s sovereignty won in 1991. Under Yanukovych, the Ukraine was independent only de jure. De facto it remained a satrap of Putin’s Russia.
Hence, rather than being a “repellent putsch”, the 2014 events in Kiev were a popular uprising against an evil tyranny. Any decent person of any political persuasion (other than lickspittle sycophancy to Putin, that is) should have rejoiced.
Hitchens’s reaction? “Nice liberal-minded Western governments, especially the American one, along with nice liberal media, rejoice at the outcome of these events, the overthrow of an elected government by unconstitutional means and mass intimidation.”
They resorted to such means because the chances of removing that petty criminal from power democratically were slim to nonexistent. Not to Hitchens though: “Elections were due within a year, which could have removed those in power lawfully. The mob did not wish to wait…”
Allow me to complete this sentence with something truthful for a change: “…for another blatantly fixed election.” If Hitchens is unaware of the near-certainty of such an outcome, he ought to study the records of every Russian poll from 1996, when Yeltsyn was elected fraudulently, onwards.
The Putin junta had refined the appropriate techniques and was more than happy to share the experience with its puppet. Tyrants may rise to the summit by democratic means, but they never fall from it in that fashion. They need to be pushed, or putsched if you’d rather.
This stands in contrast to how things are done in civilised countries, such as the USA. There no need for mob justice exists precisely because constitutional means of redressing grievances are in ample supply.
Hence, comparing the pathetic thugs who tried to take over the Capitol building to the Ukrainian people who rose en masse to regain their independence is morally corrupt, intellectually defunct and borderline insane.
Hitchens’s fiery concluding diatribe against his bogeymen is worth a long quotation:
“So answer me this, all you lofty liberals. I have always despised Donald Trump and the empty-headed movement he created, and I am here quite happy to say that the invasion of the halls of the US Congress by Trump supporters was a grotesque, evil and criminal enterprise, which I utterly condemn without the tiniest reservation.
“But will you, even now, say that the violent putsch in Kiev, six years ago, was just as wrong?
“No, you won’t. Because – as your failure to defend liberty shows – you have no real principles.”
Quite. Anyone who disagrees with Hitchens on anything is an unprincipled lofty liberal. That’s what I am then, even though I’ve seldom been described as either unprincipled or liberal or lofty.
We, the lofty liberals of Hitchens’s febrile imaginings, are sane enough not to mouth arrant, crazy nonsense, such as equating the events in Kiev and Washington. We won’t say the former “was just as wrong” as the latter because it wasn’t.
We repudiate the mob violence in Washington while celebrating the revolution in Kiev precisely because we have principles, among which is the defence of liberty. I may be biased, but to this lofty liberal that beats adulation of evil despots – and especially doing their bidding in the Western press.