Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the two-time prime minister of Malaysia, is an unlovely man in many respects but not without some memorable observations. In 2010 he announced he'd changed his mind on whether 9/11 was an inside job, because he'd been to see James Cameron's film Avatar: "There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged," he told the Conference for the Support of al-Quds. "If they can make Avatar, they can make anything."
I take a slightly different view from Dr Mahathir: America can make Avatar; it's not clear it can any longer make anything else. The now ubiquitous media expression "the narrative" suggests, for example, widespread acceptance of the imposition of stock clichés from the most moronic forms of storytelling upon the subtle and shifting complexities of reality. To my mind, the Ottawa truckers are heroic. But apparently, to a majority of my fellow Canadians, they are the baddies, and racist baddies to boot. And, to two-thirds of American Democrats, the Totalitarian Mammy-Singer is the hero. To modify Dr Mahathir: If they can make a man who likes to black up and shove a banana down his pants the anti-racist hero, they can make anything.
Which brings us to this last day of February 2022. Which is beginning to feel like late February 2020, don't you think? That is, in the stampede to impose the suffocating blanket of "the narrative" to the exclusion of all else. There is certainly a real country called Ukraine, where real people are being killed by real missiles hitting their apartment houses. Just as there was a real virus called Covid-19, which emerged from a real lab in a real city in China and began killing real people all over the world. Yet "the narrative", then as now, seems designed to obscure any serious consideration of the underlying causes.
Nevertheless, certain things should be capable of being grasped even by viewers of CNN and readers of The New York Times. Just as Covid revealed that China is now the planet's dominant economic power, so Ukraine confirms that America's post-Cold War unipolar moment is dead: over the weekend, the talk shifted (again very Corona-like) from fifteen days to flatten the Tsar to an acceptance that this is a long-term thing - that, for a while at least, "a gas station masquerading as a country" (in John McCain's characteristically stupid sneer) has succeeded in rolling back the great European liberations of three decades ago.
These days Neville Chamberlain is too invoked and the comparison is unfair. In 1938, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, the Prime Minister went on the radio and described it as "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing". For America, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is the precise opposite: a quarrel in a far-away country of which their leaders know everything. Because they've been up to their neck in it for years.
Ukraine is a beautiful place, its people are intelligent and agreeable, and its women are stunners. But it is a very poor country and, notwithstanding its many fine qualities, the most corrupt nation in Europe, and, per Ernst & Young, the ninth most corrupt in the world. As I pointed out regularly three years ago on Tucker and Rush, at a time when Hunter Biden was getting fifty grand a month plus seven-figure bonuses from Burisma, the average wage in Ukraine was $200 a month: The Biden family's heist was "not a victimless crime".
A far-away country of which we know nothing? Has there been any Washington scandal that has not involved Ukraine in recent years?
The Trump impeachments? Ooh, he telephoned ...Ukraine!
The "Russia investigation"? Putin wanted Trump to win why exactly? Oh, no problem: because he'll roll back sanctions imposed for Moscow's actions against ...Ukraine!
Do we have any witnesses to any of this? Yeah, sure, the really good guy's some Colonel Vindman. He's an immigrant from ...Ukraine!
On the other hand, Obama made Biden his point-man in ...Ukraine!
Biden told the Ukrainians they had to clean up all the corruption. They took the hint and put Hunter on the board, and Joe, Jim and the rest of the mob family suddenly acquired extensive "business interests" in Ukraine.
Oh, and the biggest source of foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation is ...Ukraine.
Don't you find it curious that, for an unimportant country with a piffling economy, Ukraine looms so large in Washington? And we're just skimming the filthy overflowing septic tanks of obvious crooks like the Bidens and the Clintons, without getting into, say, CIA chief John Brennan's visit to Kiev after the installation of a "pro-American" government.
We're told, inter alia, that Putin's casus belli - Ukrainian membership of Nato - is ludicrous because that would take years and would require the approval of every single existing member from Canada to Montenegro. Consider the words of George Kent III (or possibly IV), the bow-tied striped-pants panjandrum from Foggy Bottom presented at the first Trump impeachment trial as the very acme of selfless American public service explaining to the masses how Washington's Ukrainian policy is too fundamental to be susceptible to such footling considerations as the wishes of the head of the executive branch:
By analogy, the American colonies may not have prevailed against British imperial might without help from transatlantic friends after 1776. In an echo of Lafayette's organized assistance to General George Washington's army and Admiral John Paul Jones' navy, Congress has generously appropriated over $1.5 billion over the past five years in desperately needed train-and-equip security assistance to Ukraine. These funds increase Ukraine's strength and ability to fight Russian aggression. Ultimately, Ukraine is on a path to become a full security partner of the United States within NATO. [emphasis added]
Okay, so if I follow this "narrative", America is Lafayette and Ukraine is George Washington. That would make Russia George III?
But Putin's the paranoid one.
Rather less glamorously, Ukraine is Wuhan: In Washington the more straightforwardly sleazy insiders are just getting rich off it, the murkier forces are up to something darker. Then the Ten Per Cent Express jumps the tracks and, as revealed in the emails between Fauci & Co in February 2020, the first instinct is to get busy and impose "the narrative": thus, viral hashtags that mean the opposite of what they assert (#StandWithUkraine), and the weird coordinated projection by western nations of Ukraine's flag on the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and Nelson's Column. We could use an actual Nelson now, but the impressive ability to impose a light display at short notice upon his memorial will have to suffice.
One sympathizes with Ukraine. The most relevant "narrative" here would seem to be The Mouse That Roared, the ancient British comedy about the unimportant Continental country of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, which, after seeing the amount of money post-war Washington has spent rebuilding Germany and Japan, decides to declare war on the US and so avail itself of the same benefits. In this case, a similarly imperfect understanding of Uncle Sam led influential Ukrainians, after protracted exposure to Biden, Clinton, McCain, Brennan and the like, to conclude that the quickest way to turn their nickel'n'dime corruption into a global brand was to cozy up to the Yanks. The Yanks, on the other hand, saw Ukraine as, first, (to channel McCain) a money-launderer masquerading as a country, and then Grand Fenwick itself - an all but fictional entity whose chief usefulness was to chastise and ensnare Trump, again and again: a real country reduced to a convenient "narrative".
God help any nation that attracts the attention of crooks like Biden, fools like George Kent XII, and high-maintenance crackheads like Hunter. Those poor naïve Ukrainian oligarchs who thought they'd found a kindred spirit in those bigshots Dems happy to take "ten per cent for the big guy" had no idea of the trouble they were raining down on their hapless land. As for the US, I take faint glimmers of a new seriousness in the chancelleries of Europe not as a sign of Nato "unity", but as the dawning realization that the US has blown the last thirty years and they're now in a post-American world, and, absent course-correction, ultimately on the same grim trajectory as Ukraine.
But, as goes Covid, so goes Kiev: We are in for a blizzard of lies for the exact same reason - there are far too many Washington fingerprints all over the thing. In recent days, both the Government of Scotland and Washington's CDC have announced that they'll be withholding hitherto available information on ChiCom-19 because of the risk of "misrepresentation" by anti-vaxxers and the like. A prudent person would assume the same model will be applied to the new war.
~We had a very busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with our latest Clubland Q&A, which dealt mostly with aspects of Ukraine, near and far. Rick McGinnis's weekly film date was Gene Tierney in Laura, and our Sunday song selection was a great hit from Kiev via Chicago. We also presented our monthly anthology edition of The Hundred Years Ago Show.
If you were too busy preparing to announce the preparation of the announcement of even tougher sanctions against Transnistrian associates of Belarus friends of Vladimir Putin, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.
Clubland Q&A and The Hundred Years Ago Show are special productions for The Mark Steyn Club.