Both have been riding nationalist waves of xenophobia – and have done their best to inflame it some more; both believe that military force is the first resort when challenged; both have contempt for the United States under its current president; both regard Europeans as pathetic weaklings and moral squishes; both use a pliant mass media to instill the tropes of paranoia, wounded pride and revenge; both target “infiltrators” in their midst, whether it be African immigrants and Palestinians or gays and Westerners; and both have invaded and threatened their neighbors. Perhaps most important of all: both have lost control to the even more enraged extremists to their right.
Check out the thoughts of Gleb Pavlovsky as told to David Remnick:
The nightly television broadcasts from Ukraine, so full of wild exaggeration about Ukrainian “fascists” and mass carnage, are a Kremlin-produced “spectacle,” [Pavlovsky] said, expertly crafted by the heads of the main state networks. “Now this has become a problem for Putin, because this system cannot be wholly managed,” Pavlovsky said. The news programs have “overheated” public opinion and the collective political imagination.
“How can Putin really manage this?” Pavlovsky went on. “You’d need to be an amazing conductor. Stalin was an amazing conductor in this way. Putin can’t quite pull off this trick. The audience is warmed up and ready to go; it is wound up and waiting for more and more conflict. You can’t just say, ‘Calm down.’ It’s a dangerous moment. Today, forty per cent of Russia wants real war with Ukraine. Putin himself doesn’t want war with Ukraine. But people are responding to this media machine. Putin needs to lower the temperature.”
Now consider the vigilantes who poured gasoline down the throat of a young Palestinian and burned him alive. Do you think they come out of a vacuum? Or the horrifying tweets of young Israelis proudly urging genocide of Arabs. Or the cheers from the hilltops outside Sderot as Israelis celebrate the slaughter of civilians in Gaza. Or the fact that Netanyahu’s endless provocations have led to a cabinet even more hawkish than he and a country ever further away from any reconciliation with the people whose land it took decades ago.
Both men have the supreme self-confidence of fools; and the political instincts of geopolitical arsonists. Our only hope in restraining them is to watch them slowly hoist by their own canards. The problem is that hundreds of civilians in an airplane and in the crowded streets of Gaza keep becoming the collateral victims of their posturing.
(Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian president Vladimir Putin appear during the Security Council meeting in the Kremlin on November 20, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Netanyahu was on a one-day visit to Russia. By Dmitri Azarov/Kommersant via Getty Images.)