Russia wishes Europe a miserable Christmas

December 26, 2022 • 9:25 am

The article and video below were published in both Newsweek and the New York Post, so I think you can take the video, put out by RT News, as genuine. And it’s pretty horrible, as it’s a Russian-made video telling Ukrainians (and Europeans in general) what a lousy holiday season they’re going to have after the Russians keep bombing them. It’s really a piece of propagandistic blackmail.

First, what is “RT News”? Wikipedia describes it as

RT (formerly Russia Today or Rossiya Segodnya (Russian: Россия Сегодня) is a Russian state-controlled international news television network funded by the Russian government. It operates pay television and free-to-air channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in Russian, English, Spanish, French, German and Arabic.

. . . RT has regularly been described as a major propaganda outlet for the Russian government and its foreign policy. Academics, fact-checkers, and news reporters (including some current and former RT reporters) have identified RT as a purveyor of disinformation and conspiracy theories. UK media regulator Ofcom has repeatedly found RT to have breached its rules on impartiality, including multiple instances in which RT broadcast “materially misleading” content.

That, then, is the source. Click below to see the Newsweek report and then the dreadful video.

An excerpt:

Russian state TV released a Christmas message to Europe recently amid Moscow’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.

The video, released by Russia Today (RT), comes as the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 10th month on Christmas Eve. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military has struggled to achieve substantial goals in Ukraine throughout the war, with Ukraine’s spirited defense—bolstered by aid from the West—blunting military gains. Throughout the fall, Ukraine retook thousands of square miles of formerly occupied land.

Most of Europe rallied around the Eastern European country, providing humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv, much to Putin’s dismay. Many European countries have also issued sanctions against Russian businesses, including oil. Russian oil has long been used across Europe, and these sanctions have been attributed to rising energy costs in several European countries.

RT highlighted the rising cost of oil in a new propaganda video, which aimed to illustrate the effects of rising energy prices on Europeans.

The video—first reported by BBC’s Francis Scarr on Twitter on Friday—starts off by showing a scene from Christmas 2021, in which a young girl received a pet hamster wearing a bow for Christmas, while the holiday classic “Silent Night” plays in the background.

One year later, the girl’s father is seen creating a contraption for the hamster to generate electricity for the family, presumably because the cost of powering and heating their home has become too expensive due to sanctions against Russia. The hamster, running on a wheel, creates energy to light the Christmas tree as the family sits on a couch, dressed in coats and earmuffs.

The video then cuts to Christmas 2023, when the family, now appearing to live in poverty, is eating their Christmas dinner when the father finds the hamster’s bow in his soup, implying they were forced to cook the pet for a holiday meal.

“Merry ‘anti-Russian’ Christmas! If your media doesn’t tell you where this is all going, RT is available available by VPN,” text displayed at the end of the video reads, revealing it as an advertisement for the Kremlin-tied news outlet.

The video was met with mockery on social media, where Twitter users largely ridiculed its hyperbole and fear-mongering.

Journalist Dave Keating tweeted on Friday: “Russia not even trying to disguise its energy blackmail any more.”

This is pretty Nineteen Eighty-Four-ish: a mean-spirited holiday message that says, “Give up now or you’ll soon be eating hamsters in the dark.”  I imagine it would only further energize the Ukrainians!

h/t: David

An analysis of the Trump movie shown at the Capitol Rally: An exercise in fascism

February 4, 2021 • 12:45 pm

This is an interesting analysis of the two-minute film shown to the crowd that assembled at the Washington, D.C. pro-Trump rally on January 6, right after Donald Trump, Jr. and Rudy Giuliani spoke. And you know what happened after that! (Thanks to reader Ken for calling this to my attention.) The analysis by Jason Stanley goes through the movie frame by frame, and gives a written discussion of how it fits into the tradition of fascistic propaganda. I recommend watching the movie first (click on the Vimeo site below), then read the article and then re-watch the movie with fresh eyes.

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and an expert in the history and workings of fascism. His piece appears at the site Just Security, described by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School as

“an editorially-independent online forum co-founded by CHRGJ Faculty Co-Chair Professor Ryan Goodman. It provides rigorous analysis of US national security law and policy, aiming to promote principled and pragmatic solutions to national security problems faced by decision-makers. Just Security‘s masthead includes people with substantial government experience, civil society attorneys, academics, and other leading voices.”

This is just to show you that this is no basement-dwelling YouTuber who did the analysis. You should take it seriously.

Okay, first skip the headlines below and watch the short movie. Then go back, click the headlines below and read Stanley’s analysis. I have a few thoughts at the bottom.


Stanley appears to know what he’s talking about, and emphasizes the many tropes of fascism that appear in this movie. There’s the father figure (Trump), the emphasis on the nation’s fears, the identifying of an enemy (apparently blacks and Jews), and the reliance on the military. The only thing I’m dubious about is Stanley’s identification of the Jews as the explicit enemy that needs to be overthrown. On the other hand, he does make some good points: this movie was carefully confected, and some of the images seem to make sense only in an anti-Semitic context.

Clearly, Stanley sees the movie as good fascist propaganda, and I can’t say I disagree. But was it really intended to prompt the demonstrators’ assault on the Capitol? I don’t do psychologizing so much, but Stanley seems to say, “yes”:

Each of us can decide what moral responsibility Trump personally has for a video to rouse his supporters at the rally. How much of a role the White House or Trump himself may have played in deciding to show the video and sequencing it immediately after Giuliani’s speech, we don’t know. But it is worth noting that the New York Times recently reported that by early January, “the rally would now effectively become a White House production” and, with his eye ever on media production, Trump micromanaged the details. “The president discussed the speaking lineup, as well as the music to be played, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations. For Mr. Trump, the rally was to be the percussion line in the symphony of subversion he was composing from the Oval Office,” the Times reported.

Worldwide, there have been many fascist movements. Not all fascist movements focus on a global Jewish conspiracy as the enemy, and not all of them were genocidal. Early on, Italian fascism was not anti-Semitic in its core, though it later turned that way. British fascism was not genocidal (though it also was never given the opportunity to be). The most influential fascist movement that takes a shadowy Jewish conspiracy as its central target is German fascism, Nazism. Nazism did not start out in genocide. It began with militias and violent troops disrupting democracy. In its early years in power, in the 1930s, it was socialists and communists who were targeted for the Concentration Camps, torture, and murder. But it must never be forgotten where Nazism culminated.

As a secular Jew, I have to take particular care when leveling the charge of anti-Semitism because it feeds into my own biases. So I reserve judgment here, but ask you to watch the movie and read the analysis with a clear head, and then come to your own conclusions. I’d advise you to do both watching and reading, for this kind of authoritarianism, no matter what you call it, is still heavily afoot in America.