The storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump rocked the world. In Russia, however, the events of January 6 were almost overshadowed by the US president’s ban from Twitter. The focus has been on Trump’s displatformance in large part because Russian Opposition Leader Aleksey Navalny weighed in on the issue by describing the ban as an “unacceptable act of censorship.”
Twitter made its decision to suspend Trump’s account because of two of his tweets, which he said “should be read in the context of larger events in the country and how the president’s statements may be read. mobilized by different audiences, in particular to incite violence. “. The tweets, however, did not contain direct calls for violence or insurgency.
The issue seemed so controversial that even Navalny’s generally monolithic movement was split, with some of his senior officials endorsing the ban. This debate reflects a critical reassessment of America as a role model for pro-democracy Russians, who have traditionally admired Washington.
Opposition to the ban stems from two markedly different schools of thought, one of which has a lot to do with emulating America. An extremely vocal group of young libertarians, led by outspoken Mikhail Svetov, have always been inspired by the agenda of the American Tea Party – gun rights, small and non-intrusive government, and cultural conservatism. This is how they naturally came to support Trump, while still opposing President Vladimir Putin.
People representing the other school of thought, like Navalny or his chief strategist Leonid Volkov, are not Trump fans. Their disagreement with the ban is on values. In a Twitter thread, which he published in Russian and English, Navalny lamented the fact that the decision was passed by a private company in a non-transparent way, or as he put it – “by people we don’t know and in accordance with a procedure that we do not know ”. He suggested that an independent oversight body would be much better placed to take such drastic measures as the US president’s displatformance.
He also dubbed it “an act of selective justice”, scoffing at the idea that the ruling was based on Twitter’s terms of service. He pointed to the constant death threats he receives from Twitter users, who are clearly breaking these rules and have not been sanctioned by Twitter in any way. And these threats should not be taken lightly. Navalny has survived multiple attacks, most recently poisoning with a deadly nerve agent by the Russian Secret Service, as British investigative media Bellingcat revealed.
He also dismissed the arguments for the ban, saying that 80% of them are the same as the ones the Kremlin uses in its attempts to kick it out of online platforms, such as YouTube.
Navalny’s criticisms reflect a sense of fatigue among Russian liberals over America’s inability to learn important lessons from the disaster of electing someone like Trump in a Democratic vote. Instead of taking the moral high ground, Trump’s opponents have adopted many of the hallmarks of the pro-Trump crowd. These include a culture of online harassment, a penchant for conspiracy theories and xenophobia, especially anti-Russian sentiments. Some anti-Trump activists even proudly brandished their Russophobia, along with former Moscow CIA station chief John Sipher. Tweeter in 2018: “How not to be Russophobic?”
As many Russian liberals see, the unhealthy anti-Trumpists’ obsession with Putin’s interference in (or rather lagging behind) American politics reflects Putin’s paranoia about foreign agents and the perceived desire for it. America defeat Russia. On the contrary, the inability of many American commentators to distinguish between the Kremlin and the Russian people, to recognize that Russia itself is divided by the same political barricade as America (between educated urban cosmopolitans and provincial low-income earners who feel alienated from narcissistic liberals) has played Putin’s game in helping to discredit the West in the eyes of ordinary Russians.
It is also ironic that members of the political establishment and commentary now panicking over the threat from the militant far-right in the United States have long turned a blind eye to the American appeasement of similar dangerous forces in Western Europe. ‘East. Perhaps they saw it as a brilliant strategy to counter Putin’s ambitions, but the growing power of the far-right in the region only helps him achieve his goals.
Where was the outrage when, during the Maidan revolution in Ukraine, President Barack Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland posed in a photo op with political leaders of the revolution, including Oleh Tiahnybok, a rabid and anti-Semitic xenophobe?
After the Maidan succeeded in toppling Viktor Yushchenko, US officials held several meetings with the new speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Andriy Parubiy, the founder of what was then called the Social-National Party (the name’s similarity to the Hitler’s NSDAP was probably wanted).
The United States also continued to support the Ukrainian police even when its acting leader became Vadym Troyan, a former member of the white supremacist group Patriot of Ukraine and former deputy commander of the notorious Azov regiment.
It is this lax attitude towards the promoters of the far-right agenda, which helped Putin to present the Ukrainian revolution as a far-right coup d’état supported by the United States and to justify the occupation of Crimea in the eyes of its Russian public. Ironically, for American launderers of East European ultra-nationalism, the Ukrainian far-right was overjoyed with the storming of Capitol Hill, their Telegram channels filled with cheers and hope for a “white revolution.”
Now that America faces its own far-right problem, maybe it can learn from Eastern Europe. One of them should be that radical reformers do not work. As the Russian opposition knows all too well, attempts to suppress information when requested are doomed to failure.
Over the past three years, after a series of increasingly pathetic policies, the Kremlin has failed to ban the Telegram messaging app, now the main platform for open political debate in Russia. Created by avowed libertarians, it’s also a safe haven for Nazis and white terrorist propagandists, who are now calling on Trump to move in with them.
Displacing the far right is not an effective long-term solution. Making culturally unacceptable bigotry on either side of the aisle is what can end the far-right threat. But this can only be achieved through a process of rigorous national soul-searching, which American society may not be quite ready to do.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.