Jonah Goldberg

Vladimir Putin, with the aid of his vast propaganda machinery, has convinced many Russians that the interim government in Ukraine is expressly Nazi and fascist. And while there were some neo-Nazi goons among the protesters who brought down the corrupt government of Victor Yanukovich, and there are definitely ultranationalists among the coalition resisting Moscow, it's simply a transparent lie that the current government is fascist.

That hasn't stopped some left-wing writers and crackpots in the West from buying the Russian claim that the United States is in cahoots with a "fascist junta" in Ukraine.

This is a very old story. Josef Stalin championed the idea that all of his political opponents should be dubbed fascists, including many of his fellow Bolsheviks, such as Leon Trotsky (whom Stalin had assassinated), and much of the Red Army's officer corps (whom he had executed) and countless Ukrainians (whom he had liquidated). Stalin insisted that even mentioning the man-made Ukrainian famine -- i.e., Stalin-made -- was evidence you were an agent of the Nazis.

Under Stalin's "theory of social fascism," any socialist, social democratic or progressive group or party not loyal to him had to be called fascist. Hence, for a while Moscow insisted that FDR and even Norman Thomas (head of the Socialist Party of America) were fascists.

Ultimately, communist propagandists and their allied intellectuals would reflexively blame fascism for everything, regardless of the facts. That's what prompted George Orwell to remark that "the word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.'"

It's been fascinating to watch as Putin, an ex-KGB man, revives this trope, particularly given that his own behavior is so generically fascistic. Putin is a corporatist (the economic doctrine of fascism). He's a dictatorial, charismatic leader who bends church, business, labor and media to the needs of a centralized state under a thoroughly nationalist banner. As Cathy Young writes for RealClearPolitics, Putin is nurturing his own cadres of ultra-right goons in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Of course, Russia's propaganda campaign hinges on more than the use and abuse of the "F-word." It's been lying about all manner of things, manipulating events on the ground and doctoring images on the airwaves.

It would be nice if this revival of KGB-style deceit caused some soul-searching in the West about other lies and distortions disseminated by the Soviets.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.