Reading the comments on Andrew Osborn's latest article for the Wall Street Journal, it is clear to me that nobody really knows anything about what's going on with Russia. That includes yours truly; but at least I recognize that the huge disparity of opinion and the general atmosphere of ignorance is a problem. Most others seem content to dismiss Russia as weak and comical. Why?
Part of it is the intense level of indoctrination our own citizens have been subjected to from their early education onward. Quick, what comes to mind when you hear the word "communist"? Is it "McCarthyism"? Or "Red Scare"? I thought so.
Most Americans have been taught to believe that the Cold War wasn't necessary; just a paranoid dream in the fevered minds of right-wingers who can't understand or tolerate people who are different from them. Chic, effete liberal commentators will use the word "commie" ironically, conjuring up not the image of a communist out for world domination (because such a creature could never exist!) but an imaginary caricature created by conservatives to frighten the populace into supporting unnecessary wars.
It's almost like communism isn't responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people in the last century. Like the gulags of China and Russia don't exist and never existed.
There are five movies a year about the Nazis and their persecution of Jews, but none about Communism. Zilch on Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Che Guevara*, and Kim Il Sung. That Hollywood liberalism can maintain the fantasy that the Nazis were right-wingers only explains so much. Communist regimes persecute Jews too, so it's not that either. It's that they agree with the ideology of communism, and think its crimes are excusable. And Hollywood producers are creatures too of our self-defeating education that doesn't teach the morality of the American cause, the victory of what was a largely justified power over one that was unjustified. In their Manichean worldview only the Nazis were evil, and for all time shall be the symbol of political wrong. Communism is based in warm sentiments, and thus cannot be wholly evil, and thus is not evil but good, in their Manichean outlook. So... no movies, not a one.
Not understanding what we faced in the early period of the Cold War, how can Americans possibly grasp this new phase, with the name "Communism" dropped and cold gangsterism in its place? They will say anything to make the threat look small. After all, haven't we been taught from childhood, like milk from our mothers' breast, that when we fear the other, we really just fear ourselves? That strength is bigotry, power is propaganda, and opposition is self-serving paranoia?
Nobody knows about Russia, not just because the country has mastered the art of controlling perception and information, but because our own country has voluntarily subdued itself, reeducated itself into ignorance. Maybe Russia is not a serious threat to us. Maybe there is zero continuity between the Soviet Union of the past and the Russian Federation of today. But if there were, we would be the last to know.
* Excluding positive portrayals.