What is The Detox?
By invading Ukraine in 2022, Russia placed itself on the wrong side of a moral fault line of its own making. It was a plainly pretextual land-grab, an unwarranted act of aggression against a democratic country that was indefensible on its face.
Still, Moscow had at its disposal a ready-made army of Western propagandists committed to muddying the moral waters. These unprincipled hacks hailed from both ends of the political spectrum and commanded huge audiences on social media. Whether motivated by money, fame, or both, they sought to inject moral ambiguity into a situation which demanded moral clarity.
Their names are no doubt familiar to many of you: Greenwald, Maté, Johnstone, Tracey, Blumenthal, Dore, and others. So are their publications: The Grayzone, Consortium News, Code Pink, Mint Press, and the like.
Unless one already has considerable knowledge of the region, it can be difficult to see these the charlatans for what they are. As a result, plenty of intelligent and well-intentioned people might get taken in by their nonsense.
That’s where The Detox comes in. It brings to bear a quarter-century’s worth of Ukraine expertise to debunk the lies told by peace-trollers, atrocity-deniers, and other apologists for empire.
My name is Neil Abrams. I’m a political scientist who’s been researching and writing about Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since 1998. That year, while still an undergrad, I attended a summer program at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute. I’ve been studying Ukrainian politics ever since.
One question, more than any other, has driven my research and writing since my days in graduate school: How to thwart the insidious actors out to undermine democracy and the rule of law?
My PhD dissertation, which will someday become a book, examined how reform-minded governments in certain post-communist countries sidelined oligarchs and corrupt officials to establish sound, legally-enforced property rights.
Much of my post-PhD work has focused on what democrats around the world can do to vanquish the neofascist parties threatening rights and freedoms.
But in 2022, when Russia (again) invaded Ukraine, my attention turned to a different threat: The professional contrarians seeking to shift the moral onus of the war away from Russia, where it properly belongs, and onto other actors, whether Ukraine or the West.
Although many of these scam-artists can be found on the right, their arguments tend to be too stupid to merit consideration. Hence, I devote most of my energy to their somewhat more sophisticated counterparts on the left. Many of them are seemingly intelligent. They know how to write. And so they have a fighting chance of duping otherwise reasonable people.
In short, the discourse is polluted, and I aim to clean it up.
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