2 + 2 = 5?
Putin’s propaganda machine has banned the use of the words “war,” “aggression,” and “invasion” to describe what is officially called a “special military operation.”
Winston Smith is the chief protagonist in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. As a citizen of Oceania, Smith learns three fundamental truths: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” Engraved on a white pyramid outside the Ministry of Truth, these slogans form Oceania’s official motto. But Oceania’s official doubletalk is not limited to these contradictions. Led by Big Brother, the Party also distorts the truth by teaching that “2 + 2 = 5.”
The nightmarish world of relentless propaganda in Oceania is rapidly becoming a reality in Russia. Putin’s state-controlled media is not providing live coverage of the war in Ukraine. There is no mention of the bombing of residential neighborhoods or the tragic and heartbreaking mass exodus of over one million women and children.
What are the Russian people learning about the war in Ukraine? First and foremost, they are learning that there is no war at all. Putin’s propaganda machine has banned the use of the words “war,” “aggression,” and “invasion” to describe what is officially called a “special military operation.” Media outlets that violate these rules face fines and closure. On Friday (March 4), the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament passed a bill making the discussion of “false information” about the conflict punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Russia’s Orwellian propaganda is not limited to television, radio, and other forms of mass media. The Russians understand the importance of controlling what is taught in their public schools. On March 1st, schools across Russia received an official lesson on how to teach the situation in Ukraine. The lesson plan included a question-and-answer format beginning with, “Are we at war with Ukraine? Could this have been averted?” The official answer is, “We are not at war. We are conducting a special mission, the goal of which is to contain the nationalists who are oppressing the Russian-speaking population.”
Putin’s attempt to blur reality seems to be working. Russian authorities have successfully suppressed organized public demonstrations. In a public opinion poll taken just before the invasion of Ukraine, just 3 percent of Russians blamed their government for the mounting tensions while 60 percent blamed the United States and 14 percent blamed Ukraine.
Last week General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to soldiers of the 82nd Airborne stationed in Poland. General Milley emphasized that the American service men and women are the “forward edge of freedom” and that “big things are at stake here.” General Milley is right. There is now a stark line between right and wrong. Russia can’t be allowed to forcibly redraw the borders of a sovereign democratic nation. America must continue to be the leaders of a Free World in which 2+2 still equals 4.
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