Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Bad Thinking

I can’t keep quiet any longer. For a month now, I’ve listened to “news” accounts, even on NPR, heck, ESPECIALLY on NPR, demonizing Russians and glorifying American foreign policy. I expected that, but I didn’t think it would work because we surely, by now, know a little bit more about Russia and about American foreign policy. From my friends’ Facebook posts, I’m afraid it has.

My marketing teacher used to say that the emotional appeal will always be more effective than the practical appeal. I’ve always wished he were wrong.

I see “brutes,” “beasts,” “monsters,” “dictators,” and “autocrats” when the posts look east, and “standing up to bullies,” “freedom,” and “democracy” when they look at NATO and the United States. The problem isn’t exactly that people don’t have information. The problem is that they don’t have a useful framework for their thinking.

Looking for “bad guys” and “good guys” is just silly. The only way to understand what is happening and chart a course for action is to look at reality and the likelihoods of different outcomes. In the present case of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, a lot of people are going to get killed or maimed. Working people the world over will pay in blood and economic deprivation. A lot of American fossil-fuel magnates are going to get rich(er). That much is certain. The obvious course is to oppose the war, but that’s just an abstraction. The real question is, “what should you do?” That’s always the question.

Well, posting about monsters, saviors, and evil/good intentions is obviously not helpful. It makes sense for people in Russia to demonstrate against the war. It makes sense for people in America to demonstrate against NATO and American support for the war. There’s no good/bad here, there’s just what is going on and what can you, given your situation and resources, do about it.

Think of your possible courses of action. Think of the likely outcomes. Then go to work.

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