Casual Racism and the New Cold War
The irrational fear and dehumanization of Russia and China has stunted popular opposition to the U.S.'s endless warmongering
A quick Google search of “Russia” or “China” is all that is needed to identify the casual racism of the corporate media and its central role in the U.S.’s New Cold War. Add the word “fear” to the search and the agenda becomes even clearer. In a search for mainstream media articles on Russia conducted on January 26th, nine of the first ten articles that appeared contained the word “fear” in the headline. China fared a bit better than Russia, but not by much. Better than half of the headlines referenced the word “fear” or “worried” to describe affairs relating to the world’s second largest economy.
What is the corporate media so afraid of? With regard to Russia, the fear stems from a rumor spread by the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus that the Russian Federation will invade Ukraine at some point in the very near future. Russia is amassing its military on the Russia-Ukraine border and spreading fear into both Ukrainian families and global markets alike. According to the corporate media, the U.S. is the “white knight” in this scenario. Joe Biden has acted upon the U.S.’s self-anointed savior role by placing thousands of U.S. troops on “high alert,” threatening sanctions against Russia, and working with its European “allies” to ensure that Russia cannot “weaponize” its energy supply.
Recent mainstream media fear mongering over China has centered largely on its COVID-19 response. On January 13th, The New York Times compared health workers in the Chinese city of Xi’an to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi architect of the Holocaust.
A few weeks later, a Times opinion column opined that China’s “zero-COVID” policy was a pandemic waiting to happen because the economy and society will eventually lose the battle to prevent the spread of the virus. The concern, of course, is not for the Chinese people, but for supply chains. Several reports over the last two weeks confirm U.S. and European corporations fear that China’s COVID-19 response will send ripple effects across the global economy.
Casual racism does not manifest as an outward expression of hatred toward the “other.” Rather, the targets of the casual racism are dehumanized by other means. Fear is the most widely used weapon in the arsenal of the New Cold War. Russia and China are feared for both their incompetence and their mystical powers to subvert and dominate. Both nations are enacting plans to take over the world (so we are told) and making the world an even more dangerous place. Censorship, repression, war, and economic crisis are all that Russia and China have to offer the world.
Manufactured fear of Russia and China is an effective generator of support for the New Cold War from across the political spectrum. Casual racism comforts crass racists as well the liberal do-gooders who find solace in projecting the crimes of their own imperialist system onto a perceived adversary. A massive dip in U.S. public opinion toward Russia and China has provided ample political room for New Cold Warriors in the ruling class to justify their dangerous provocations. Casual racism is the ammunition that buries the truth at the bottom of an endless sea of propaganda. So buried has the truth become under the New Cold War regime that casual racism has replaced it all together in mainstream discourse.
Casual racism is a catalyst for the Red Scare 2.0, a set of mythologies that cause Americans and Westerners to see things that simply aren’t there. Russiagate, for example, induced a permanent state of paranoia in the liberal class that Russia hacked its way into U.S. elections to empower alt-right forces of the Trump variety. China has been accused of stealing intellectual property from the U.S. (despite being the unquestioned leader in patents and high-technology), acting aggressively in the South China Sea, and even covering up its COVID-19 numbers. The Economist went so far as to allege that 1.7 million people have died of COVID-19 in China based on “excess death” estimates that fail to take into account the variation between China and the U.S.’s COVID-19 policies. China’s COVID-19 data is automatically tagged as unreliable, and the Chinese government inherently untrustworthy.
Seeing Chinese and Russian wrongdoing where none exists not only justifies U.S. warmongering but also erases the truth about China and Russia’s role in the world. NATO has been encroaching on Russia’s border for decades through the admission of several post-Soviet states. It was the U.S. that sponsored the overthrow of Ukraine in 2014—a regime change operation that empowered neo-Nazi forces. Even then, New Cold War propagandists were clamoring over Russia’s supposed “takeover” of Crimea after the Russian-speaking population in the region voted to join the Russian Federation for fear of being ethnically cleansed in the aftermath of the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Russia’s military response to NATO provocations should thus be seen as an act of self-defense from hostile foreign powers. The demands presented by Russia to the U.S. in the current Ukraine crisis was nothing more than a list of concrete steps that both sides could take to respect international law. These demands included a pause on NATO expansion and placement of U.S. military bases in post-Soviet countries. The U.S. categorically dismissed Russia’s suggestions. The U.S. sees itself as international law yet it is Russia that has been made the object of fear by the mainstream press.
The cognitive dissonance surrounding China is arguably larger in scale. China’s “zero-COVID” policy has been the most effective worldwide, saving at least 900,000 lives and keeping the current death toll to under 5,000 for a nation of 1.4 billion people. China was the only major economy to finish 2020 with positive GDP growth. Daily life and governance in China essentially returned to normal when the lockdown in Wuhan was lifted in April 2020.
Since then, China has eliminated extreme poverty, deepened its commitment to curb climate change, and provided billions of vaccines and other forms of solidarity to the Global South. The recent lockdown in Xi'an, while not without significant error, succeeded in preventing further spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.
The American empire employs casual racism in pursuit of imperialist objectives. One of these objectives is the maintenance and expansion of global hegemony. Red Scare mythology justifies expansionist provocations and dehumanizes the targets of war. Casual racism toward New Cold War “adversaries” also impedes the political development of the masses within the warmongering states. The demonization of Russia and China stifles the potential for a mass movement to emerge in the U.S. and the West that is capable of demanding a genuine COVID-19 policy of containment or a peaceful and fair settlement to the Ukraine situation which respects Russia’s sovereignty.
In other words, casual racism is a ball and chain on the development of a truly Left movement in the places where it’s needed most. A heavy smog of American exceptionalism has polluted the political atmosphere. Institutional neglect has become normalized. A cloud of suspicion hangs over China’s achievements and Russia’s positive role in world affairs. That cloud is attached to an oncoming storm of global confrontation and war which holds consequences so catastrophic that they are best described as “unthinkable.” It is thus the duty of revolutionaries and “progressives” to build a movement for genuine peace that openly counters the casual racism and Red Scare mythologies at the ideological foundations of the U.S.’s New Cold War.