It is a bit strange to come across a news headline that states there has been some kind of controversy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and British author JK Rowling. Even more so considering the current global context in which Russia has become a protagonist in political, military and financial scenes.
Everything makes sense when one reads Putin’s full statements made during a meeting with the winners of the Presidential Prize for Children and Youth Literature and Art. Putin mentioned Rowling as an example to demonstrate one of the many twisted practices stemming from Western civilization: cancel culture. Rowling’s response and the alleged controversy that erupted is another matter that is of no importance.
Putin said during that meeting, “Not long ago, children’s writer JK Rowling was canceled because she, an author who has sold hundreds of millions of copies of her books worldwide, did not comply with the demands of gender rights activists.”
From this, President Putin made a comparison with the current Western cancelling of Russia.
“Today they are trying to cancel an entire thousand-year-old country, together with its people,” he said. “I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything Russian… this trend, which is developing in several Western countries with the full collusion and sometimes the encouragement of its ruling elites. The infamous cancel culture has turned into erasing culture.”
Putin compared this current trend in the West to Nazi Germany’s book burning campaign.
From ostracism to cancel culture
Cancel culture is a contemporary twist on age-old ostracism, when a person was punished by isolation from society. Ostracism was carried out through popular vote in ancient Greece. Shards of clay, also called ostraca, were used by participants during the vote to write the name of a person who they felt was dangerous and therefore should be expelled. The person who obtained the highest number of votes was banished for ten years.
In our time, starting in the 2010s, ostracism began to mutate into what is now called cancel culture, establishing itself as a radical form of civil punishment mainly in social media but also in everyday life. Public figures became prone to being “canceled” by social media users through negative comments, the blocking of content related to that person, and other more real consequences.
It would seem that there is no ulterior motive in this other than boycotting a person, group or private company for comments or acts considered as offensive. This has in fact happened in several famous cancel culture cases in the United States and Europe.
However, cancel culture as it exists has lost all presumption of innocence. It is quite noticeable that, through such a practice, groups with disproportionate amounts of power have protected their political and economic interests by socially destroying anyone who speaks out against them. An exmaple of this is that social media networks can irrevocably block the account of a president of a country, as happened with Donald Trump.
The “everything Russian is bad” campaign is not new
According to Vladimir Kurichenko, a Russian businessman specializing in public relations, “Cancel culture has hit rock bottom. Whereas before people and sometimes entire communities were banned from Western culture [what is called European and US culture, which is imposed as universal on the whole world, despite its own shortcomings], now an entire country has been suppressed.”
“Russia is a great country with a rich history and culture,” continues Kurichenko. “It is also the heir to the Soviet Union, which has played an important role in world history. If we abolish it, we will have to rewrite history. Europe and the United States can certainly go ahead with this. Unfortunately, we see that the decisions they are making lack all common sense.”
Surely we are all by now aware of the decisions that have been recently taken by the United States and Europe in the fields of arts, sciences, technologies and sports to convince the world by force that anything related to Russia and its culture is wrong and must be hated and erased from collective memory.
To those of us contemplating this from Latin America, it may seem that such actions grouped under the cancel culture neologism are novel and that they are a reaction to Russia’s military and denazification operation in Ukraine, but these are, in reality, are part of of a longer running boycott, as Fedor Sergeyvich, a former Russian soldier clarifies.
“It is that now they are taking stricter measures,” said Sergeyvich, “but cancel culture existed before when Western countries appropriated the credit for many inventions and scientific discoveries that the Russian people created. For example, few people in the West are aware of the fact that the television was invented by the Russian scientist Vladimir Zworykin.”
In an attempt to build an exclusively negative image of Russia, the names of Russian personalities have been hidden in European countries.
“I myself had the experience of living and working in some Western European countries and I still have friends there,” commented Sergeyvich. “And I can say that a few years ago I noticed that in schools in Germany and Great Britain children are not taught that Mendeleev created the periodic table of chemistry. In the West they always mention with name the scientific laws and theories presented by Western scientists, such as Newton’s law or Fermat’s theorem… But they hide the names of Russian scientists in every possible way for school students in the West. This is a fact that we have noticed for many years now.”
The intention behind this is to portray the West as the cradle of civilization and to say that in Russia “everyone is a stupid dirty bear,” explains Sergeyvich, “although, unlike Western Catholic countries, the Russians did not colonize America, India and Africa, and did not enslave the people of these countries.”
Sergeyvich is right when he says that hatred of Russia as a nation and culture is not something recent. Russophobia has deep historical roots in Western civilization, which had the tendency of describing as barbarians the peoples who did not share their values.
According to historian Andre Fursov, in the 1830s a Russophobic propaganda and psychological operation campaign was carried out by the British with the aim of making Russia appear as the source of all evil. This lasted almost a quarter of a century and in this way Great Britain was able to form an anti-Russia coalition that defeated Russia in the Crimean War.
Similarly, in recent years, the US and European media have waged an information war against Russia to convince the public of the threat that Russia supposedly poses to the world, and once more to indoctrinate public opinion into believing that any attack against Russia is fully justified. This served to cover up what had been happening for eight years in the Donbas.
The West is not the whole world
However, Kurichenko considers that Russia is not the only country that has been ostracized.
“Venezuela, North Korea and Iran are also countries that have been canceled, to use today’s term,” he said. “But the world has not been left without Persian culture, because Iran is big and ancient. The world has not been left without Korean culture, because there is South Korea, which has a lot in common with the North, although the South has become too North American. And a Latin American country is not so easy to cancel, because there is a lot of Spanish and Indigenous history in its culture.”
In the end, this vicious practice of exclusion will blow up in the face of those who promote it. Is the West the whole world? Of course it is not. It is only a small part of this world and only one of many civilizations in time. While the West builds its wall, outside the other two-thirds of the planet continue to exist and are participating in the emergence of a new world order in which Russia plays a leading role, despite the attempts to cancel it.
Translated by Orinoco Tribune.