More On: Nazis
Liberals on the transatlantic axis evade, justify, and obscure the existence of neo-Nazis among their champions in countries like Ukraine and Hungary.
Begin with beleaguered Ukraine. On Monday, print and broadcast media throughout the Anglosphere led with a 79-year-old Ukrainian great grandmother, Valentyna Konstantynovska, getting small-arms training in Mariupol, Ukraine, in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. The occasion seemed tailor-made for the media: the silver-haired, wrinkled grandmother pledged, "I will protect my home, my city, my children."
In the United Kingdom, the Times and Daily Telegraph featured Konstantynovska above the fold on their front pages, while the Guardian, Independent, and Financial Times included other, equally moving images from the same civilian training exercise (a well-manicured woman holding a rifle for the Guardian, a child taught to handle ammo clips for the Independent, a camouflaged militant teaching a crouching young woman to shoot for the FT).
The media in the United States couldn't help itself either. According to NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, Konstantynovska told him, "Your mother would do it too." The same training session was shown on ABC's New York station, and Konstantynovska was there again, giving Vladimir Putin a hard stare from behind the muzzle of the Kalashnikov. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is sponsored by taxpayers, also followed the script.
The message: These are the grannies, tiny kids, and (beautiful) young ladies fighting Russian reaction and revanchism on the front lines of democracy.
What American and British journalists did not cover: The Azov Battalion, which has its headquarters in Mariupol, provided the training. Azov is described by the FBI as a "paramilitary unit...known for its affiliation with neo-Nazi ideology and the usage of Nazi insignia," and it is accused of "participating in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacist groups." (Proponents of Azov argue that it is a normal unit, only "rooted in a volunteer battalion organized by the leadership of a neo-Nazi outfit," as if that is much better than the FBI narrative.)
Azov's SS-inspired emblem may be seen on the elbow of one of the uniformed soldiers teaching grandma in the ABC piece. Otherwise, the Anglophone media remained silent. It was up to online sleuths to uncover the link for Brits and Americans. This despite the fact that sources on the Continent had little issue exposing the neo-Nazi relationship directly. For example, Euro News headlined the report, "Ukraine Far-Right Group Offers Civilians Training."
After the Twitter outcry, Radio Free Europe unaccountably deleted its granny story (see screen captures below); the other outlets moved on.
Are all Ukrainians preparing to fight neo-Nazis and racial reactionaries in their homeland? Obviously not. Nonetheless, when Russia hawkism hits fever pitch in Washington and Westminster, it's fascinating to witness our media obliterate any evidence that would detract from an otherwise straightforward, moralistic narrative—Brave Liberal Democrats Face Down Kremlin. Insisting on unpleasant truths is comparable to "amplifying Russian propaganda," as a Republican Hill staffer recently accused me of doing.
Which takes us to Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his governing Fidesz party will face a general election against a self-described alliance of liberals, environmentalists, socialists, and neo-Nazis. Yes, you read it correctly: To guarantee that Fidesz does not face a fragmented opposition, the left has joined forces with Jobbik to create a unified block.
That would be the neo-Nazi "Movement for a Better Hungary," whose leaders have spilt on Holocaust memorials, whose website has previously warned of "Zionist Israel's efforts to dominate Hungary and the world," and whose foreign policy chief has urged fellow lawmakers to "tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national-security risk."
Having interviewed Jobbik's leadership twice, I can confirm that it is one of Europe's most really terrifying parties. Over the weekend, however, film emerged showing Péter Márki-Zay, the head of the opposition party and the man who would succeed Orbán as prime minister, advocating for a Jobbik candidate and recognizing the presence of "fascists" in his coalition.
Do left- and right-liberal outlets in the United States (and Britain) acknowledge the same fact? Painfully, begrudgingly, if at all. Try searching “Jobbik” on the New York Times website. The most recent hit you’ll get is a transcript of my appearance on the Ezra Klein Podcast, in which I brought up this most inconvenient fact. The next hit is from 2018—before the formation of the united opposition bloc.
Say it, libs: “They may be Nazis, but they’re our Nazis.”