I woke up this morning with a strange feeling. One I didn’t recognise.
We sleep with the curtains open so that we wake with the sun rising. A crystal hanging in the window bounces all sorts of light around the room. On a clear morning, it’s magical. But this morning, the light show was wasted on me. After some introspection, I recognise the feeling for what it was – fear.
I’m afraid on so many levels that I can’t even begin to list them. It’s an insidious type of fear, one that eats quietly into everything I do but doesn’t manifest itself as something that can be dealt with. It’s giving my faith a run for its money – thankfully, my faith is winning. I’d be lost without it. But having faith doesn’t mean you don’t feel the angst – at least not on my level. I have to reason it out. Acknowledge it. And then hand it over.
What has me so afraid?
My foreign policy radar includes a WhatsApp group of diplomats from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific that I worked with a few years back in Geneva. This morning, the WhatsApp group was rumbling, a sign that something had happened. I found a link to this:
March 10 (Reuters) – Meta Platforms (FB.O) will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.
The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to internal emails to its content moderators.
“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.
The mind boggles. Is Meta ruling the world? One comment in the conversation summarises it nicely:
Serious implications for free speech, hate speech, content regulation, and the growing power of major tech firms in unilaterally setting or influencing norms.
Yes, my heart is with Ukrainians. What’s happening is unthinkable. But can millions of Russians be held accountable for the Kremlin? Can those who don’t support Putin be called to task? Will this legitimise Russiaphobia? Artists and musicians and sportsmen are being ostracised because they are Russian. The Munich Philharmonic fired their chief conductor Valery Gergiev because he supports Putin (yeah, I’d have a hard time working with that). Eurovision won’t allow a Russian entry this year. The Cannes Film Festival is being more deliberate:
In a statement, festival organisers said the ban on any official Russian delegation or individuals linked to the Kremlin would remain “unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people”. However, the festival didn’t rule out accepting films from Russia.
Is the cultural backlash against Russia wrong? It certainly has me worried. Discriminatory attacks against Russians living abroad are on the rise. That frightens me. It feels as if the world is losing control of its moral outrage.
The NY Times ran a piece Putin’s Getting Sanctioned, but Russia’s getting cancelled. It’s worth a read.
In the meantime, I need to get my head around Meta’s u-turn and its implications. I know they specified that it’s against Russians in the context of the Ukraine invasion but it doesn’t take much for that blanket to spread and cover the guy who runs the Russian restaurant down the road…