It’s extremely rare for Amnesty International to strip someone of their status as a so-called “prisoner of conscience”, but that’s exactly what the organization did to anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny last week due to his documented years-long spewing of hate speech. The organization’s Western supporters who rely on its designations for soft power purposes were quick to launch ad hominem attacks against an online activist who brought his dark past to light. Katya Kazbek found herself victimized by trolls who mocked her support of Stalinism, which they claimed was inconsistent with her reportedly living in a swanky New York City apartment. They also alleged a far-fetched conspiracy theory involving Russia’s publicly financed RT international media outlet, which she contributed to as a freelancer on several occasions in the past. RT reported on this manufactured scandal here, which cites the key players involved in this disinformation campaign against her.
The details aren’t as important as the dynamics, which will now be analyzed in the present piece. Westerners rely on Amnesty International to bestow normative legitimacy to their causes, which in this case are Navalny’s alleged liberal credentials that in turn supposedly makes him a “prisoner of conscience” after he was jailed for parole violations stemming from a prior case unrelated to his blogging. It was completely unexpected that the organization would rescind its designation in response to growing awareness of his habit of spewing hate speech. This in a sense speaks to the organization’s growing but nevertheless still imperfect objectivity, which in turn disappointed its Western supporters because it discredited Navalny’s reputation in their targeted audience’s eyes. Since they can’t slam the group itself lest they risk discrediting all of its prior designations to that effect which still stand, they took to inventing an anti-Russian conspiracy theory out of desperation.
So desperate were they to manipulate the minds of their targeted audience that they resorted to ad hominem attacks against Katya Kazbek, which have nothing at all to do with her social media activism in raising awareness of Navalny’s dark past. These were professionally unethical, yet proudly embraced by influential Westerners and their allies who wanted to divert everyone’s attention from the facts at all costs. After all, many fellow Westerners would rightly distance themselves from Navalny if they became aware of his history of hate speech, which would in turn undercut key players’ efforts to use his imprisonment as a pretext for keeping the Kremlin in their infowar crosshairs. It should be remembered that many of his Western supporters are liberals who proudly embrace so-called “cancel culture” and its ideology of “wokeness”, so it follows that they’d “cancel” him once they found out about his dark past upon becoming “woke” after Amnesty International’s decision.
These same members of those key players’ targeted audience, however, also tend to be Russophobic. They might never have thought about Russia five years ago but have since become indoctrinated into hating it due to the fake news claims that the country helped former President Trump win election in 2016. Since he’s the sum of all evil to them and they were wrongly convinced that Russia was responsible for his presidency, they set their sights on hating the country with all their passion, including sometimes in racist ways that have nothing to do with simply disliking the country for political reasons. This observation makes it all the more ironic that they’d quickly “cancel” Navalny upon finding out about his history of hate speech since they themselves tend to sympathize with its anti-Russian variant, but alas, that’s just the hypocritical way that they operate. For these reasons, Navalny’s most influential Western supporters had to distract their targeted audience no matter what.
The larger issue at play is their reliance on organizations such as Amnesty International for granting the objects of their activist efforts normative legitimacy as liberals, “prisoners of conscience”, and whatever else. Such determinations can be subjectively made by any individual, but an organization’s designation thereof influences the average activist to regard those labels are credible. In turn, they become more emboldened than ever before to campaign for that person’s release and then to support whatever their political goals may be, which in Navalny’s case is to carry out regime change against Russia’s democratically elected and legitimate government. In other words, this is all about manipulating the largely naive and easily misled masses by relying on an organization’s contentious designation as a seemingly unquestionable “argument from authority”. Once key figures begin publicly questioning that organization’s objectivity, however, the house of cards starts to fall.
Navalny’s loudest Western supporters are keenly aware of how vulnerable their perception management campaign is, hence why they wouldn’t dare call Amnesty International’s objectivity into question since doing so would deal much more far-reaching and long-term damage than alleging that the organization is the victim of a far-fetched anti-Russian conspiracy. This deceptive tactic enables them to rekindle their mostly liberal targeted audience’s Russophobic hatred, thereby distracting them as easily as an enraged bull is distracted by a red cape. The problem, however, is that they’re now being asked to “cancel” someone who shares many ideological similarities with them. Katya Kazbek describes herself as being of a non-traditional sexual orientation. Plus she’s also a Stalinist and feminist. These three categories generally make her a “protected class” according to the ideology of “wokeness”, thereby making it almost impossible to “cancel” her.
These “politically inconvenient” realizations might understandably provoke cognitive dissonance from the key Western influencer’s targeted audience. The only identity label that goes against her according to the most radical (and arguably racist) interpretation of this ideology that many of them regrettably share is her Russian roots. They’re now forced to ask themselves whether her ethnicity and prior work history with RT override her “protected status” as a feminist Stalinist of non-traditional sexual orientation. This challenging question might lead to their targeted audience beginning to question the ideology of “wokeness” and its weaponization through “cancel culture” instead since it strikes at the heart of many of the causes that they stand for. That of course isn’t what the key Western influencers want to provoke, but in their desperate haste to distract their targeted audience at all costs, they might have opened up a can of worms that they’ll ultimately regret.