This one goes out to everyone, all over the political spectrum. Progressives, conservatives, liberals, Marxists, libertarians, moderates, anarchists, and whatever else I might have forgotten. I have friends of all these ideologies (I work hard to keep them) – and chances are, you identify more or less with some of these. This one’s for you.
By now I’m sure you have heard the story of the defenders of Snake Island.
Ostriv Zmiinyi (Ukrainian for Snake Island) is a tiny island in the Black Sea, just off the coast from the Danube Delta. See the satellite image below, from Google Maps. In normal times, the island is home to about 30 people who work at either at a scientific research station.
But these are not normal times. When Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday, the island was occupied only by thirteen border guards – not professional soldiers. That day, at around 6 PM local time (1600 GMT), the Russian missile cruiser Moskva approached the island. The ship radioed to shore and the following conversation ensued, livestreamed by one of the guards (whose name has apparently been withheld, but if it gets releases, I’ll add it here):
Moskva: This is Russian warship. Russian warship to Zmiinyi Island, this is Russian warship. I propose to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise we will strike. Zmiinyi Island, this is Russian warship, I repeat. I propose to lay down weapons, surrender, otherwise you will be bombed. Do you read?
Border Guard (to fellow guard): Well, fuck these too, right? Just in case…
Border Guard (to Moskva):
Russian warship, go fuck yourself!
Something about that line… it stuck. Maybe it was the contrast between the formal language of “Russian warship…” and the defiant message of “…go fuck yourself.” A meme was born, and a rallying cry. What “Remember the Alamo!” had been to the Texas Revolution and “¡No Pasarán!” had been to the Anti-Fascists of the Spanish Civil War, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” had become to the defense of Ukraine.
And, against all odds, the defense of Ukraine seems to be working. As it continues, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” will embed itself deeper and deeper into the public consciousness. And that brings us back to the purpose of this post.
Even if the defense of Ukraine succeeds and the Russians fuck themselves all the way back to Moscow, that’s not going to be the end of this. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will remain firmly in charge in Russia, arresting and murdering opponents with impunity. Russia still has a powerful disinformation campaign to influence public opinion to its cause.
And, most worryingly, authoritarianism is taking hold all over the world. Politicians in multiple countries – even here in the United States – are saying that they can fix the world’s problems if you only give them more power, and are talking openly about ignoring the results of elections.
And then there’s China.
The danger posed by authoritarianism is bigger than it has been any time since at least the end of the Cold War.
That’s why I am asking everyone, of all the political stripes I mentioned above: please, let’s set aside our differences and fight the shared threat that authoritarianism represents. Because if we don’t, our differences will no longer make a damn bit of difference. We won’t get to debate how to run the world, and we won’t have the option of making our voices heard through our votes and our advocacy. All decisions will be made by leaders that we did not elect and cannot speak out against.
Please, let’s set aside our differences, and all shout together:
Authoritarianism, go fuck yourself!
Authoritarianism didn’t work out so well last time either.
Read more about it at 11:11/11+100: A Snapshot in the Family Album.