"What can I do to help stop Putin?"
Civilians are not helpless in the face of Russian aggression
Russian disinformation seeks to demoralize us into believing that there is nothing that can stand in Vladimir Putin’s way as he continues to wreak havoc.
Alternatively, it seeks to convince us that Vladimir Putin cannot be held responsible for his own actions.
It’s lies, all of it. Putin is not a child. And you are not helpless. Here’s a handy guide to doing what you can in order to resist Putinist propaganda without quitting your day job:
There is a difference between bots, paid trolls, and true believers, and digital forensics can help figure out which is which.
In this case, though, who cares? Is anyone paying you to sit there and analyze these accounts? If the answer is no, just block them.
Block early, block often. Cut off the oxygen supply to these accounts, which is engagement. Newly created pro-Putin accounts are especially easy. You don’t need to look at them in any depth. They’re just there to create the illusion that the internet supports the clownshoe in the Kremlin. It’s bullshit. Don’t engage it.
Because I block so many, I’ll make fun of every 20th account or so, but only in the interest of preserving my sanity.
Remember that a single individual can be responsible for thousands of inauthentic accounts. A lot of them will engage on other issues in order to appear authentic — for example, many pro-Putin accounts on Twitter today also talk about crypto and their disdain for Justin Trudeau. You don’t need to fall for this, nor should you think about it too deeply, wasting time and energy — just block.
Remember that pressure works
When I published this article, Lamb Weston was rated a D by the Yale School of Management for staying in Russia. Look at it now:
I’m not taking credit here, but a lot of people, not just me, have called on Lamb Weston to re-think just what the hell it was doing in Russia. It’s not like it was supplying essential goods — it was making french fries. Also, symbolism in times of war is important, and the symbolism of big companies leaving the Russian market, while first making Russians angry and resentful, is already having an impact on their daily lives (remember, sanctions are not like flipping a switch, they’re an anaconda grip, which tightens over time).
Eventually, many of them will stop and think, “Is this worth it? Or should someone stab the mad king by now?”
Pressure works, and there are many different ways to apply it. Having a continued conversation with the offices of your elected officials on the topic is one simple route, if you’re not interested in chasing down Russian loan paperwork like I do, for example.
Use smart language
I dislike most kinds of language policing, but language does affect how we view and respond to war. Phrases like “war in Ukraine” are not specific and completely leave out the aggressor. “Russia’s war against Ukraine” is much more accurate.
Stop thinking like a hostage
People keep telling me that they feel like Putin’s taken the world hostage. Not only does he threaten a nuclear war, his aggression is already affecting global food supply.
This is serious, but remember, Putin wants us to think that we are trapped. We are not. The person who’s trapped is Putin, who cannot win this war in the long run and simply wants us to blink first.
Giving a bully what he wants only makes the bullying worse. Why would anyone stop their bad behavior if it is being rewarded? This is why the “we must let Putin save face” stuff is so dangerous for both Ukraine and global stability in the long run.
Practice visual solidarity
Like many aging millennials, I hate the phrase “raising awareness.” For years now, it has come to signify being proud of doing nothing much at all. Again though, symbols matter, especially in war time.
This is why it’s cool to hang up a Ukrainian flag. Or buy a shirt from my friends at Saint Javelin. Please don’t listen to people who mock you for being “into the current thing” (I tore a drunk guy to shreds last week for suggesting that to me, I recommend this highly) — they’re just being nihilistic. Nihilism doesn’t stop wars.
Don’t exhaust yourself with useless arguments
Putin wants Westerners to be exhausted by sniping at each other. Screw that.
There are a lot of great organizations you can lend a hand to. Come Back Alive is one of the most important ones, in my opinion, and they’ve been helping the Ukrainian war effort for a long time (remember, Russia first attacked in 2014, there’s been 8 years of this crap).
But also, don’t let anyone undervalue helping on an individual level in a time like this.
I’ll give you a good example: A Ukrainian friend of mine in the DC area has been absolutely exhausted while he’s a) helping resettle refugees and b) taking care of his own family, most of whom, like my family, are still in Ukraine. So some people at his church noticed that he wasn’t doing great, and they threw some money together and paid for a weekend getaway for him and his kid.
Small acts of kindness add up. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Listen to your friends instead — the ones who need it. This is a difficult time for a lot of people, financially and psychologically. Men like Putin think that we’re all motivated by only fear and money. The more solidarity we have among ourselves, the easier it is to resist this corrosive philosophy.
Keep Ukraine in the news
“I’m tired of this war!” — buddy, we all are. Ukrainians fighting it especially.
Demand drives more news stories, so don’t be shy about clicking on links from reputable sources. If you need help with knowing whom to follow, start off with people like Olga Tokariuk and Christopher Miller on Twitter. They’re both reputable professionals.
The news cycle has a tendency to move on, but human beings in conflict areas cannot.
Furthermore, whether we like it or not, we are going to keep coming back to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. I’ve already mentioned the growing food crisis exacerbated by this conflict. There’s also the inflation and the gas prices to think about. Multiple factors affect them, but Putin is definitely playing his role to the hilt. Our world is too interconnected for a big conflict in Europe to not have knock-on effects.
Think of it as ultimately Putin’s war on the world, not just on Ukraine.
This is why we should remain engaged and well-informed on what’s going on.
Remember the endgame
A lot of my friends called my latest article on Russia’s cult of death very dark — rightfully so, as my heart is broken by this war, and my life will never be the same — but I see a light at the end of this particular tunnel.
There is one way to wake up Russian death cultists — a sound military defeat.
Right now, Putin is hoping for a long war of attrition. A tragedy he can drag out while staying in power. He shouldn’t get to have the option.
This is why Ukraine needs to be armed to the teeth, and ready to go on a counter-offensive sooner rather than later.