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A Tweet Is Worth A Thousand Words

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. When that picture is on Twitter things can get meta. That’s what happened when my Tweet depicting anti-war graffiti in St. Petersburg was randomly juxtaposed to the trending topic of “Ukrainian Nazis.” You can see the Tweet was posted only a minute prior. Here’s the screen cap.


Twitter is ultimately a platform based on profit. While Twitter has arguably become more than a simple social media platform it is still a public company. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, has said the company should not have gone public. Regardless, it did, then Musk happened and here we are.


What does this have to do with a vandalized sculpture in St. Petersburg? Well, clicking on the “Ukrainian Nazi” trending topic led me to “top results” which consisted of hammer and sickle handles and “anti-imperialist” bios. The odd thing about these accounts is that they seemed devoid of content depicting protest from Russia. There’s no sign of solidarity with activists in the region. For all of the hammer and sickles there's no mention of Lenin's writings about Ukraine. There's no mention of Putin's dismissal of Lenin for that matter. There’s no critique of neo-Nazi and extremist organizations that work hand-in-hand with the Russian government such as the Wagner Group, Rusich or RIM. For some this might be an ideological choice, but for many it simply reflects the way in which the conflict is overwhelmingly presented to the left on Twitter.

There’s a lot of clout, followers and money to be made by parroting pro-war Russian propaganda. There’s easy comradery and validation as well. It’s not much different than a blue wave or MAGA handle. There’s even an intellectual vanguard with decently produced shows seemingly operating from outside of the “establishment.” This is exemplified by Callin Social Podcasting. Callin is a podcast platform with a show lineup including the best of the worst such as Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, Briahna Joy Gray, Michael Tracey and Jimmy Dore.


Take one glance at these episodes and you’ll quickly get the picture. Pro-Russian war propaganda means being anti-war as does a continual bashing of liberals and progressives without equal critique given to the now mainstreamed reactionary right that arguably has more in common with Putin's conservativism than any other US political entity.

You are certainly not going to find any solidarity with protesters and activists in the region from these shows nor discussions of Ukraine's colonial history. There’s not going to be articles about anti-war graffiti in St. Petersburg. Why? For the purposes of this article, we will keep the scope narrowed to Callin and Twitter. The Callin podcast platform was founded by David Sacks and launched with a 12-million-dollar effort in 2021. Recall Sacks was a member of the "PayPal mafia" along with Peter Theil and Elon Musk. Sacks has been critical of PayPal in recent years because it worked with the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. These organizations are apparently too extreme for Sacks.


Sacks was part of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. He also funded the recall campaign against Chesa Boudin. He makes frequent appearances on Fox News and other conservative media outlets. More important to this article, Sacks has been vocal over how he believes the Russian war in Ukraine should end.


Sacks wrote an article entitled “Should America Go All In on Ukraine: Cavalier dismissals of Putin’s nuclear threat are a dangerous misread of Russian seriousness” for The American Conservative. His arguments are eerily similar to those you might hear from someone such as Aaron Mate or even Elon Musk. He talks about “hawkish neocons” and NATO. He portrays Putin as being “backed into a corner” which could result in nuclear attack. He gives the Russian government lines.


This sounded familiar to me. It’s the essence of what I found after clicking on trending “Ukrainian Nazis.” Does it surprise anyone that the “anti-imperialists” of Callin seem to be echoing the sentiments of a billionaire who launched the podcasting platform they utilize? A billionaire who co-authored “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the politics of Intolerance at Stanford" with Trump surrogate Peter Theil. The same Theil who described rape as "seductions that are later regretted." Does it surprise anyone that those same "anti-imperialists” end up on Mr. Replacement Theory himself Tucker Carlson’s show?

Is it entirely that simple? A cross section of money and influence? Of course not, but it sure does help explain a lot. It helps explain how Russian pro-war propaganda and genocide speak were trending at the very moment a picture from Fontanka was shared depicting anti-war messaging from the heart of Russia. It helps explain why those hammer and sickle handles weren't sharing similar content in solidarity with all forms of protest in the region.


The answers first appear by simply looking at the platform in use. It is ultimately a for profit tool and money talks. Look at what the thought leaders and media personalities on the 12-million-dollar platform are saying. Look at who owns Callin and who owns Twitter. The picture should become as clear as the screen capture juxtaposing an expression of anti-war sentiment with propaganda messaging, in part, being disseminated by folks like Mate, Tracey and 1.9-million-dollar Hollywood mansion “organize along class lines regardless of whether those included actively seek to disenfranchise you” Jimmy Dore.


To wrap the vandalized sculpture story up, the culprit was apprehended. She was a teenage girl. Of course, she was. So yes, of course a teenage girl who spray painted "murderers" in Palace Square should be trending with the force of collective effort from western leftists, agitators, and activists. Will that happen on Twitter? Not in the current environment. Looking away from Twitter and to the comments from Fontanka we see very different reactions. Alas, not a word about “Azov” or “Ukrainian Nazi.” They were not all in support but there were no talking points like those from the Twitter "left." Remember, this is a St. Petersburg based site. Instead, these comments were found:

and my favorite...


It’s impossible to know the political leanings of these commenters. It’s probably safe to assume they don’t all consider themselves “radical.” So, there’s a profound gap. Why are Twitter, western "leftists" echoing Russian state propaganda and not authentic expressions of protest in solidarity with those in the region of conflict? The discussion about that gap is huge and worth investigating. This article simply highlights one piece to the broader discussion regarding Twitter and Callin. In this case, a screen capture is worth slightly more than one thousand words but nowhere near the $12 million used in Series A funding for Callin.


Keep up the good work.

Rob


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