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Putin’s Useful Idiots
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Putin’s Useful Idiots

The MAGA crowd is calling fellow Americans enemies while treating our real enemies as misunderstood friends.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on April 4, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Dear Reader (Including all forces of Luddite opposition to bagel innovation),

Assuming what has been reported is remotely right, Jack Teixeira is a loser.  

“The explanation furnished by members of the chat group has been startlingly mundane,” reports the Guardian. “The leaker, they insist, was not a whistleblower but a young man who wanted to show off to his young friends with the documents never intended to leave the chat group.”

Being thirsty to impress a bunch of fellow gamers, mostly teenagers, isn’t that big a deal. It’s pretty natural, really. While I’m positive that there are similar tendencies among young women, I just know from personal experience that dudes like to impress other dudes. The impulse is all too human and not reserved to young people. Washington, D.C., runs on this impulse, with people sharing stories, embargoed poll results, etc. in order to impress peers, sources, and the like. 

If all Teixeira did was boast about how he gets to see cool stuff at work, without ever disclosing said cool stuff, we’d have never heard about it. Even if he somehow got in trouble for disclosing he had access to stuff he’s not supposed to disclose, it would have been so mundane that no one outside his superior officers and unit members would care much. The Washington Post isn’t going to publish a frontpage story with the headline, “Insecure 21-year-old disciplined for bragging that he has access to classified information.”

But that’s not what he did. He’s accused of one of the biggest leaks of classified intelligence in American history. He’s done real damage that could cost lives. And it wasn’t some one-off, spur-of-the-moment error in judgment. He “told the group he toiled for hours writing up the classified documents to share with his companions in the Discord server he controlled.”

What makes him a loser is that he thought the benefits of impressing a bunch of teenagers outweighed the potential costs. Tom Nichols makes a very good point: The thing that unites Teixeira with other famous recent leakers—Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and the ironically named Reality Winner—is narcissism. They all thought their narrow needs and ambitions were more important than the damage they were doing. You might argue that the other “whistleblowers” had loftier rationales for what they did, but they still thought that they were uniquely qualified to make judgements that harmed the country and real human beings. 

I’m not saying whistleblowing is never justified. But in Teixeira’s case, his actions were so far from any plausible justification, they can be understood only as monstrously stupid and incalculably pathetic. I mean, if he were a Putinist hoping to restore the grandeur of the Russian empire, I could muster a kind of respectful, righteous rage at his actions. It’s sort of like the difference between deserting your crucial post to join ISIS or the Red Army and deserting your post because you want to be first in line for the new Transformers movie. 

Even the reports of Teixeira’s racist and anti-Semitic outbursts, if true, just confirm what we know about so many young dudes who traffic in such stuff: they don’t know how to be men, confusing offensiveness for toughness. 

What I can muster sincere rage about is the effort to turn Teixeira into a hero-martyr. I hated similar efforts on the left and in the press with regard to Snowden and the others, but at least the intentionality was commensurate with the crime. Snowden said he was striking a blow for truth against the national security state and all that garbage. So you can hardly blame people who shared that ideological point of view for celebrating these actions. Well, I can blame them. But you get the point. 

But again, Teixeira just wanted to impress a couple dozen kids while they were taking a break from Call of Duty or posting juvenile memes.  

Such facts—any facts, really—aren’t going to stop Tucker Carlson and his confreres:

Contra Tucker, U.S. troops are not fighting in Ukraine—at least according to reporting by the same network from which Carlson draws a paycheck. The handful of special forces personnel there are providing security and the like for diplomatic personnel. Imagine how outraged Tucker would be if diplomats were killed because the Biden “regime” refused to protect our people. And again, on Teixeira’s own terms, he was not a “whistleblower” by any normal definition. And just so you grasp the cynical hypocrisy of it, when Reality Winner was exposed, Tucker was appalled. 

And then there’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, now a top lieutenant to Kevin McCarthy:

Someone needs to point out that not only is America not “waging a war in Ukraine, a non-NATO nation,” but we are supporting a country that is waging a defensive war against a country that NATO was created to deter. Oh, and by the way, America has never waged a war in a NATO country. But we have supported countries waging war against “nuclear Russia” or “nuclear Russia”-backed forces, among them in Korea, Vietnam, Israel, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan. 

Facts come from books, not bongs. 

Globalism for losers.

I’d rather not dwell on Greene’s polished vapidity. If Twitter is a sewer, she’s an Americanized Cheuksin, the Korean toilet goddess.  

It’s ironic that one of the defenses of Teixeira’s chatroom is that it had members from Russia and Ukraine. Indeed, the “room” where Teixeira, under the nom-de-cyber “OG,” posted the documents was called “Bear-vs-Pig.” In the words of the Post, this was a “snide jab at Russia and Ukraine, and an indication that OG took no sides in the conflict.” I’m not entirely sure I buy this given that “Bear” is not exactly a pejorative term for Russia, while “Pig” certainly is for Ukraine, but whatever. The larger takeaway is that these denizens of “Thug Shaker Central”—the super cool name for Teixeira’s little fiefdom—were essentially transnational residents of a realm with precious little fidelity to their own countries. 

Or maybe not. But that’s sort of how I see Greene and her ilk. She says the “real enemy” isn’t Russia but the U.S. government. Calling it the “Biden regime” is some tedious marketing of a fundamentally anti-American brain burp of an idea. I’ve given up trying to explain, first to the left (“the Bush regime!” “Regime change starts at home!”) and more recently to the right, that a presidential administration isn’t a “regime.” The U.S. Constitution and our system of government is the regime. I don’t expect Greene to understand such distinctions—or care. 

But what Greene is saying is that our real “enemy”—in the context of an actual shooting war—is the Biden administration and anyone who supports it. This “white, male Christian” isn’t a criminal, he’s a victim of the regime. 

From Steve Bannon to various MAGA remora, there’s a whole cottage industry of tough losers telling us that Vladimir Putin is a manly man standing up for Western values and that “our” real enemies are fellow Americans. One can dismiss these emanations from the “civil war is coming” crowd for only so long before it’s no longer tenable to give them the benefit of the doubt as mere grifters and poltroons. Vladimir Putin despises the West and America. He sees the people saying this stuff as modern day useful idiots. 

And the idiots demonstrate their usefulness daily, choosing to argue fellow Americans are literally enemies while calling literal enemies misunderstood friends. 

In the decade since Mitt Romney said Russia was our No. 1 geopolitical foe, China has arguably eclipsed Russia as a threat. But it hasn’t stopped being a foe. Its enmity has only increased. What has changed is the way many Republicans—who backed Romney to the hilt at the time—think about Russia. 

The threat from home.

Last month, Donald Trump gave a little “address” in which he said the greatest threat to Western Civilization was America—specifically the woke left, etc.

Steven Miller tried to goad me on Twitter to explain what was wrong about Trump’s blame-America-first tirade. I declined to join a food fight on Twitter, but I explained at length here why I thought the whole thing was more trollish than serious. 

But, as I wrote (at book length), I do think America’s biggest dangers do come from home. I could reprise all that, but I think Lincoln was pithier:

From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.

Of course, he didn’t have ICBMs and hypersonic missiles to consider. But I think the basic point still stands. 

Look, I dislike much, perhaps most, of what these anti-American demagogues hate when it comes to things like the 1619 Project, anti-racism, “wokeness,” etc. But I don’t hate the believers of this, at least not as some abstract group; I just think of them as nothing more than fellow Americans with wrong ideas. Thinking that the “regime” is the “real enemy” is an invitation to disaster, particularly when the people saying it take no care in explaining they aren’t being literal. 

If Greene, Miller, and company were serious about the real threat being domestic, they should be horrified and outraged by what Teixeira has done. Why? Because he didn’t do it for America. He did it for fun, for a desperately needed boost of self-esteem. But because he fits a moronic right-wing identity politics check list for who counts as the “real” victims of this “regime,” he’s not a villain. He’s a hero. 

Not all men without chests are “Pajama Boys.” Some of them work in the IT department of the Air National Guard. 

Various & Sundry

Canine update: The girls are loving the spring weather. Indeed, Pippa has formally declared the launch of swimming season. But she still charges a toll before going on her morning walks: “Belly rubs please.” And even then, she needs to be assured that it’s safe to go. Not much else to report other than the usual jocularities

ICYMI

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Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, enormous lizards roamed the Earth. More immediately prior to that, Jonah spent two decades at National Review, where he was a senior editor, among other things. He is also a bestselling author, longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Times, commentator for CNN, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. When he is not writing the G-File or hosting The Remnant podcast, he finds real joy in family time, attending to his dogs and cat, and blaming Steve Hayes for various things.