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McDonald’s and the Future of Russia
Russia is losing the long war.
Happy Tuesday, and welcome to another in a series of Crazy Primary Days. Tomorrow will be an orgy of punditry, so before we become too distracted, it’s worth taking note of the extraordinary events playing out in Europe.
Sweden and Finland are formally applying to NATO, billions of dollars in new aid is flowing east, Ukrainian soldiers in the Kharkiv region have reached the Russian border . . . and McDonald’s has announced that it is pulling out Russia for good.
McDonald's has said it will permanently leave Russia after more than 30 years and has started to sell its restaurants.
The move comes after it temporarily closed its 850 outlets in March.
The fast food giant said it made the decision because of the "humanitarian crisis" and "unpredictable operating environment" caused by the Ukraine war.
McDonald’s joins a growing list of companies that have decided that it’s no longer tenable to remain in Putin’s Russia, but its departure has special symbolic value. When it opened its first restaurant in Moscow in 1990, notes the BBC, it “came to symbolise a thaw in Cold War tensions.” The next year, the old Soviet Union collapsed “and Russia opened up its economy to companies from the West.”
That era is over now, as capitalists who rushed to cash in on the New Russia now head for the exits.
McDonald’s said it’s the first time the company has ever “de-arched,” or exited a major market. It plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with the company’s name. McDonald’s said it will also will keep its trademarks in Russia and take steps to enforce them if necessary.
The disappearance of the arches will be an exclamation point on Russia’s new pariah status.
The departure of the McNuggets comes as the scope of Russia’s failure — and its isolation — may finally be sinking in.
Despite Putin’s grip on the flow of information about the war, there appears to be growing recognition inside Russia that Putin has lost the current short war — and is losing the longer one as well. Here’s the assessment from the Institute for the Study of War:
The Ukrainian destruction of significant elements of a Russian motorized rifle brigade that tried to cross a pontoon bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River on May 11 has shocked prominent Russian milbloggers.
Those bloggers have begun commenting on the incompetence of the Russian military to their hundreds of thousands of followers.
The attempted river crossing showed a stunning lack of tactical sense as satellite images show (destroyed) Russian vehicles tightly bunched up at both ends of the (destroyed) bridge, clearly allowing Ukrainian artillerymen to kill hundreds and destroy scores of vehicles with concentrated strikes. The milbloggers who have hitherto been cheering on the Russian military criticized Russian armed forces leadership for failing to learn from experience in the war. They also expressed the concern that the constant pushing of Russia’s propaganda lines was making it hard for them to understand what was actually going on.
The effects of this change in tone and discourse by these milbloggers are uncertain but could be potent. People living under tightly censored regimes often trust individuals who seem to be independent of but generally aligned with the government more than the government line (even more than do citizens of democratic societies). The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia’s prospects in this war and the competence of Russia’s military leaders (at least).
There’s already been a dramatic example of the changing tone:
A retired Russian colonel told state media on Monday that the invasion of Ukraine is not going the way Russia is portraying it, and that the global isolation facing the country is more daunting than Russian leaders are letting on.
“After all, the main deficiency of our military-political position is that, in a way, we are in full geopolitical isolation, and that, however much we would hate to admit this, virtually the entire world is against us,” Mikhail Khodaryonok said, according to a video translated by the BBC’s Francis Scarr. “And it’s that situation that we need to get out of.”
You can watch it here:
This is pretty remarkable — NATO in 1990; NATO in 2015 . . . and now the prospect of both Sweden and Finland (!) joining the alliance.
No points are awarded points for these predictions, because they are too easy: (1) MAGA World will not back away from the Great Replacement Theory; (2) Tucker et al., will play the victim card; and (3) even anti-anti-Trump conservatives will find ways to rationalize the “replacement” rhetoric.
Ben Shapiro World is all-in:
Fox News is basically just ignoring the Buffalo massacre.
The absence of coverage of the motive was revealing, given Fox News’s most popular host, Tucker Carlson, has pushed the concept of replacement theory in more than 400 of his shows – and has arguably done more than anyone in the US to popularize the racist conspiracy.
Fox News, according to Oliver Darcy, a media correspondent for CNN, “largely ignored” the fact that the shooter had been inspired by replacement theory. Darcy searched transcripts from Fox News’s shows, and found one brief mention, by Fox News anchor Eric Shawn.
And then there is Elise Stefanik.
ICYMI: On Monday, the #3 House Republican lashed out at critics, but offered no sign that she is rethinking her embrace of the racist narrative.
“Any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a new disgusting low for the Left, their Never Trump allies, and the sycophant stenographers in the media,” adviser Alex DeGrasse wrote.
Here she is on Twitter:
It’s great replacement theory — but leaving open the idea that maybe it’s all a coincidence. . . .
She’s not saying this is an effort by elites to intentionally replace American voters. She’s just saying, you know, Democrats want to bring in a bunch of immigrants and let them vote. That’s all.
But the important thing to note is that there is no walk-back, no apology, because this is the MAGA Playbook. Bump writes:
Deny, deny, deny. Lump the media in with critics on the left. Never acknowledge that you erred but, instead, argue that you are being unfairly accused of having erred because of bias. By now, it’s rote — even when the question is whether you stand by an argument that was allegedly deployed by a man accused of killing 10 people at a grocery store.
In 2016, Trump ran in explicit opposition to immigration, even at one point making an argument that the Democrats wanted to bring in uncountable numbers of immigrants who would vote for their party. He refused to admit his errors or his lies. And then he won. And then he retained enormous popularity with the base.
And lessons were imparted.
BONUS TAKE: Via David Leonhardt:
Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.
Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.
Nearly half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists:
Meanwhile, in Arizona
The Republican-controlled Arizona State Senate voted 24-3 Monday to conduct an ethics investigation of state Sen. Wendy Rogers, for a social media post suggesting that the suspect in the Buffalo massacre was a federal agent, echoing claims made by white nationalists.
Not long after a gunman killed several people at a Buffalo grocery store, the Flagstaff Republican made a comment on social media that experts on extremism say is a "dog whistle" for a far-right conspiracy theory.
"Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo," Rogers said on her Telegram page and other accounts. The term “Fed boy” refers to government employees.
By a vote of 24-3, Republicans and Democrats approved an investigation of Rogers' comments by the Senate Ethics Committee.
1. Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules Is a Hilarious Mockumentary
Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules is Plandemic for election truthers. For the non-insane, it’s a hilarious mockumentary. Not that D’Souza cares what the non-insane think: He has discovered that there are enough suckers out there to keep him laughing all the way to the bank….
2000 Mules is an investigative documentary in roughly the same way Reno 911 was a hard-hitting look at real-life police work.
Amanda’s review apparently left a mark:
2. “Free Speech” Ought to Mean More than Mocking Trans People
Brilliant piece by Nicholas Grossman on Elon Musk’s less-than-brilliant view of free speech:
Explaining why he wants to (maybe) buy Twitter, Elon Musk said that he values free speech. Here’s how he defined it: “By ‘free speech’, I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”
That definition is both shallow and contradictory. And it does not offer any guidance to the challenging questions the idea of “free speech” poses to a genuinely free society.
In the United States, the First Amendment says the government cannot punish you for speech (with some established exceptions, such as incitement and sexual harassment). The same law also protects free association—meaning that it’s perfectly legal for private organizations to exercise their freedom of association by excluding some speech. A support group for widows doesn’t have to let a never-married man talk. A Bible study group doesn’t have to give equal time to an atheist. Private groups can choose to do so if they want; but they can’t be compelled to.
3. ‘It’s just bang-bang crazy here’
The NYT’s Blake Hounshell writes in his “On Politics” newsletter:
To a degree surpassing any other contest in the 2022 midterms so far, Donald Trump has poured his personal prestige into Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary race, which is going through a final spasm of uncertainty as Kathy Barnette, an insurgent candidate with a sparse résumé, gives a last-minute scare to Trump’s pick, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
The outcome of that election, as well as the G.O.P. contest for governor, is threatening to implode the state’s Republican Party — with a blast radius that might be felt in states as far away as Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina over the coming weeks and months.