Note: This is the beginning of Chapter Three, which has now been renamed "One Hundred Years of Sodom: Liberalism, Gender Panic, and the Dystopian Imagination"
Who are the enemies of Russia? Who is it that hates Russia so much, and why? This is not an idle question; just this month, the Russian Ministry of Culture allocated 1.75 million rubles for a study of “technologies of cultural Russophobia and state-administrational responses to this challenge.” Moreover, any news story alleging misdeeds on the part of the Russian government is sure to be followed by its dismissal as “Russophobia.” Russophobia may or may not be on the rise, but the fight against it is definitely picking up speed.
In the last chapter, I argued that Russophobia provides the largely empty ideology that unites virtually all of the conspiratorial narratives of plots against Russia, and that, by virtue of a narrative structure shared with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, allows the enemy either to be the Jews, or to occupy the position previously allowed to Jews. As the scholarship on both anti-Semitism in general and the Protocols in particular show, mythical Jewish conspirators are the condensation of ambient anxieties about modernity (capitalism and cosmopolitanism). The Jewish conspirators' modus operandi always amounts to the destruction of traditional values, suppression of national spirit, and the dismantling of family hierarchies. If all that is solid melts into air, it is the Jews who are blamed for turning up the thermostat.
Thanks to the diaspora, Jews also represent an enemy both internal and external. A hard-core anti-Jewish conspirator could therefore chalk up all foreign anti-Russian sentiment to the Jews and call it a day, but it would be a mistake to think that anti-Semitism is the discursive framework for all (or even most) non-Russian Russophobia; anti-Semitism is certainly not the motivation for Russian governmental official’s allegation of Russophobia on the part of Western powers. The external enemy need not be under the thumb of the International Zionist Conspiracy to be Russia’s enemy, nor is belief in this particular conspiracy a prerequisite for assuming a hostile, anti-Russian world. How, then, does Western Russophobia fit into the plots against Russia narrative?
As with the Jews, the answer lies with modernity, but in this case, with intensely mixed feelings about modernity. America and Europe function exemplify the lure of modernity, but also serve as a cautionary tale. Pundits in the West anxiously wring their hands over the rise of Russian “anti-Americanism,” a notoriously vague term whose main effect is to make Americans feel besieged. Russia has become the latest focus for the naive question we never get tired of asking: “Why do they hate us so much?” In this case, though, the hostility towards America (as well as for Europe) comes from a place of love. Angry, spurned love.