When Russia invaded Ukraine, the free world was mesmerized and horrified.
It was Feb. 24. That’s when the murderous scum bucket of a walking war crime known as Vladimir Putin greenlit his revivalist czar dreams of territorial conquest and barbarically invaded a sovereign neighbor.
We watched on live TV. We were sickened and enraged. We couldn’t imagine a day when the atrocities playing out in real time were not a primary concern. But after a grim milestone — the illegal invasion of Ukraine has now eclipsed 100 days — are we losing interest?
Axios recently published a story — “World looks elsewhere as Ukraine was hits 100 days” — that was as depressing as the conflict itself. Based on data provided by NewsWhip, media coverage of Ukraine decreased from 520,000 stories in the first week to the current 70,000. Social media engagement, including likes, comments and shares, also plummeted from 109 million in late February to 4.8 million today. The apathy is alarming.
The war has gone from “Top Gun: Maverick” to “The Desperate Hour.”
You need not be a statistician to see the gloomy trend line. A story about a Meghan Markle bunion would now get more media hits than Ukraine.
As Axios noted: “Over a 6-week span in April and May, there was about 6x more interest in stories about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard than about Ukraine …” Or as CNN framed it on Friday: “After 100 days of war, Putin is counting on the world’s indifference.”
What’s most frightening is the monster may be right.
Also on Friday, the Washington Post published a troubling piece: “Putin thinks West will blink first in war of attrition …” The gist: Putin believes his heinous plan, including a marine blockade of Ukrainian grain exports that is threatening a global food crisis, will destroy Western unity and resolve. Eventually, we will be so beside ourselves with gas prices and rising interest rates that we will say: “We can’t do this anymore, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.”
Putin, according to one Russian billionaire, “believes the West will become exhausted.” Or as Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s security council, told state media: “The world is gradually falling into an unprecedented food crisis. Tens of millions of people in Africa or in the Middle East will turn out to be on the brink of starvation — because of the West. In order to survive, they will flee to Europe. I’m not sure Europe will survive the crisis.”
I will say this about the godforsaken Russian Federation: you never have to read between the lines. The ruling psychopaths always spell it out. Their diabolical plan was to blitzkrieg Kyiv in 72 hours, killing Ukrainian president Zelenskyy and installing a puppet regime. When that didn’t work out — and as sanctions put the Russian economy in a chokehold — now the master plan is global starvation and a refugee catastrophe, over and above the killing, rape, looting and destruction of entire cities in Ukraine.
Putin doesn’t want to control Ukraine — he wants to destroy it.
And that’s why we can’t lose interest. Ukraine has already endured unspeakable horrors. And it keeps valiantly and courageously fighting for its freedom, against all odds. We can’t blink first. I get the Johnny Depp trial was an addictive sideshow — the jury got it right, by the way — and we all have our own lives to navigate. I understand human interest is ephemeral. I know attention spans are calibrated to, “What’s happening now?”
I’ve been in this business long enough to know all stories go cold.
But we can’t forsake Ukraine. That would be a moral subscription. Ukraine isn’t just fighting for Ukraine. It is fighting for global rules and laws and norms and democracy itself. This isn’t a regional conflict — it’s about world order. I still believe NATO was too tepid and skittish in response to this appalling Russian aggression. Well, fine. We were bamboozled into dreading a thermonuclear Third World War. That’s a reasonable fear.
So what can we do now? We can keep caring. We can keep focused on Ukraine. When the war started, coverage was a tsunami. You couldn’t outrun it. Now it has ebbed. I must seek out news on the conflict. It’s not coming to me on its own. Sure, the cable networks are still covering. But you could go more than two hours on any station without a peep about Ukraine.
It’s 2022 and there is genocide in Europe. Yes, genocide. Putin has shown no sign he will ever stop the bombing and death and destruction. Putin is the Nazi he claims to be fighting. Putin is deliberately killing civilians and willingly turning wide swaths of Ukraine into postapocalyptic, uninhabitable hellholes out of sheer vengeance. Putin is a subhuman disgrace.
But he is also betting big that we will get bored by his madness.
Which is even more reason to care even more.
This war could last months, if not years. I’m pretty sure my daughters will one day graduate from university and there will still be fighting in the Donbas. There were stories this week about the West’s “compassion fatigue” and how we are dramatically losing interest after 100 days.
We need to fight off this creeping disinterest. We need to keep caring.
Ukraine is doing whatever it can just to survive.
The least we can do is not look away.
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