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Storm clouds gather over Ukraine

As economy sinks Ukraine’s belligerent law on Donbass, point to growing instability and a return to war

Alexander Mercouris

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In a recent article for The Duran I wrote of how the economic situation in Ukraine appeared once more to be deteriorating, with economic statistics apparently being distorted to conceal the extent of the rise in inflation, making the claimed figure of 2% GDP growth in 2017 unlikely.

In a further sign of a deteriorating economic situation, recent reports from Ukraine speak of rolling electric power blackouts in some regions, suggesting growing energy shortages as the price of oil hikes.

In a symptom of how bad the situation has become, the Ukrainian government has quietly dropped its sanctions prohibiting coal imports from Russia, indicating that Ukraine is being forced to turn to Russia for imports of coal in light of the gathering energy crisis.

In this situation, as Paul Goncharoff has recently pointed out, the decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal to force Ukraine to resume gas purchases from Gazprom actually helps Ukraine,  since the gas Gazprom is able to supply Ukraine is actually cheaper than the gas Ukraine has up to now for political reasons been buying in Europe.

A further sign that economic pressures are causing a certain return to economic rationality in Ukraine is shown by a recent report from Interfax that Ukraine wants negotiations with Moscow to secure the transit of Russian gas to Europe across Ukraine

Ukraine is ready to discuss future transit of Russian gas following the ruling on their gas contract dispute from the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Naftogaz Ukrainy chief Andriy Kobolev told Interfax during “Ukrainian Breakfast” at Davos.

The government and Energy and Coal Industry Ministry might represent Ukraine at those talks, Kobolev said.

“Naftogaz is ready, but there is one nuance. The government wants to engage in these talks. Therefore, there is the likelihood that [Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr] Kistion will go to the transit talks together with [Energy and Coal Industry Minister Ihor] Nasalyk,” he said.

Earlier, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Energy Union Maros Sefcovic invited Russia and Ukraine to discuss with each other future transit of Russian gas through Ukraine following the Stockholm arbitration ruling.

Russia supplied 94 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU through Ukraine last year, witnessing to the importance of this transit route in future.

“I think this can well be considered an achievement, and the massive gas volumes signal that this transit route is very important for Gazprom (MOEX: GAZP) as the supplier, for Ukraine as the transiter, and for the EU as the consumer. I will discuss with him [Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko] how we will operate after the Stockholm arbitration ruling in order to create a constructive atmosphere in order to be convinced that this transit route will remain an important route for supplies to Europe, that will be sufficient up to 2019,” he said.

Note the heavy lobbying for these talks by the European Commission, which is politically committed to preserving Ukraine’s role as a gas transit state.

Whether the Russians will be prepared to agree to allow Ukraine to remain a gas transit state notwithstanding the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal’s decision to uphold the provisions of Gazprom’s gas supply contracts with Ukraine’s Naftogaz – which Ukraine had disputed – is another matter.

With project financing for Nord Stream 2 now in place and with construction of Turk Stream already underway there seems no obvious reason why the Russians should continue to transit gas across Ukraine once the present contracts expire.

Having said this, the mere fact that the Ukrainians now say that they are prepared to discuss future gas transit arrangements with Moscow at a government level – suggesting that they are prepared to provide interstate treaty guarantees in order to ensure the safety of Russian gas transiting to Europe – is a sign of the pressure they are now under.  Whether the Russians would accept these guarantees given the total lack of trust they now have in Ukraine is of course another matter.

However the single clearest sign of the growing economic pressure in Ukraine is that Ukraine’s Central Bank – just placed by President Poroshenko under new leadership – has today hiked its key lending rate to 16%.

Here is Interfax’s report about this

The National Bank of Ukraine has decided to hike its key policy rate to 16% per annum, effective from January 26, the NBU said in a press release.

“The tighter monetary policy will help decrease the inflation and bring it back to the target range in the middle of 2019,” the NBU said.

“In 2017, headline inflation reached 13.7%, exceeding the target of 8% ± 2 pp set for the National Bank of Ukraine in the Monetary Policy Guidelines for 2017 and Medium Term,” it said.

“Inflation sped up to 12.4% compared to 2016, mainly due to factors on which monetary policy tools have only a limited effect. In particular, acceleration of inflation was mainly driven by a decrease in the supply of some foods resulting from the unfavorable weather conditions seen in the first half of last year, the unstable situation in animal breeding, and a rise in the global prices of, and demand for, Ukrainian foods, mainly meat and dairy products,” the NBU said.

“An increase in production costs, especially labor costs, and fast recovery of consumer demand also contributed to the growth of prices,” it said.

“In addition, the end of last year saw an increase in hryvnia exchange rate fluctuations and a noticeable easing in fiscal policy, thanks to, among other things, sharp increase in pension payments and budgetary spending being unevenly distributed over the year. This increased underlying inflationary pressure, as evidenced by a rise in core inflation, to 9.5% in December, and high inflation expectations. As a consequence, the deviation of inflation rate from the target was larger than the NBU anticipated in its October 2017 Inflation Report,” it said.

This is the NBU’s third rate hike in almost as many months: the rate went up from 12.5% to 13.5% in October 2017 and was raised to 14.5% in December. The NBU had lowered the rate prior to that.

This surge in interest rates – with the key lending rate rising from 12.5% to 16% in three stages over just three months – may be a further sign that the official inflation rate of 13.7% in 2017 is too low, and that the true inflation rate in 2017 was higher, and was really 16-17% as various Russian commentators are speculating.

Note that the Central Bank’s target range for inflation – 8% + – 2pp – is still by international standards very high, and the Central Bank does not now expect to achieve it before the middle of 2019.

I would add that if the true rate of inflation in Ukraine really is higher than is being reported, and was closer to 16-17% than 13.7% in 2017, then interest rates in Ukraine may before long rise still further.

This is happening alongside an increase in the financial burdens being borne by the Ukrainian economy.

The Central Bank’s claims that the surge in inflation in 2017 is the result of higher demand for Ukrainian foodstuffs against the backdrop of tough agricultural conditions caused by poor weather in the second half of the year has very much the look of special pleading about it and of an attempt to give a positive spin (“Ukrainian food products are in high demand”) to what is unequivocally bad news.

It seems inherently more likely that the inflation pressures within Ukraine in 2017 were caused by the rise in oil prices, the knock on effect of the blockade of the Donbass, the continued fall in production of Ukrainian finished goods, and the fiscal loosening which the Central Bank says took place towards the end of the year, which is not backed by goods or services but which Poroshenko’s government nonetheless resorted to in order to buy off growing political opposition within Ukraine from the population by increasing its pension and benefit payments.

On top of this Ukraine is now expected to make payments to its external creditors of $20 billion over the next two years.  Others put the total amount of external payments even higher, saying that they will average out at $14 billion each year over the next two years.

To these must now be added the $5 billion the courts in London and Stockholm have now said Ukraine must pay Russia and Gazprom.

In addition the government’s seizure of Kolomoisky’s Privatbank has apparently exposed a $5 billion hole in the bank’s accounts – something which will surprise no-one – with further reports that large quantities of funding provided Ukraine by the IMF cannot be fully accounted for and may have been misappropriated, something which if true will not surprise anyone familiar with the situation in Ukraine either.

Though this is a terrible situation, it should not be an irretrievable one.  Many of Ukraine’s worst problems are self-inflicted and a return to rational decision making would quickly cause them to abate.

Putting to one side the question of corruption, which is a very serious problem in Ukraine but which is also a problem that is both intractable and longstanding, it should be obvious that Ukraine’s economic problems over the last three years are the direct consequence of its conflict with Russia.

Not only has this upset much of Ukraine’s population, resulting in a civil war which has resulted in the loss of much of the Donbass – Ukraine’s industrial heartland and its economically most productive region – but the severing of economic links with Russia and the feckless spending on the military in a confrontation which can never be won are placing burdens on Ukraine’s economy which it simply cannot carry.

A reversal of these foolish policies is what Ukraine urgently needs if it is to achieve an economic stability which is sustainable.

The trouble is that despite the occasional glimmers of rationality of the sort discussed earlier in this article, reversing these policies would involve adopting the opposite course to the one which Ukraine’s Maidan establishment is determined Ukraine should follow.

This provides the background for Ukraine’s extraordinary and deeply alarming new Donbass integration law, which in flagrant violation of the Minsk Agreement treats the territories of the Donbass and Lugansk People’s Republics as territory occupied by Russia – denying the reality of Ukraine’s civil war – and which converts Ukraine’s military campaign against the two People’s Republics from an already grossly misnamed “anti-terrorist operation” into a self-depicted military conflict with Russia.

In other words instead of looking for ways to end the conflict in the Donbass and to mend relations with Russia – which is what Ukraine urgently needs to do if its economy is to stabilise – the Maidan establishment in Kiev is set on doing the opposite, and has embarked on a path which can logically only lead to more war.

As anyone familiar with the Maidan movement ought to know by now, this is in fact its typical – indeed invariable – response when it comes under pressure.  Instead of moderating its policies and adjusting them to the prevailing realities, its invariable response is to intensify its policies still more.

As it drives towards the cliff edge, its impulse is to slam down the accelerator instead of the brake.

Behind this there may be a calculation on the part of some people within the Maidan movement that greater confrontation with Russia is the way to rally support for Ukraine in the West, with the hope that if the conflict in the Donbass escalates funding from the IMF and the European Union – which has now stopped – will resume.

However it is probably a mistake to look for much calculation in these actions.  My impression is that hostility to Russia on the part of the Maidan movement and its supporters is so hardwired that their actions are largely visceral, and have little calculation behind them.

How else to explain their bizarre decision to mount a totally counter productive economic blockade of the two People’s Republics which even Anders Aslund, one of their staunchest supporters, says was misguided and which was one of their actions last year which now has him wringing his hands in despair (discussed at length in my article here)?

In the meantime the responsibility of Ukraine’s Western allies for this darkening picture cannot be overstated.

Though it is Ukraine not Russia which is openly and flagrantly violating the Minsk Agreement – Russia is not a party to the Minsk Agreement, merely its guarantor – the European Union continues to reward Ukraine for its ever grosser violations of the Minsk Agreement by prolonging the sanctions against Russia.

It does so on the completely illogical premise that it is Russia – which is not a party to the Minsk Agreement – which is responsible for its implementation rather than Ukraine.

This policy is so absurd that it has been coming under growing criticism across Europe, with the right wing parties which now look set to win the March parliamentary elections in Italy calling it  irrational – which it is – and committing themselves to reversing it by vetoing any further extension of the sanctions if they win.

However both of the parties that currently form Germany’s failing ‘grand coalition’ government – Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SPD – remain committed to this ‘irrational’ policy even though it is known that many senior members of both parties are filled with doubts about it.

Compounding this folly was a recent disastrous visit to Ukraine by Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over the course of which he publicly endorsed Ukraine’s call for a peacekeeping force to be deployed across the whole of eastern Ukraine in order to bring the territory of the two People’s Republics once more under Kiev’s control.

The Russians have repeatedly and publicly ruled out this proposal – Lavrov has just said in response to Gabriel’s comments that the proposal is intended to ‘strangle’ the two People’s Republics and is therefore unacceptable to Russia – but Gabriel appears to have deluded himself that it was a route to ending the conflict so as to get Germany off its own self-inflicted sanctions hook.

In reality, by endorsing a Ukrainian proposal the Russians have repeatedly and publicly rejected Gabriel has only managed to increase Russian suspicions of German intentions whilst giving further encouragement to the Maidan hardliners in Kiev.

However Gabriel’s folly has been far capped by that of the US administration with its recent reckless decision to supply Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

In a recent article published by The Duran on 26th December 2017 I discussed the extraordinary folly of this decision and the high probability that it will spur on the Maidan hardliners to launch more attacks on the two People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine in the coming months.

In that article I also said that the Javelin anti tank missiles do not provide the ‘magic bullet’ that will give the Ukrainians the superiority over the armed forces of the two People’s Republics that the Ukrainians and many others appear to imagine.

Since that article I have read various discussions of the Javelin anti tank missile on the internet which suggest that it is not only difficult to use but very vulnerable to counter measures of a sort that the armed forces of the two People’s Republics – by now well trained and advised by the Russians – would have no difficulty implementing in response to it.

One discussion of the Javelin anti tank missile I have read by a seemingly well-informed military technology commentator from New Zealand even says that these very simple counter measures would not only nullify the Javelin anti tank missile’s supposed advantages but would render it less effective than the Russian Metis-B missile, which supposedly costs fifty times less.

Even if these criticisms exaggerate the Javelin anti tank missile’s weaknesses, the underlying point I made in my article still stands: supplying Javelin anti tank missiles to Ukraine in whatever quantity cannot change the overall military balance on a battlefield in eastern Ukraine where former US President Obama admitted the Russians will always have “escalatory dominance” over the US.  It will however encourage the Maidan hardliners in Kiev to think that if Ukraine attacks the two People’s Republics it will have US support.

Overall it is difficult to look upon the emerging situation in Ukraine this year with anything other than a profound sense of foreboding.

The risk of further war in Ukraine has always been high.  Indeed a crisis atmosphere and lawlessness and armed conflict have been Ukraine’s continuous reality ever since the Maidan protests turned violent in December 2013.

With the political and economic situation in Ukraine steadily deteriorating, and with the Western powers once again doing everything possible however thoughtlessly to aggravate the situation, the country seems to be slipping back towards war.

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BBC producer admits Douma attack was false flag that nearly sparked Russia – U.S. hot war (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 176.

Alex Christoforou

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BBC producer Riam Dalati believes that the scenes caught on video from a hospital in Douma, Syria were staged, all in an effort driven by jihadist terrorists and White Helmet “activists” to draw the U.S. and its allies into full on confrontation with Syria, and by extension Russia.

The viral images caused a media firestorm in 2018, showing children allegedly suffering from chemicals, as main stream media channels, like the BBC itself, called for war with Assad.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the BBC producer’s stunning admission, after a 6 month investigation, that reveals the “‘chemical attack” hospital scenes in Douma were completely staged.

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Via RT


Emotive scenes of Syrian civilians, among them crying, choking, half-naked children, dominated the airwaves in April last year after rebel-affiliated mouthpieces reported yet another “chemical attack by the Assad regime” in the town of Douma. Disturbing reports, including some from the controversial White Helmets, claimed scores of people had been killed and injured.

Mainstream media quickly picked up the horrific (but unverified) videos from a Douma hospital, where victims were treated after this “poison attack.” That hospital scene was enough to assemble a UN emergency session and prompt the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’ to rain down dozens of missiles on Damascus and other locations.

But Riam Dalati, a reputable BBC producer who has long reported from the Middle East, took the liberty of trying to sift through the fog of the Syrian war.

He believes Assad forces did attack the town, but that the much-publicized hospital scenes were staged.

After almost 6 months of investigations, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital.

Anticipating further queries, he said no one from the White Helmets or opposition sources were present in Douma by the time the alleged attack had happened except for one person who was in Damascus.

Dalati also says that an attack “did happen” but that sarin, a weapons-grade nerve agent, was not used. He said, “we’ll have to wait for OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] to prove chlorine or otherwise.”

However, everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect.

The journalist said Jaysh al-Islam, an Islamist faction that fought the Syrian army there, “ruled Douma with an iron fist. They co-opted activists, doctors and humanitarians with fear and intimidation.”

Dalati’s revelations could have become a bombshell news report, but instead it was met with a deafening media silence. His employer preferred to distance itself from his findings. The BBC told Sputnik in a statement that Dalati was expressing “his personal opinions about some of the video footage that emerged after the attack but has not claimed that the attack did not happen.” 

After a while, Dalati restricted access to his Twitter account which is now open only to confirmed followers.

Interestingly, his previous inputs did not sit well with the official narrative either. “Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative,” he said in a tweet which he later deleted over “the breach of editorial policy.”

In all, Dalati is not a lone voice in the wilderness. The Intercept has recently run a story that also cast doubt on the mainstream coverage of Douma, although it doesn’t doubt that the attack itself happened. While a veteran British reporter Robert Fisk suggested there was no gas attack at all, saying people there were suffering from oxygen starvation. Witnesses of the “chemical attack,” for their part, told international investigators the story was a set-up.

Moscow, which supports Damascus in its fight against terrorists, has long stated the Douma incident was staged, calling for an international OPCW inquiry. Last year, the Defense Ministry presented what it said was proof the “provocation” was to trigger Western airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

This time, the military recalled a similar 2017 incident in Khan Sheikhoun, where an alleged chemical attack took place. The ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday that a closer inspection of footage from that location clearly shows this was a set-up as well.

Now the Foreign Ministry has suggested Dalati is being silenced for voicing inconvenient views, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asking on Facebook: “A telling story. How about Western advocates of rights and freedoms? Had they accused BBC of censorship and pressuring the journalist?”

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President Trump schools liberals with National Emergency declaration

President Trump skillfully defeats Democrat naysayers, by increasing support for the border wall prior to declaring a National Emergency.

Seraphim Hanisch

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President Trump signed a continuing resolution to keep the US government fully running through the rest of the 2019 fiscal year. The CR contained a $1.374 bn allocation for US border security, and that money includes and pays for the completion of some fifty-five miles of border fence (or wall, or barrier, or “not-a-wall” depending on one’s preferential phrasing.) He also declared a National Emergency, theoretically freeing at least another $8 bn for the continued construction of the border wall.

Yes, it is a wall. And, yes, it is being built right now. And yes, it will be completed. The President of the United States has made this abundantly clear.

Some news reporters talk about this matter still as though there is in fact no wall now, and that there is no construction in progress on any wall. To that we can say, please watch this:

This section of the wall is going up near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. It augments a very well-designed 18 foot wall stretching from west of Santa Teresa, NM to Tornillo, Texas. If someone wants to cross the border without having to negotiate this barrier they have to go very far off the beaten path to do it. President Trump wants to make it even more difficult; in fact, he wants to have the barrier run the entire length of the US-Mexico border.

This second video says a bit more about the situation:

His campaign to get this has been brilliant in terms of getting the American people informed that there is a problem. How did he do this with a press that hates him?

Easy. He made an issue out of it, knowing that the news media has no choice but to cover the President’s every antic, and in so doing, while seeking fodder for criticism, they actually ended up reporting on the actual problem.

This has been an interesting flow of events:

  • Mainstream news slamming the President’s every statement about the need for a wall
  • The fury of Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles “Chuck” Schumer in their 100% opposition – their own temper tantrum whilst blaming that tantrum on Trump, who actually acted more like a strict parent than a bratty teenager
  • The very public presentations of Border Patrol experts that Trump arranged, the purpose being to listen to their own expert assessment of the actual needs at the border

This last issue marks a need for even the conservative press to have a wake-up call. Daniel Horowitz wrote a piece in The Conservative Review excoriating President Trump’s signing of this present deal as a “sell out”, noting that:

Trump originally demanded $25 billion for the wall. Then he negotiated himself down to $5.6 billion. Democrats balked and only agreed to $1.6 billion. This bill calls it a day at $1.375 billion, enough to construct 55 miles. But it’s worse than that. This bill limits the president’s ability to construct “barriers” to just the Rio Grande Valley sector and only bollard fencing, not concrete walls of any kind.

Daniel’s point is great for rhetoric because, of course, the President originally did promise a big beautiful concrete wall running the entire length of the border.

However, he missed the point about using bollard-style walls that can be seen through – the Border Patrol agents themselves said this kind of wall is to their advantage. A solid wall prevents natural visibility and the agents were getting rocks thrown at them from people they could not see on the other side. A see-through capability means that people approaching the wall on the other side can be seen and tracked.

This marks an example of conservative ideology being too strongly fixed, just as the liberals’ ideology is fixed at the level of a four-year old child refusing to let someone else play with his toys.

They both do not understand that President Trump is not concerned with ideology. He is concerned with useful results, which he got in this deal.

Now about that National Emergency. Is this really the constitutional crisis Trump’s detractors say it is?

Probably not.

It has been widely reported that the US is currently running under some 31 other national emergencies, and that the one President Trump declared makes it number 32. The rhetoric from the news media and Democrats is centered around the idea that no President has ever used this power to get money that only the Congress can allot.

We also probably already know that this is an irrelevant point – the President is in charge of the national security of the nation, and he can and must do what he can to ensure it. The huge numbers of illegal crossings, nearly half a million in 2018 were largely apprehended and released into the United States, rather than deported. Half a million is far less than the 1.6 million that came through in 2000, but it is also not zero. Half a million is the size of the city of Atlanta, Georgia.

The distractors in the Democrat party and media do not want anyone comprehending this fact, so they try to divert and dissuade. But President Trump has not let any of this get past him. In a media event, the President had parents and relatives of people who were murdered by illegal aliens in a direct face-off with none other than CNN’s provocateur-in-chief Jim Acosta, and the reporter was forced to listen to what these family members had to say about their convictions that the president was correct in his:

Trump pointed to angel moms in attendance, asking them for their thoughts.

“You think I’m creating something? Ask these incredible women who lost their daughters and their sons,” Trump said. “OK, Because your question is a very political question because you have an agenda. You’re CNN. You’re fake news.”

Trump told Acosta the statistics he provided were “wrong” and told him to take a look at the federal prison population for proof.

“See how many of them,percentage-wise, are illegal aliens,” Trump said. “Just see, go ahead and see. It’s a fake question.”

Acosta was subsequently confronted by the angel moms in attendance, after the press conference. As angel moms confronted the CNN reporter, he invited them to appear on the network in the background of a live shot.

“There is no attempt whatsoever to diminish what they’ve gone through, or take away what they’ve gone through, but as you heard in that question that I had with the president … it was really about the facts and the data,” Acosta said on CNN following his exchange with Trump. “Some of these folks came up to me right after this press conference … they’re holding up these pictures of loved ones who lost their lives.”

An angel mom then discussed that a previously deported illegal alien murdered her son.

“President Trump is completely correct on this issue, we need to protect this country,” the angel mom told Acosta.

Acosta actually was a victim of his own passions when he went to the border to a place where the bollard wall presently stands and reported that nothing was happening there. It seemed that he was expecting that there were supposed to be angry mobs on the other side trying to get through. However, no one was there, because it is rather pointless to try to get over this wall at this place. Even liberals were forced to acknowledge Mr. Acosta’s strategic miscalculation.

The new national emergency is about getting results. If we were concerned only with smooth and impressive politics, we could only remark on the President’s success in maneuvering the Democrats (not all of them were slavishly going with the Pelosi-Schumer stance) and his ability to do what he does best – getting his message to the American people, and giving them information with which to decide what they want.

This campaign is not over, but this particular battle appears to have been won with a lot of hard work.

Slowly, oh, so slowly, it would seem that the forces of common sense are making some headway in America.

 

 

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“This is America” reveals a shocking vision of the United States

The Grammy Award winning Song and Record of the Year feature the very darkest vision of what America has become.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Grammy Awards are the second of the three most significant musical achievement awards in the United States. Two of the anticipated awards that many fans of this event look forward to learning are the Song of the Year and the Record of the Year.

The Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriters of a given song, where the Record of the Year goes to the artists, producers and engineers involved in crafting the recording (the “record”) of a song. Both categories are huge and both usually go to an artist or organization responsible for a pop song.

It also happens to be that usually the song that is picked is beautiful and in most cases, reflects the character of beauty (whether in music or lyrics or both) for that year.

This year was quite different. Both awards went to Donald Glover, a.k.a. “Childish Gambino” for his song This is America.

This song features a radically different tone than previous winners going back for many years. Though rap remixes are usually less musical, the Grammy winners among these mixes have nevertheless retained some relatively positive, or at least attractive, aspect.

This is America is very different, especially when watched with its video.

Musically, it is genius, though the genius appears to have gone mad. Glover paints a picture of some very positive segments in American life, but then destroys it with his audible form and message that says absolutely nothing positive, but even more so – it doesn’t make sense unless one knows the context.

That context is revealed in the video with frightening images: someone getting their brains blown out (we see the blood fly), a gospel choir shot up with an automatic rifle while they were singing, and cannabis, front and center, being smoked by the artist himself.

This is America?

For Glover, this song and others on his album do seem to reflect that point of view.  Feels like Summer, one of Glover’s other recent songs, also reflects this sense of hopelessness, though it is far more musically consistent. The video gives the most clear contextual information that one could ask for, and while the video is not violent, it features degradation in society, even though the people depicted appear to be trying to make the best of their life situations.

The image Mr. Glover paints of America is a far cry from that which was known to most Americans only twenty years ago, and in fact, in many parts of the country where cannabis is still illegal there is a corresponding sense of positivity in life that is absent in Childish Gambino’s California-esque view of life.

There is a massive change that is taking place in American society. Our music and art reflects this change, and it sometimes even helps drive that change.

The United States of today is at a crossroads.

How many times have we read or heard THAT statement before?  But does it not seem so now? The attempt of identity politics to separate our nation into groups that must somehow fight for their own relevance against other groups is not the vision of the United States only twenty years ago.

Further, the normalization of themes such as drug-use and racism, the perpetuation of one in reality and the other as a mythological representation of how life “really is” in the US is radically bizarre.

In discussions with people who do not live in the United States, we found that sometimes they believed that white-on-black racism really was happening in America, because the media in the US pumps this information out in a constant stream, often with people like Donald Trump as the scapegoat.

But it is not true. Anyone in America’s new “accused class” of white, Christian, European-descent males (and some women who are not feminists), will note that they are not racist, and in fact, they feel persecuted for their existence under the new mantra of “white privilege.”

But it does not matter what they say. The media pumps the message it wants to, and with such coverage it is easy to get to halfway believing it: I know I am not this way, but I guess things are getting pretty bad elsewhere because all of those people seem to be getting this way…

This is the narrative the press promulgates, but upon conversations with people in “those places” we find that it is not true for them, either, and that they may in fact be thinking this is true about us.

Made in America is a visionary song and video. However, the vision is not a dream; it is nothing that anyone in the country would sincerely hope for. Even in Donald Glover’s case – as one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, and as a big success in music, he is far from being one of the “boys in the ‘hood.” In fact, Time Magazine in 2017 named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Certainly his musical work creates a powerful influence, but it also must raise questions, with the main ones being:

  • Are we really like this?
  • Is this what we really want to be as a country?
  • Is this the kind of image we want our children in the US to adopt?

In fact, if Mr. Glover’s work was viewed with care (rather than just as something that is “cool” because the media says it is), it might help us steer away from the cliff that many Americans are in fact heading towards.

We have elected not to link to the video because it is too disturbing for children. It is even too disturbing for many adults. For that reason we are not making it one-click-easy to get to.

Parents reading this opinion piece would do well to screen the video by themselves without the kids around first, before deciding what they want to do. Even though the video is probably something that they have already seen, the parents still stand as the guides and guardians for their children through all the perils of growing up.

These times call for great guardians indeed.

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