Ukraine and Gaza: A Paradox to Justify Massacres

Prof. Alessandro Orsini explores how 'Arms for Peace' & similar narratives manipulate public opinion, revealing the dichotomies in wartime rhetoric

by Alessandro Orsini

Every war crafts its own narratives to sway public opinion, but only a few etch themselves into the annals of conflict. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the propaganda machine proclaimed, “If Italy desires peace, it must invest in war. The more weapons Italy supplies, the sooner peace will come.” A manipulation meticulously planned. On one side, Mario Draghi faced the challenge of satisfying Italians yearning for peace; on the other, he needed to appease Americans who clamored for war. By voicing a pursuit of peace, Draghi played to Italian sentiments; by pledging arms, he gratified Biden. Hence the slogan: “Arms for Peace.” I term this public opinion manipulation tactic as “oxymoronic juxtaposition.” An oxymoron pairs two incongruous concepts: peace and war; obstinacy and diplomacy. During a broadcast on ‘Carta Bianca,’ Maurizio Lupi insisted to me that diplomacy meant demanding Russia’s unconditional surrender without any concessions. This unilateral diplomacy is a classic case of oxymoronic manipulation since true diplomacy is always either bilateral or multilateral.

Oxymoronic juxtaposition is achieved by contrasting a beloved term against a despised one, not to justify, but to ennoble the means through the end. In the process of justifying the means to an end, the means – be it war or a terrorist act – remains abhorrent. However, in the process of ennobling the means relative to the end, the means becomes noble.

Unlike Draghi, Biden doesn’t face the ordeal of swaying public opinion since, in the dominant American culture, ‘war’ is laden with positive connotations. Biden doesn’t need to manipulate the word ‘peace’ to make Americans accept using Ukrainians as cannon fodder for NATO’s advancement towards Russia. A nation’s psychological relationship with war is largely shaped by its historical experiences with it. When war devastates a country, as it did Italy in World War II, the survivors develop a negative perception of war encapsulated in the adage: “War is futile.” Conversely, when war transforms a nation into an affluent superpower, the survivors tend to view it positively because it proved beneficial. Ultimately, the Draghi government had the audacity to present itself as a peacemaker rather than a White House satellite violating Article 11 of the Constitution to appease Biden.

The oxymoronic juxtaposition is also evident in the bombing of Gaza. Here, the terms aren’t “peace and war” but rather “peace and massacre,” since in Gaza there is no war, only annihilation. To justify the slaughter of Palestinians, the propaganda asserts that the extermination is necessary to eliminate Hamas and establish a Palestinian state that will bring peace. Yet, this is a falsehood, as the massacre of Palestinians pushes peace further away in Palestine just as the supply of arms did in Ukraine. Israel doesn’t aim to eliminate Hamas to establish a Palestinian state but to ensure one never emerges. Netanyahu declared that Palestinians would only have a state when they learn to love Israel and the West, essentially when they embrace their annihilators.

Il Fatto Quotidiano, January 2, 2024


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