I love conversion stories. Perhaps that’s because I’ve had so many myself. I consider it ridiculous that we live in a society that condemns people who change their minds as they learn more, while people who double down on their ignorant beliefs in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary attract throngs of followers. This is why I loved this story from Cracked about a chap who was a professional 9/11 truther who had a change of heart. In it, you can watch a documentary featuring the subject, which helps explain why he changed his mind. In short, it wasn’t just meeting experts on architecture and controlled demolition; I felt they left out a lot of arguments that eviscerate the 9/11 conspiracy theory. But one thing that did apparently have an effect on the subject of the article was meeting the families of 9/11 victims face to face.

I found that to be rather interesting because there have been many times when I’ve encountered pro-Kremlin Westerners attacking journalists and experts whose work contradicts the fantasies they have about Putin’s regime. The case of MH17 is a perfect example. These people are so happy to dismiss as propaganda the work of professional journalists from different countries, working for different publications, who actually went to the very sites in Ukraine that are associated with the downing of that civilian airliner. I got to wondering whether these people would be so bold as to call such individuals “presstitutes” to their faces. I’ve met some of these reporters and I’d really like to see how these idiots would talk if they were lobbing their accusations directly at their target, in person, instead of over the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those journalists would physically destroy such detractors, only that it’s a little harder to accuse someone of lying for simply doing their job when you actually have to talk to them face to face instead of nitpicking something they wrote. What can you possibly say back to such detractors? “I’m really sorry the Russia I live in every day doesn’t conform to the fantasy version of Russia you’ve created in your head for some unknown reason, but I’m not going to go to my editor, my employer, and hand in a story that has no evidence for it and shit tons of evidence against it. I’m really, really sorry.”

Now as some readers might know, Oliver Stone is supposedly going to release what could be called the Loose Change of Maidan. The trailer already exists, but I’m not going to post it here and give the dickhead views. So far the title is Ukraine on Fire, which makes me wonder if it was named thus truly because Stone wanted to accuse the US of burning down Ukraine, or because he was secretly hoping that people searching for Winter on Fire would find his film by accident. Whatever the case, neither film will really help outsiders understand Ukraine or Maidan, but Stone’s conspiracy film is no doubt going to be based largely around his interview with ex-president Yanukovych, a totally unbiased source on Maidan. The narrative will no doubt be that the US government decided to overthrow the government of Ukraine because a president who had never been particularly hostile to the US decided to suspend the signing of an EU trade agreement he had personally arranged. It’s practically Chile all over again!

It makes me wonder though, if it would help Stone to actually speak to Ukrainians, and not just those involved in Maidan. Maybe he could speak to people who suffered from Yanukovych’s corruption, people whose healthcare system collapsed while the money it  depended on was siphoned off and deposited in Western banks. Maybe he could talk to the many women and young girls who ended up in prostitution out of sheer desperation or in some cases human trafficking, a problem that didn’t start with Yanukovych, but one which he certainly did nothing to solve. Maybe he could talk to some of the victims of the beating on the original Euromaidan. He can ask them why they decided to take US State Department money to…uh…pressure the government into signing the deal they had arranged.

I must admit that when Maidan first happened, I had a lot of negative thoughts towards it in spite of my opposition to Kremlin propaganda. My background and disconnection from Ukraine led me to focus on those things which I found most threatening, like the far right, instead of looking at the bigger picture, that what far right involvement existed had a lot to do with the fact that Yanukovych and his clique’s brazen corruption had essentially united a vast swath of Ukrainian society against him. In this way it was like the Moscow protests I’d witnessed in 2011, which also had a far-right component which was not representative nor anywhere close to a majority of the protesters.

During my three trips to Ukraine in 2015, the first such trips in five years at that point, I met both organizers and participants in Maidan. While I never bought into the bullshit story of the State Department paying people to protest, talking to these people face to face only made the idea seem even more absurd, as absurd as someone suggesting that I protested the invasion of Iraq because I’d received money from the Hussein regime. I was particularly floored when I learned that some Ukrainians had apparently been told that the red and black OUN flag was in fact a historical Ukrainian cossack flag (it’s not) and not a proprietary symbol of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Suddenly I thought of all those crowd shots with all those red and black flags and I wondered how many people waving those flags actually knew what they stood for? Could they really be blamed? How many Americans still defend the Confederate flag, ignorantly insisting that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Americans should know better, whereas most Ukrainians, due to the nature of the Soviet education system and the rather poor alternative that took its place, have a defense.

It’s not that Stone wouldn’t be able to find people involved with Maidan with horrible views. I’m sure he could and he probably should, for the sake of balance. But the fact is that this man wants to tell us the “truth” about what happened in Ukraine and I seriously doubt that he’s ever really spent significant time talking to ordinary Ukrainians. People like Stone need to keep a certain distance from their subjects, so as to protect their oversimplified worldview. Ukrainians aren’t people like him, people angry with their government who might want to do something about it. They’re just pawns and dupes who will sell their country to the American New World Order for twenty bucks, even if it means being beaten, gassed, and even shot until they overthrow their government. Sure, he could meet with an organizer or two and then rationalize dismissing them by labeling them as agents of the State Department. But what’s the probability you’re going to run into such an agent if you go into a random restaurant in Kyiv and start talking to young people there?

By meeting people who suffered from 9/11, that truther from the documentary learned that his conspiracy theories weren’t a victimless crime. He was spitting on the graves of people’s relatives, people he’d never met and never known, and yet he basically thought they were hapless dupes fooled by the state into thinking they’d been killed by terrorists instead of some government plot. Stone and those who think like him are doing the same thing to the people of Ukraine. The US-backed coup narrative is not just another conspiracy theory. It has led to some of the worst bloodshed in Europe since the Yugoslav Wars of Secession in the 1990’s.

Sadly I doubt he’ll actually go and speak to the sort of Ukrainians I mentioned just as he won’t be talking to any ordinary Venezuelans about the achievements of “Bolivarian socialism” or Russian opposition supporters about Putin’s great alternative to Western hegemony. Humanizing these people in his own mind would then require him to draw conclusions. He might have to actually envision a world where having a beef with the US government doesn’t necessarily make a leader a hero of the people. He might realize that many of these leaders don’t actually provide a viable alternative to the American or Western system, that in fact their proposed  “alternatives” tend to be worse, and that his primitive “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worldview is laughably unrealistic. Worst of all, having realized all this Stone might be forced to form a coherent, consistent political worldview and engage in real activism toward changing the American system rather than professional conspiracy mongering.

By Russia without BS