Hysterical Russian anti-Ukraine propaganda at fever pitch
When you bring water to a boil, you either have to turn it down or let it boil over and make a mess.
Is Putin about to make a mess of the Ukraine?
This is Ukraine today, at least as seen by most Russian news media: the government is run by anti-Semitic fascists, people killed in protests were shot by opposition snipers and the West is behind it all.
And the room to disagree with that portrayal is getting smaller by the week.
With Crimea set to hold a referendum Sunday on whether to merge with Russia, the push to demonize Ukraine's leadership has reached fever pitch. Authorities in Ukraine have responded by blocking Russian TV channels.
Lev Gudkov, head of a respected independent Moscow-based polling agency, says the propagandist tone of Russian state television has reached new levels.
"For intensity, comprehensiveness and aggressiveness, this is like nothing I have ever seen over the whole post-Soviet period," Gudkov said.
News bulletins on top network Channel 1 carry extensive reports detailing purported rampant lawlessness to vague threats of reprisals against ethnic Russians and Jews, as well as showing interviews with talking heads alleging foreign-engineered plots.
NTV, owned by gas giant Gazprom's media arm, on Thursday aired a report about purportedly hacked email correspondence between U.S. and Ukrainian officials on plans for staging an attack on military jets. The piece goes on to claim that the incident was to serve as an excuse for the United States to take military action against Russia.
It is steadily becoming conventional wisdom in the most widely watched news shows that those shot dead during protests in Kiev last month were victims of shadowy figures possibly hired by opposition forces.
Right Sector, a radical ultranationalist group that spearheaded the most violent assaults against riot police, is a subject of scaremongering daily exposes. For all the attention it has received, the group has not been granted any posts in the new government and observers say it has little actual clout.
Late Thursday night, clashes broke out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk between government supporters and a hostile pro-Russian crowd. At one point a pro-Russian mob encircled and threw objects at a small huddle of people, shouting for them to get on their knees. At least one person died in the turmoil.
Rossiya-1, another state station, on the same evening reported that the incident had been provoked by "special forces" of the Maidan, the informal name of the movement that brought about last month's ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.
We've seen it all before. Wild propaganda about an imminent threat from a small neighbor. The "Big Lie" getting even bigger. Claims of ethnic solidarity with "oppressed" people. Warnings that they will not stand idly by while their "compatriots" are in danger. And manufactured "incidents" where lives are lost and the impression is given that the local authorities have lost control.
Ring a bell? Vladimir Putin is following Adolf Hitler's invasion playbook to a "T." The Russian leader has created the conditions for an invasion of eastern Ukraine. This doesn't mean he will invade, only that he has everything in place - including domestic support due to hysterical propaganda - if he decides to do so.
The vote in the Crimea for annexation to Russia is tomorrow. Not on the ballot is a choice to remain an autonomous republic inside the Ukraine. The game is rigged, Ukrainian authorities are resigned to the loss of the penninsula, and Putin, who will celebrate the "vote," will then have a choice of pulling back his troops from the Ukrainian border or going in, which would almost certainly mean war with Ukraine.
The water is boiling and no one is around to turn down the heat.