Alito’s Leaked Abortion Opinion Misunderstands Unenumerated Rights

“Noting that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” Alito argues that “no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Although “that provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution,” he says, “any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'” Alito concludes that “the right to an abortion does not fall within this category.”

That analysis falls short in at least two crucial ways.

First, Alito fails to grapple with the argument that the right to terminate a pregnancy can be understood as a subset of the right to bodily integrity. As the legal scholar Sheldon Gelman detailed in a 1994 Minnesota Law Review article, the right to bodily integrity can be traced back to the Magna Carta. That makes it one of the many rights “retained by the people” (in the words of the Ninth Amendment) that were imported into the Constitution from English law. That right, in other words, is “deeply rooted” in American history and tradition.

Second, Alito’s draft opinion distorts the relevant legal history and thus misstates the historical pedigree of abortion rights. “When the United States was founded and for many subsequent decades, Americans relied on the English common law,” explains an amicus brief that the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians filed in Dobbs. “The common law did not regulate abortion in early pregnancy. Indeed, the common law did not even recognize abortion as occurring at that stage. That is because the common law did not legally acknowledge a fetus as existing separately from a pregnant woman until the woman felt fetal movement, called ‘quickening,’ which could occur as late as the 25th week of pregnancy.”

A survey of founding-era legal authorities confirms this view. William Blackstone’s widely read Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in 1765, noted that life “begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.” Under the common law, Blackstone explained, legal penalties for abortion applied only “if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb.” That means abortion was legal in the early stages of pregnancy under the common law.

Blackstone’s writings had an important influence on America’s founding generation. In his 1790 Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, for example, James Wilson, a driving force at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and a leading voice for ratification at Pennsylvania’s convention, repeated Blackstone’s gloss. “In the contemplation of law,” Wilson wrote, “life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.”

At the time of the founding, no American state had the lawful power to prohibit abortion before quickening because the states adhered to the common law as described by Blackstone and Wilson. We might call this the original understanding of the states’ regulatory powers. That original understanding contradicts Alito’s assertion that abortion rights—at least during the early stages of pregnancy—lack deep roots in American history.”

Samuel Alito: One Angry Man

“Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservatism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes. If you want to understand what to expect from the post-Roberts Court, paying attention to that anger pays dividends.”

“Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. Examining a Washington state regulation of pharmacists, Alito was quick to detect “hostility” to conservative religious beliefs. And in an opinion repudiating New Haven’s effort to promote more Black firefighters, Alito alone trawled the history of the case to complain about the role played by a Black pastor who was an ally of the city’s mayor and had “threatened a race riot.” Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.

In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. In 2016, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s death-penalty scheme on Sixth Amendment grounds, only Alito dissented. When the court, a year earlier, found a federal sentencing rule for armed offenders unconstitutionally vague, only Alito voted for the prosecution. It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.”

“In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.
In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs” (self-identified Christians make up some 63 percent of the American populace). And he (falsely) warned of “morning after pills that destroy an embryo after fertilization.” If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.”

The Supreme Court hands the Christian right a victory it actually deserved to win

“The Supreme Court, in an increasingly familiar development, handed a victory to a Christian conservative organization on Monday. The Court’s decision in Shurtleff v. Boston establishes that this organization, Camp Constitution, should have been allowed to fly a Christian-identified flag from a flagpole outside Boston’s city hall.

But Shurtleff is unlike several other high-profile victories for religious conservatives that the Court has handed down in recent years because the justices did not need to remake existing law in order to reach this result. The decision was unanimous (although the justices split somewhat regarding why the plaintiffs in this case should prevail), with liberal Justice Stephen Breyer writing the majority opinion.

The case involves three flagpoles standing outside of Boston’s city hall. The first flagpole displays the US flag, with a smaller flag honoring prisoners of war and missing service members below it. The second pole features the Massachusetts state flag. And the third typically — but not always — displays the city’s own flag.

This third flagpole, and the city’s practice of sometimes allowing outside groups to display a flag of their choice from it, is the centerpiece of Shurtleff. Since at least 2005, the city has permitted outside groups to hold flag-raising ceremonies on the plaza during which they can raise a flag of their choosing on the third flagpole.

At various times, the third flagpole has displayed the flags of many nations, including Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Mexico, and Turkey. It has displayed the rainbow LGBTQ pride flag, a flag commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill, and a flag honoring Malcolm X.

But when Harold Shurtleff, head of an organization called Camp Constitution, asked to fly a flag associated with the Christian faith, the city refused — claiming that displaying such a flag could be interpreted as “an endorsement by the city of a particular religion,” in violation of “separation of church and state or the [C]onstitution.”

Justice Breyer’s majority opinion concludes that the city erred. Relying on a bevy of cases establishing that the government typically cannot discriminate against a particular viewpoint, Breyer notes that “Boston concedes that it denied Shurtleff’s request solely because the Christian flag he asked to raise ‘promot[ed] a specific religion.’” Under the facts of this case, that’s a form of viewpoint discrimination and it’s not allowed.

While it’s notable that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh each wrote separate opinions indicating that they are eager to let government get cozy with religion, and they have two opportunities to do so this term, this case is a straightforward decision that follows current law — in short, nothing remarkable.”

“The general rule in free speech cases is that the government may not discriminate against any particular viewpoint. Boston could not, for example, have a rule that Democrats are allowed to gather in the city hall plaza but not Republicans. Or that people who support restrictive immigration policies may do so, but not people who oppose them.

But there’s an exception to this general rule when the government speaks in its own voice. That is, the government is allowed to express its own opinion on a subject without also providing a forum for dissenting voices. If a public school principal tells her students to “say no to drugs,” she’s not required to give equal time to the grungy guy in the junior class who sells weed out of his 1997 Subaru Legacy.

The primary question in Shurtleff is whether, when Boston’s city government permitted a wide range of private groups — but not Camp Constitution — to display a flag of their choice outside of city hall, these flags represented the city’s speech or the private groups’ speech. Again, if the flags were a form of government speech, then Boston is allowed to exclude viewpoints it does not share.

But the Court concluded that the city did not use the third flagpole to express its own views, and that it effectively created “a forum for the expression of private speakers’ views.” As Breyer notes, Boston does not appear to have made any effort whatsoever to control which flags are displayed from this flagpole until it denied Shurtleff’s request to fly a Christian flag.”

If Roe v. Wade falls, are LGBTQ rights next?

“Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, which was leaked to Politico and revealed to the public Monday night, is more than just an attack on abortion. It is a manifesto laying out a comprehensive theory of which rights are protected by the Constitution and which rights should not be enforced by the courts.

And Alito’s opinion is also a warning that, after Roe falls, the Court’s Republican majority may come for landmark LGBTQ rights decisions next, such as the marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) or the sexual autonomy decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

To be clear, the leaked opinion is a draft. While Politico reports that five justices initially voted to overrule Roe, no justice’s vote is final until the Court officially hands down its decision. And even if Alito holds onto the five votes he needs to overrule Roe, one or more of his colleagues in the majority could insist that he make changes to the opinion.

Alito’s first draft, however, suggests that the archconservative justice feels emboldened. Not only does he take a maximalist approach to tearing down Roe, but much of Alito’s reasoning in the draft opinion tracks arguments he’s made in the past in dissenting opinions disparaging LGBTQ rights.

The Constitution is a frustrating document. Among other things, it contains multiple provisions stating that Americans enjoy certain civil rights that are not mentioned anywhere in the document itself. The Ninth Amendment, for example, provides that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Over time, the Supreme Court has devised multiple different standards to determine which of those unenumerated rights are nonetheless protected by our founding document. Some of these standards are very much at odds with each other.

The central thrust of Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case seeking to overrule Roe, is that only rights that are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” are protected. This method of weighing unenumerated rights is often referred to as the “Glucksberg” test, after the Court’s decision in Washington v. Glucksberg (1997).

Though Alito’s Dobbs opinion largely focuses on why he believes that the right to abortion fails the Glucksberg test, there is no doubt that he also believes that other important rights, such as same-sex couples’ right to marry, also fail Glucksberg and are thus unprotected by the Constitution. Alito said as much in his Obergefell dissent, which said that “it is beyond dispute that the right to same-sex marriage is not among those rights” that are sufficiently rooted in American history and tradition.”

“For many years, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the pivotal figure in the legal struggle for gay equality. Obergefell and United States v. Windsor (2013), which held that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, were both 5-4 decisions authored by Kennedy. Kennedy also penned the Lawrence opinion and the Court’s decision in Romer v. Evans (1996), the first Supreme Court decision establishing that the Constitution places limits on the government’s ability to target gay or bisexual individuals.

Given his longtime role as the Court’s voice on gay rights, it’s tempting to think of Kennedy as a staunch supporter of these rights (I use the word “gay” and not “LGBTQ” because Kennedy’s four opinions concerned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and not gender identity). But the reality is almost certainly more nuanced. Decisions like Obergefell and Windsor were the products of an uneasy alliance between the conservative Kennedy and his four liberal colleagues. And, in closely divided cases, majority opinions are often assigned to the justice who is most on the fence — on the theory that this justice is unlikely to flip their vote if they can tailor the majority opinion to their own idiosyncratic views.

The result is that Kennedy’s great gay rights decisions were poorly argued. They ignore longstanding doctrines that could have provided a firm foundation for a rule barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Instead, they often substitute needlessly purple prose for the meat-and-potatoes work of legal argumentation.”

What happens when the public loses faith in the Supreme Court?

“Constitutionally speaking, the Court does not have the hard authority of the presidency or Congress. It cannot deploy the military or cut off funding for a program. It can order others to take actions, but these orders only hold force if the other branches and state governments believe they have to follow them. The Court’s power depends on its legitimacy — on a widespread belief, among both citizens and politicians, that following its orders is the right and necessary thing to do.”

“Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade, if issued, could be yet another significant blow to Court legitimacy. The issue is not just that a majority of Americans will disagree with the ruling, though they almost certainly will. It’s that the process that led to this outcome has repeatedly exposed the Court as a vessel for politics by other means.

In that context, a reversal of what is probably the most contentious modern Supreme Court ruling — which established a 50-year precedent with longstanding majority support — will hit differently than previous controversial Court rulings. The damage could be severe and lasting, worse even than nakedly political decisions like Bush v. Gore.

While it may be tempting to cheer the collapse of the Court’s legitimacy given its track record, the Worcester case should give us some pause. In the American system, for better or for worse, the Court is supposed to serve as the final arbiter of political disagreements. If it lacks the legitimacy to play that role, it sets the stage for a constitutional crisis — especially if former President Donald Trump runs again in 2024.”

“since 2016, Republicans have taken a series of steps that have made it hard for anyone to see the Court as standing above politics.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously refused to even schedule hearings for Obama’s replacement nominee, current Attorney General Merrick Garland, until after the 2016 election. McConnell’s argument was that no justice should be appointed in an election year, but the rationale was clearly political: Garland is a moderate liberal and would have tipped the Court from a 5-4 conservative majority to a 5-4 liberal one.

Then Donald Trump won the 2016 election despite losing the popular vote and proceeded to remake the Court along McConnell’s preferred lines.

First, he appointed staunch conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Court instead of Garland — preserving a 5-4 conservative majority on the court. Then longtime Republican operative Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed amid a furious battle over Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, one of the most bitter and polarizing hearings in Supreme Court history.

And when Justice Ginsburg died in September 2020, McConnell and Trump rushed Amy Coney Barrett onto the Court before the 2020 vote — giving conservatives a 6-3 advantage, and revealing the alleged principle behind the Garland blockade to be a partisan fiction. (McConnell’s attempt to square this circle, citing an alleged norm against the Senate confirming nominations from opposite-party presidents in election years, was risible.)”

“the Court itself hasn’t helped matters. Since the Trump appointments, the Court’s jurisprudence has lurched hard right. Chief Justice John Roberts, seemingly the sole conservative concerned with the Court’s above-politics reputation, can no longer join four liberals to rein in his colleagues’ policy ambitions.

This is the context in which Alito’s Roe draft opinion emerged. Much of the concerns about the opinion’s effect on legitimacy have focused on the leak of the draft — on how it makes the Supreme Court look like any other Washington institution. But this is inside baseball: The much bigger effect on Court legitimacy is more likely to come from the ruling itself, if it in fact becomes law.”

He Didn’t Use the ‘Magic Words’ To Get Access to a Lawyer. Were His Rights Violated?

“whether or not someone has actually invoked their right to counsel is, to some degree, subjective, though it can have far-reaching consequences in a defendant’s case.”

New York Just Cost Democrats Their Big Redistricting Advantage

“On Wednesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the congressional map New York Democrats enacted back in February was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution and tossed it to the curb. The decision was a huge blow to Democrats, who until recently looked like they had gained enough seats nationally in redistricting to almost eliminate the Republican bias in the House of Representatives. But with the invalidation of New York’s map, as well as Florida’s recent passage of a congressional map that heavily favors the GOP,1 the takeaways from the 2021-22 redistricting cycle are no longer so straightforward.

That’s because much of Democrats’ national redistricting advantage rested on their gerrymander in New York.”

“There are still congressional maps that could get struck down in court, like Florida’s. And there are still states that have yet to finalize a map — like, oh yeah, New York!

In its decision, the New York Court of Appeals endorsed the idea that a neutral special master — essentially, an expert in drawing political maps — should draw New York’s next congressional map. That would presumably lead to a relatively fair map, but the details and exact partisan breakdown are, of course, still a mystery; Democrats could still gain seats from New York’s map when all is said and done (just not as many as from their gerrymander).”

Clarence Thomas’s long fight against fair and democratic elections

“We now know that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, spent the weeks after the 2020 election cheerleading the Trump White House’s efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in that election. One detail we do not yet know, however, is what Justice Thomas knew about his wife’s communications, and whether he tried to use his office to protect her.

In January, the Supreme Court permitted the US House committee investigating the January 6 attacks on the Capitol to obtain hundreds of pages of White House records that may shine a light on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to thwart the peaceful transfer of power to Biden. These records may or may not contain additional evidence linking Ginni Thomas to January 6.

If Clarence Thomas had his way, the House committee and the public would never know. Thomas was the only justice to publicly dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision to let the House committee obtain these records — though he offered no explanation for why he dissented.

But here’s the thing: Yes, Thomas’s vote in this case, Trump v. Thompson, may have been an underhanded effort to protect his own wife. But his vote in Trump was entirely consistent with his record in cases where his spouse does not have a personal interest.

In more than three decades on the Supreme Court, Thomas has consistently voted to make it harder for many Americans to have their vote count; to erode institutions, like a free press, that are essential to democracy; and to dismantle nearly a century’s worth of democratically enacted laws on spurious constitutional grounds. Thomas’s opposition to democracy is not rooted in nepotism. It appears to be quite principled.

Among other things, Thomas is the only sitting justice who voted to install a Republican president in Bush v. Gore (2000) — although three other current justices were part of Republican George W. Bush’s legal team in that case. Thomas would allow Republican administrations to deactivate the entire Voting Rights Act so long as they are in power. He would strip journalists of First Amendment rights that allow them to safely provide critical coverage of government officials. And he would invalidate a long list of laws including the federal bans on child labor and on whites-only lunch counters, based on a widely rejected reading of the constitutional provision that grants Congress most of its power over the private sector.

No matter how the scandal with his wife’s texts shakes out, it’s worth remembering how the Court’s longest-serving justice would shape the world. In Clarence Thomas’s America, elections would be skewed so heavily in the Republican Party’s favor that Democrats will struggle to ever gain power. And if Democrats somehow do manage to squeak into office, Thomas would ensure that they cannot govern.”

“In 1960, civil rights activists aligned with Martin Luther King, Jr. ran an advertisement in the New York Times, which alleged that Alabama police used brutal tactics to suppress student protests. The ad, however, contained some minor factual errors. It misidentified the song that protesters sang at a particular demonstration, for example, and it also claimed that police had arrested King seven times, when he’d in fact only been arrested four times.

Pointing to these small errors, a Jim Crow police official won a $500,000 verdict against the Times in an Alabama court — close to $5 million in 2022 dollars. Had this verdict stood, it would have chilled journalism of all kinds, because it would have meant that any newspaper or other outlet that prints even very small factual mistakes could have been hit with a verdict large enough to bankrupt the outlet.

The New York Times decision, however, prevented this outcome by holding that the First Amendment imposes limits on defamation lawsuits. When someone speaks about a public figure and about a matter of public concern, the Court held, they cannot be held liable for making false statements unless that statement was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Thomas argued in McKee v. Cosby (2019) that New York Times should be overruled. Indeed, Thomas’s opinion suggests that states should be free to define their own defamation law free of constitutional constraints. “The States are perfectly capable of striking an acceptable balance between encouraging robust public discourse and providing a meaningful remedy for reputational harm,” Thomas wrote.

If this approach were to prevail, state officials could once again use malicious defamation lawsuits to target journalists. Suppose, for example, that I mistakenly report that “500 people attended a rally protesting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis,” when in fact the rally was attended by only 450 people. If states can set their own defamation laws, free of constitutional constraint, then DeSantis could sue me and Vox Media for millions, endangering our ability to continue reporting on DeSantis — and potentially bankrupting Vox in the process.”

Conservatives Say They Care About the Constitution. Until They Talk About Criminal Justice.

“GOP senators who are attacking President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court pick seem weirdly unaware of how our justice system works. By focusing in part on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s former role as a criminal defense attorney, they act as if it’s wrong to provide a defense to people accused of a crime—and that if the government levels a charge, it must be right.

Hey, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear—or something like that. “Like any attorney who has been in any kind of practice, they are going to have to answer for the clients they represented and the arguments they made,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) said in reference to Jackson and other Biden nominees. Apparently, defense attorneys should only defend choirboys.

Yet I guarantee if Hawley—known for his fist pump in support of Jan. 6 protestors at the U.S. Capitol—became the target of an overzealous prosecutor who accused him of inciting an insurrection, he’d be happy to have a competent defense attorney to advocate on his behalf. That attorney shouldn’t be forever stained for defending someone as loathsome as Hawley.”

“Jackson will be the nation’s first Supreme Court justice to have served as a public defender, with Thurgood Marshall being the last justice to have criminal defense experience.”

“A study last year by the libertarian Cato Institute found the Trump administration’s judicial appointments tilted in favor of prosecutors over those who represented individuals by a 10-to-one margin. Only 14 percent of the liberal Obama administration’s appointees defended individuals. Most judges strive to be fair, but their backgrounds color their worldview.”

War Crimes Charges Could Help Putin, Not Hurt Him

“The role of popular elections as the source of ruling legitimacy is just one way in which it is hard to categorize the Russian political system. For all the talk of Putin’s dictatorial personality and wide latitude to crackdown on civil liberties, the institutions of Putinism were built by his democratic predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, enshrined in his 1993 constitution. Flawed and imperfect in practice during the tumultuous 1990s, these foundations were democratic in principle: Grassroots civil society flourished alongside a lively media environment, as legislators and leaders were chosen from a variety of contenders. Even as those liberties have subsequently been eroded and independent media curtailed, the institutions still specify that Russia’s leaders serve at the will of the people. Indeed, the ratcheting-up of Kremlin propaganda is meant, more than anything, to reassure Russians that Putin’s leadership is worthy of their continued support. Such peans to the people would be unnecessary in a classic, run-of-the-mill dictatorship.

Consequently, political scientists are at odds with how to describe Putin’s Russia. Some call it a “competitive authoritarian” regime, where democratic institutions and procedures simply provide a facade of legitimacy for the dictatorship. Others label it an “information autocracy,” in which the powers of state-run media are marshaled to build a public image of Putin as a competent leader, deserving of political support, and it works to generate the popular support he needs. What these different perspectives have in common is what Peskov said: that Putin’s political sovereignty ultimately lies with the Russian people, however manipulated or misinformed they might be.”

“Western hopes that the Russian people would rise up and topple Putin in a popular revolution seem further from reality today than at the start of the war. The smattering of protests across Russia during the first weeks of the war have largely fizzled out. Between the Kremlin propaganda machine in overdrive and criminalization of expressions of opposition, Putin’s approval in nationwide polls is now up to 83 percent, with 81 percent support for the “special military operation.”

What’s more, Russian elites appear to be consolidating behind Putin. Rather than diversifying internationally and finding safe havens abroad, powerful oligarchs and cosmopolitan elites—many of them under Western sanctions—now understand that they are tethered to Russia and to Putin personally. Once-feuding factions are realizing they’re all now in the same boat. Few will bolt for greener pastures in Europe or the U.S., even if they could.

In an eye-opening account by independent Russian journalist Farida Rustamova on the tribulations of Russia’s political elites since the war, she quotes a high-ranking source in a sanctioned Russian company as saying “All these personal sanctions cement the elites. Everyone who was thinking about a new life understands that, for the next 10-15 years at least, their lives are concentrated in Russia, their children will study in Russia, their families will live in Russia. These people feel offended. They will not overthrow anyone, but will build their lives here.”

Before the war, the dominant narrative of Kremlin-controlled media was that Russia is a mighty superpower—besieged on all sides by enemies and conspirators, both Western and homegrown—and only Putin could lead them. Lamentably, the coordinated international response to Putin’s bloody war has only solidified and reinforced that us-against-the-world narrative, and largely rallied the Russian people behind Putin.

In this context, the Russian response to the accusations of genocide in Ukraine have been predictable: It is all a Western “fake” meant to further impugn the dignity of Russia and its leader. Pro-Russian social media accounts have claimed that the corpses are either fake, or are actors, or were killed after the Russians left. The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed “not a single local resident has suffered any violent action” while Bucha was under Russian control. These are all claims that have been easily debunked. By parroting the official line of the Foreign Affairs Ministry that it could not have been Russia that committed such atrocities, but rather the United States staging a “provocation,” Kremlin state-run media only reinforces and retrenches the us-against-the-world narrative already widely accepted among the Russian people.”