The application of the techniques of cancel culture to the entire country of Russia continued on Thursday.

Private actors have decided to take it upon themselves to go beyond official sanctions to strike out against Russia in any way they can, with some serious and many not-so-serious implications.


World Wrestling Entertainment Inc, for instance, announced steps that it said would eliminate Russian access to its professional wrestling content. It took the time, in announcing this critical move, to remind the world that this included “the company’s weekly Raw, SmackDown and NXT shows, its on-demand library, and all of its premium live events, including WrestleMania 38.”

In other words, it used the occasion to market itself to non-Russian wrestling fans and to remind us that WrestleMania is now in its 38th edition, whatever that may mean, and that there is an on-demand library for those seeking the golden-oldies from those earlier WrestleManias.

Similarly, the maker of a video game called “Cyberpunk 2077” said it was halting sales in Russia and, for good measure, Belarus. Electronic Arts said it had started to remove the Russian national team and all Russian clubs from three games in its popular soccer-franchise. So even the avatars of Russians are getting canceled.

A Harvard Law student announced, via LinkedIn, that he was quitting his position as a summer intern at a prestigious law firm in protest over the firm’s refusal to shutter its Moscow office. “To all the firms that think it is acceptable to continue operating in Russia, this is my message: Russia is a pariah state, not your emerging market. Your pro bono programs and equality initiatives won’t wash away the stain of working for war criminals,” the budding Harvard lawyer intoned.

This is the type of behavior we’ve grown accustomed to from, say, employees at Netflix upset at Dave Chappelle’s most recent show. Cancel culture now applies to enemies of the regime both foreign and domestic.

More seriously, a tanker loaded with Russian-origin natural gas was diverted after dockers from one UK trade union refused to unload it, saying they “did not want to touch the cargo.” Russian oil, known as Urals, continues to trade at a steep discount to Brent Crude. Before the attack on Ukraine, it was common for Urals to trade between $2 and $3 a barrel below Brent because it was regarded as inferior quality. Most recently it has been traded between $16 and $22 below Brent.

Javier Blas, a Bloomberg columnist on energy and commodities, reported on Thursday that “Russian flagship Urals crude plunges to a fresh record large discount of **minus $22.7-a-barrel** to benchmark Dated Brent. Even at such a huge discount, oil trader Trafigura found no bidders.”

The White House on Thursday repeated the official line that we have no plans to sanction Russian energy, but the private sector appears to have other plans. Russian energy is being sanctioned by oil traders, refiners, dock workers, and others, even if the governments of the west still have not taken that step.

One reason the private sector has gotten ahead of the government here is cancel culture outrage. Another, however, is the widespread expectation that sanctions on the energy sector could be forthcoming if Putin steps up his attacks. No one wants to be stuck with a paid for but undeliverable tanker of oil.

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