When it comes to Ukraine, you need to chose. Today’s buzzing intellectuals and pundits « take sides ». They either defend democracy thriving Kiev or emphatically cry outrage against American led destabilization of Russia and its influence sphere. Axis of evil vs. The Forces of Good. This friction between the two sides has turned information seeking during this current crisis into a difficult intellectual exercise. Welcome to the Ukraine Media War.
In an usual move today, at least at a diplomatic level, John Kerry, called the state-funded network Russia Today a « propaganda bullhorn », taking the media war to the next level.
Kerry goes further in describing RT as Vladimir Putin’s platform for making his fantasies become reality. It is not surprising that, in the age of digital media, information is where the battle is happening.
Why attack the media now?
To put Kerry’s attack on RT in context, one must read his words carefully: « Putin’s fantasies ». Since the beginning of the Ukrainian situation, the real issue has always been a persona problem with Vladimir Putin. He is painted as ruthless dictator warmongering around poor baltic and slavic people looking for land,
children and cookies, if available. While this strategy might have worked with Saddam Hussein or Assad, dictators in their last days governing a ruined-by-sanctions economy, Vladimir Putin is just light years away from a similar situation. He is elected, extremely popular within his own population, and is policing one of the most difficult countries to manage in history: Post Soviet Russia.
Now I’m no personal fan of Putin. His record on civil liberties is poor, and his economic reforms are insufficient. He also is a former KGB agent, which is always a reason to approach a similar personage with caution.
But comparing Putin to Hitler? The Godwin point in the Ukraine Media War has been attained ladies and gentlemen.
For former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Putin’s actions are comparable to Hitler’s during WWII. This echoes opinions expressed in French media calling the European « inaction » in Ukraine another « Munich » Agreement ». Media are painting a « Hitler » picture of Putin, and this detail is blurring any calm geopolitical analysis of the Ukraine situation.
But this battle isn’t an easy one to win for Western Media. RT are modern, their YouTube channel rocks. Their journalists are competent. Their frontline reporting is precise. Their social media strategy is one of the finest I know. Painting a « Hitler » picture of Putin is not that easy when the other side’s media outlet is RT. And most of all, they offer a DIFFERENT news perspective. Someone singing a false note in the media chorus. Good.
Instead here I am analyzing media communication. You could have thought that we were talking about the people of Ukraine, their well being, their stability, their future. Nope, it’s a media war against Nazi Putin wanting to occupy Ukraine.
I just have one issue with the Nazi point. The Nazi’s are in fact in Kiev (Google Svoboda, should be easy; judge for yourselves), not eastern Ukraine. Something mainstream media failed to mention until recently.
From a purely news point of view, you might think the inclusion of Nazis in a European government for the first time since World War II might make for a good story. But that would go against the preferred American narrative that the protesters in the Maidan were peaceful and idealistic – and that they were set upon by the evil Yanukovych who simply fled because he could no longer withstand their moral pressure.
So, in the 21st century, the age of digital enlightenment, why again are we hiding chunks of info from entire populations, drawing a « one size fits all » description for all international crises? My former professor Doctor Richard Rooke asks the same question, in far better words than mine
The access to information, even gossip, is no longer a restricted game in the digital age. From local newspapers to cross-national broadcasting, there is open trumpeting across the e-platforms: the Twitter effect is one of the best examples. It is not that Twitter is more truthful than anything else, but it has opened the controlling portals to the managed text, to a wider community beyond the affiliated, and controlled, often ‘stay-at-home’ editorial journalist-politician set, and this is inherently powerful if not disruptive.
Clean your own backyard
Now get me wrong. RT is doing a lot of propaganda on the Ukrainian situation. A lot of pro Russian pundits have done some bad fact checking too. For example, the Sapir-Meyssan affair, that you can read here in French.
However, so is France 24, the BBC, the NYT, the Washington Post, and any media I can think of.
In this media below, Aude Lechrist, a France 24 question, asks the following question to a Russian expert:
Why does Russia hate the European Union?
Now this is France 24, funded by taxpayers money, supposed to portray an independent and professional view of international relations. So how do we end up with the stupid, simplistic, question, do they hate us? Really Miss LeChrist? Russians, dear failed journalist, are as European as the French are European, as Charles De Gaulle always considered. The only hatred between the Russian and European people is political and media orchestrated.
In the same show on France 24, Caroline Fourest is present to denounce « Russia’s lies and propaganda ». Is Caroline Fourest an expert in international relations? Nope. An expert in Russian affairs? Nope. She is nothing more than a left-wing, pro FEMEN intellectual. What an expertise
(again, with my money).
And you dare accuse RT of being a propaganda bullhorn, okay, fair enough. But why does CNN diffuse in Arabic then if not for propaganda reasons? Why does France 24 diffuse all over Africa in French if not for propaganda reasons? Why does Al Jazeera diffuse in English, if not for propaganda reasons?
Mainstream Media Mirage to hide the real questions
The real question, as Russian affairs expert professor Stephen Cohen puts it, is the geopolitical crisis. He describes it as another Cuban Missile crisis in a video I’ve linked below
(watch the documentary by the Kennedy foundation if you have time, great stuff). Anyone who has read even the smallest summary of the Cuban Missile crisis knows that its equivalent in the 21st century could be devastating.
Simply put, there is no earthly way that Russia might allow anyone, not even the Chinese, to establish an influence at its borders. Putin has already declared that the fall of the Soviet Union was the biggest geostrategic catastrophe of the 20th century. He did not say that from a sentiment of nationalistic nostalgia. He said that thoughtfully, as a fact. The fall of the Soviet Union left a region in chaos in more chaos. The Soviet Union should have fallen according to Putin, but he does not share the « spread chaos » everywhere strategy that has been applied by the West towards the former Soviet Union countries.
The strategy of the West has always been Russia’s destabilization around the satellite states surrounding its borders. Putin has offered concessions to Obama and the west, putting him under fire from Russian nationalists. How has been repaid? Constant provocation. On a diplomatic level, there’s only but a small room for dialogue anymore.
And media war is making that room for negotiation smaller and smaller. When it disappears, we might have armed conflict at the doorsteps of Europe. With the European establishment supporting the first government on the continent that includes proud Neo Nazi members.
I witnessed Iraq
Yeah, Iraq, the biggest media lie in history. Not on single informed person believed Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. Scientifically impossible they said. I was still young then, so my digital awareness was still limited. But when I started my college studies, I read about the Iraq war. I read how thoroughly mainstream media check the info handed to them by the establishment. The Ukraine media war is offering striking similarities.
While some real journalists are struggling to report info from critical battlegrounds like Syria for example, others are squandering the prestige of comfortable reporting. When you write an article from your New York office, make sure you check your info. When you are speaking as the spokeswoman of the Department of State, don’t present evidence based on the observation « They Look Russian ». The truth surely is worth more than that in the digital age.
No one denies Russian intelligence and special forces are present in Ukraine, but, is this the whole picture? No.
CIA Director John Brennan went to Kiev a week ago, though he sought to hide his visit from the public, as the Western-backed regime in Kiev prepared its crackdown on the eastern Ukraine protests. British intelligence has admitted that its agents are combing east Ukraine. Why is the dispatching of spies to Ukraine by Russia more threatening than the appearance of MI6 or of Brennan, who has played a leading role in running a global network of torture camps and a program of drone murder?
Why is the CIA allowed to operate and advise West Ukraine, and Russian intelligence denied influence in Eastern Ukraine? Interests, international politics.
Allow me not to be in a personal state of war with Russia, nor with the Russian people, nor with anyone to the matter of fact. At least not based on unverified media reports and mass statist propaganda.
The best conclusion would be the words of Doctor Rooke:
Are words mightier than the sword? No, because they are inherently, socio-linguistically, philosophically, by their nature words of ‘spin’ – but quality newspaper and other forms of journalism add to our understanding by separating wheat from chaff. A bridge between academic and journalism also helps, which, at its best, supports and enhances freedom of speech. But the popular press, and that includes some aspects of national public broadcasting – which in itself is always limiting, is less substantial, and here lies the problem for reasonable debate about the role of the media in the modern age for modern audiences, especially for the e-aware or the ‘netizens’ of the world.
Let’s hope the « netizens » of the world do an honest and peace seeking reporting job of the Ukrainian situation.
Links and Videos
Stephen Cohen on the Ukraine situation
One of the reasons I love RT, Cross Talk, a great show. You can go out on RT and call Putin a dictator, autocrat, all you want, you will still get a chance to speak. Try doubting Obamacare on MSNBC for example (LOL).
Look how Amanpour loses it. CNN’s credibility on the Ukraine is close to 0. Amanpour was a great reporter once. Now she is on a « WonderWoman will save the world for ya » mission.