More propaganda in the Guardian on Ukraine

Journalists have a substantial responsibility to write the truth. Or, least to do their level best to do so.

In a nominal democracy where public opinion influences (even slightly) public policy people who are in a position to form public opinion have a particularly strong responsibility to write the truth.

Unfortunately many journalists in the West, much of the time, either due to laziness or due to deliberately malign intent write propaganda. They produce the narrative that power wants to see produced. They don’t dig behind the given narrative of power to get at the truth. They, precisely, neglect their true function.

This is an example from the Guardian. It is a report on the recent renewed fighting in Eastern Ukraine. It is a typical piece of Western media propaganda of the kind that floods the press day in day out. It is reasonably well-written. Where it quotes checkable facts (as in “someone said such and such”) the facts check out. At the same time it gives a one-sided version of events. Naturally, the version preferred by Western power mechanisms. It does this by a) missing out the context, b) using loaded language to generate the narrative, c) selective reporting of facts and d) in place of reportage much of the article is add-on narrative and interpretation.

The background to the article is that fighting has broken out again between the forces of the (self-proclaimed) DPR and LPR and Kiev in Ukraine. The narrative preferred by the West on Ukraine is that Russia is to blame for everything. This has to be the narrative because it absolves the West from its responsibility in forcing the conflict in Ukraine and is the only way that the West will “win”, that is secure the whole pie of Ukraine into the EU and NATO. That the vast majority of people in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine do not want to join the EU or NATO [1] – and thus were wholly unrepresented by the February 2014 coup in Kiev – is simply air-brushed out of reality.  That is, the wishes and feelings of millions of Ukrainians don’t count. They are the wrong wishes from the perspective of Western liberals and so Western liberals have no qualms ignoring them.

Turning to the article. There is the usual use of loaded terms. The local militias are described as “Russia-backed separatists”. This neatly eliminates any need to pay attention to the democratic reality. People in the East of Ukraine do not want to join the EU and NATO. The political party of the deposed President Viktor Yanukovych was most strongly supported in the East. [2] When Yanukovych was chased out of office by a Western-backed mob burning policemen (or, of course, “peaceful protestors singing hymns”) the people in the East were in democratic terms disenfranchised. Russia may indeed be “backing” the militias. But to describe the militias as “Russia-backed”, and thus to frame them in terms of their link to Russia, is to mask and hide the legitimate and rational aspirations of the people in this region. The fact is the militia leaders in Donbas have signed up to a political agreement (Minsk 2) which envisages autonomy but not independence. It is therefore factually wrong to describe them as “separatists”. “Russian-backed separatists” as a term specifically serves to mask the legitimate aspirations of people in the East of Ukraine and thus to mask the anti-democratic nature of the Western power-grab in Ukraine.

In this case the US State Department has not blamed Russia for the current uptick in violence.

The article naturally manages to find a source which supports the narrative:

The state department statement was markedly different in tone to comments from the US mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is staffed by career diplomats and may be out of step with the new mood in Washington.

“Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avdiivka,” said the US chargé d’affaires to the OSCE, Kate Byrnes. “We call on Russia to stop the violence, honour the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons and end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact.”

A look at the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine report for 30/1/17 seems to show multiple violations by both sides to the conflict.  [3] Both sides are moving heavy weapons around in violation of the Minsk agreements. Both sides appear to be shelling the other side. The State Department’s version, in a refreshing departure from the “blame Russia” narrative, is closer to the actual OSCE reports. This may not last for long, however.

The Guardian journalist gives the last word to an outgoing official from the last administration:

Diplomats who served during the Obama administration have cautioned against making deals with Russia. “For almost three years the United States has worked closely with our European partners to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict through full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including by using sanctions to encourage Putin to comply,” said Dan Baer, formerly the US ambassador to the OSCE. “This should continue to be US policy going forward; anything else would be irresponsible.”

The destabilisation of Ukraine by the US and EU – who did everything possible to manipulate the shift of Ukraine away from Russia and to the West including the completely shameless signing of the political part of the EU Association agreement with a regime which came to power in a violent coup – is not mentioned in this narrative. The lack of concrete steps by the new regime in Kiev towards implementing the Minsk agreements including a refusal to talk to the other side is also absent from this absurd narrative. But it’s the one that Western liberals mean to stick to if they possibly can.

Another major lacuna on the part of the Western media and Guardian journalists like Shaun Walker, who wrote the article discussed here, is the economic blockade [4] conducted by the regime in Kiev against its own citizens in the areas under control by the DPR and LPR. The blockade is notable for its refusal to pay pensions to elderly residents of these areas. One can scarcely imagine the horror and outrage that we would see in the Western media were Russia to be implementing such a blockade on a region within Russia. Yet this blockade is scarcely mentioned in the Western media.

One final irony. The Guardian is constantly telling its readers about the lack of media freedom in Russia. But we can note that this propagandist and anti-Russian article was written by a journalist who is based in Moscow and who is, presumably able to carry on his work without being harassed by the FSB. And the same article can be read by anyone in Russia with an Internet connection. (The Guardian is not blocked in Russia).

Notes

1. Gallup Poll. April 2014. See p31.

2. WikiPedia

3.

These reports are very difficult to interpret. They often simply describe that an explosion was heard at a certain location, without saying who fired the weapon. This is probably due to a desire to avoid being seen to be pointing fingers. Nonetheless this report (for 30/1/17) clearly records ceasefire violations by both sides in terms of moving around heavy weaponry. In addition, in the detailed annex to the report, a large number of explosions are recorded. In many cases the explosion is listed as “undetermined”. However many are identified as either “impact” or “outgoing”. From this information we can see that both sides are exchanging fire.

4. Sputnik News (Russian State media)

RT

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The danger of not studying history

The Western liberals in the political, media and war industry circles – are (it seems) all convinced that ‘Russia is an aggressor’.

A lot of this is based on Russia’s ‘annexing’ of Crimea in March 2014. The war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 – as a result of which the Georgian republic of South Ossetia became an independent nation – is part of the wider backdrop.

If only these people would study history. If only they would understand political events in terms of their history.

Instead what they do is understand events in terms of the latest policy documents from some liberal think-tank or EU committee or Pentagon policy unit.

From this perspective, say, the ‘invasion’ and ‘annexation’ of Crimea was just that. After all; it was part of Ukraine one day. The next day there were lots of Russian soldiers walking about. And then a few days later it was part of Russia. Just at the moment when the courageous democracy protesters in Maidan Square had – slight hiccup in the narrative here; they can’t say ‘ousted’ as the story they came up with is that President Victor Yanukovych left of his own accord and the opposition responsibly took over the government. So, what they end up with is:- when Yanukovych left and the protesters came to power and brought Ukraine into its democratic European destiny – Russia ‘invaded’. Therefore Putin is not just an annexer. He is anti-democratic. And a threat to the European Union.

The policy document said ‘bring Ukraine into the sphere of influence of the EU and NATO’. They saw, correctly, that many people in Ukraine wanted that. Putin to some extent thwarted that. At least he spoiled the party. So Putin is a psychopath/aggressor. And so on.

The main lacuna in all this concerns the history of Crimea and Ukraine. Yes. That’s right. They jump up and down and talk about war without taking a second to consider history. In brief; Crimea was a part of the Soviet Union, and a part of the Russian Republic in the Soviet Union, until it was transferred to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine – as an administrative convenience in 1954. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a call in Crimea to re-join Russia. The Ukrainian parliament squashed this. Crimea wanting to rejoin Russia was nothing new. (The relevant history is summarized in this pro-Russian English language magazine. A similar history can also be found in the Daily Mail). More that half the population of Crimea are ethnic Russians. A greater proportion have Russian as the language they use on a day to day basis. Of course; all this is just the recent history and does not cover the history of Ukraine – as part of the Russian (and other) Empires in the early 20th, 19th and 18th centuries.

Other lacuna include:

The people of Crimea voted in a referendum organised by a legitimate regional assembly to rejoin Russia. The referendum was covered by the Western press. They failed to produce signs of intimidation etc. A large majority voted to rejoin Russia. Evidence from Crimea e.g. from an informal commission of French parliamentarians continues to be that the majority are happy with that decision. Multiple opinion polls confirm this. Some carried out by Western polling organisations. More than 80% happy is not a slender majority. (Of course not everyone is happy and the liberal Western press is giving coverage to stories about those people).

The political part of the EU Association deal was signed with the new regime in Kiev even before elections were held. So much for democracy.

While it is completely true that a majority of people in the West of Ukraine wanted to move Ukraine in an EU direction – and indeed very passionately so – it is also true that support for EU membership and NATO membership is at less than 20% in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine (Crimea was not polled in this Gallup poll). The centre was more evenly split. Full figures in the Gallup poll conducted in June 2014. Given these divisions it was inevitable that when one side took power in a coup and tried to enforce their preference that the country would be split.

Another obvious lacuna is this. After the fall of the Soviet Union many people in what became the post-Soviet republics wanted to be ‘free’ of Russia/the Soviet Union. That is 100% true. However; some did not. Some people liked life in the Soviet Union. And of course because of the history of the Soviet Union in some sense the inheritor of the Russian Empire – there were people on the peripheries who either were ethnic Russians or felt closer ties to Russia than, say, to Ukraine of Moldova. That this would be the case is blindingly obvious. [1] It is not necessary to ascribe all this to sinister machinations of Putin the ex-KGB spy as NATO loves to do.

To subscribe to the narrative of ‘Russian aggression’ it is necessary to:

  • believe that your own policy positions represent not only ‘truth’ but the sole valid source of truth
  • believe that what you do is always ‘democratic’ because you did it  – because you are ‘democratic’ (so that when you patently ignore democracy, collude in the overthrow of democratically elected leaders, sign far-reaching political agreements outside of any kind of democratic process etc. you can still believe that you represent ‘democracy’)
  • have the kind of mindset of someone who lives in the ‘continuous present’ – who is simply unaware that the present is preceded by the past. That is – be historically naive.
  • be willing to invent narratives and believe them largely because… you invented them

Most of these problems represent various kinds of what is ordinarily taken as psychopathology. It is no exaggeration to say that the West is being directed by people (in NATO, in government centres of power, in the liberal media) who are, in effect, mentally ill.

Notes

1. The South Ossetians are a separate people to the Georgians. They were already seeking autonomy or independence from Georgia before the Russia-Georgia war. (Again; there is no need to postulate sinister Kremlin machinations). If you look at history that provides sufficient explanation for the conflict. (The next line is that Russia stirs up these conflicts. But no evidence is presented of this).