Monday, 8 September 2014

How Russia Defeated Western Journalism

Do you think that the government in Ukraine was overthrown in a violent, Western-backed putsch, and the new government in Kyiv is dominated by far-right radicals? Do you suspect that the downing of MH17 was orchestrated by a Kyiv "junta" to garner support for military intervention in Ukraine by the West? Do You think that there has been no armed intervention by the Kremlin in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with tanks and mercenaries and regular units of the Russian army, and that the war is a purely domestic Ukrainian affair? Do you think that the volunteer battalions fighting on the behalf of the Kyiv government are, to a man, neo-Nazi fascists, hell-bent on subjugating the people of eastern Ukraine, and forcing them to speak Ukrainian rather than Russian?

Then you've been hoodwinked by Kremlin propaganda.

Don't feel too ashamed though: you've been misled by the most sophisticated propaganda machine that the world has ever seen - one that attacks, undermines and emasculates a key source of information that you may rely on: the Western media. As a small part of that media, I'm partly to blame for your being misled, so I owe it to you to explain as best I can how this happened.

The Kremlin propagandists have achieved this propaganda coup in three ways:

1. Undermining the credibility of Western journalism, or the journalism practiced in democracies. In Russia, and other autocratic regimes, the media serve the purposes of the state. There is no conception of the media as a "Fourth Estate" that is in effect as separate and equal part of government, performing an overseeing role that protects democracy. Why should the media perform such a role when there is no democracy to protect? Instead, in authoritarian states, the media are an arm of government, a propganda appendage, who pass only the government-approved message. By extension, it is assumed, wrongly, by the people who live under autocratic regimes, that the Western media serve exactly the same role. The reporting of Western journalists is thus undermined, with journalists being equated to agents of their governments, and thought of as nothing better than propagandists or spies. This wooly thinking even infects the well-meaning but naive liberal left in the West, who (rightly) distrust their own governments, but (wrongly) won't believe their own media. Meanwhile, the "journalists" of an authoritarian state like Russia can be found in places like Ukraine advancing the goals of their state through their "reporting."

2.  Understanding and expoliting the "Golden Rules" of journalism. The Kremlin propagandists know very well that Western journalists value their integrity, and that none of them wants to compromise it. None of them wants to make an error that will dent their reputation, and thus their career. The Kremlin propagandists know that Western journalists are risk-averse when it comes to reporting - they know that while each one of them is desperate to get the story FIRST, it must also be CORRECT. Mistakes will haunt you long after the story has broken and the brief glory of the breaking story has faded. This risk-aversion can be expolited by simply tearing off the shoulder patch of a Russian soldier. Western journalists can no longer report "Russian soldiers are in the process of annexing Crimea." They can't identify the soldiers for sure - they can't risk being wrong, even though it's completely obvious, even to themselves, who these soldiers are. Ditto unmarked Russian T-72 tanks in Ukraine. They can't report what they know personally to be the truth.

3. Setting up "alternative media" that pretend to be paragons of Western media values. The Russian Kremlin propaganda channel RT (formerly Russia Today) has been set up to promote the Russian government's propaganda in a way soothingly familiar to a Western audience. It employs young, pretty, cash-hungry journalists from Western countries, who are almost entirely lacking in a sense of journalistic ethics, to mouth the word of the Kremlin in a way that sounds acceptable to a Western audience. When presented with a channel like RT, a Westerner might assume that this is a bona fide news organization, that follows the rules of Western journalism, when in fact it is a propaganda machine that will not hesitate to promulgate the most absurd and outrageous lies in the interests of its masters, and will only retract them, in an insincere face-saving exercise, if it steps so far beyond the bounds of the credible that it cannot even convince its own fact-challenged staff that it was reporting accurately.

Absurd though it seems, these are the reasons I cannot tell you on the radio tonight some things that I know personally to be true: There never was a rebellion in Ukraine: it was fomented by Russian intelligence operatives - most people in eastern Ukraine never supported the separatists. The reason the Ukrainian army has suffered reverses in the last two weeks is because Russia sent in massive quantities of men and materiel to stop the "rebels" from losing. MH17 was almost certainly shot down by a BUK anti-aircraft missile, operated by Russians. And the "ceasefire" is almost certainly a ruse to wrong foot the West and the Ukrainian government into lowering its guard ahead of further Russian intervention in Ukraine, and then further afield.

I can't tell you all that because the Kremlin propagandists will assault my every claim with obfuscation, confusion and denial, and their account will be broadcast in the Western media, who "seek the other side of the story," and give it equal airtime, as if this other side of the story is not the outright lies and propaganda that it actually is.

That is why Russian propaganda has defeated Western journalism. Now: what are we going to do about it?

33 comments:

  1. Euan, why can't you get on the radio tonight and say what you know to be true, that these conclusions are based on your judgement and long experience, then go on to say that these things cannot be proved according to Western journalistic standards of proof due to Russian government propaganda efforts, which are specifically designed to make proof difficult.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing makes it more clear that the RuSSians are guilty then a RuSSian troll jumping in to spread some more lies and propaganda.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Tristan has it Right. Funny Mr. "Fofanov" how people in your circles friends all become Russian or from the Baltic states as you look into friends of friends. Putinist troll that you are.

      Delete
    4. Malayan government announced that they have good evidence and will soon disclose more that airplane was shot down by a surface to air missile

      Delete
    5. Holes consistent with shrapnel, from a Buc warhead. How many conspiracy theories did the FSB cook up to cover it up?

      Delete
  3. If you can't say these things to be true because, as you admit, you are afraid you'll be wrong - do you truly believe them to be true?

    I know they are true. I believe they are true. And because I know these realities are infallible, I publish them. Because the truth matters, not reputation. This, ultimately, is about cojones.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, western journalism lost entire credibility after events in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Crimea was luck to had independence and not be involved in the war of Kiev against their own people since they feel betrayed by their democractic elected Luhansk president. Before that they were happy carrying the Ukrainian flag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Miki, you should see those "democratic elections of Yanukovich" with payed thugs, and thousands of disappeared ballots.

      Delete
    2. Yeah Miki, There was not an option on the ballot to stay in Ukraine. Google it.

      Delete
  5. What Mat said, with Unknown's disclaimer. Having said that...

    "By extension, it is assumed, wrongly, by the people who live under autocratic regimes, that the Western media serve exactly the same role."

    Actually they generally do. It has not escaped notice that much of the Western media is a Party Press, and this recognition is spoken more and more openly.

    MH17 is NOT an example I'd cite for this, but you'd have to be blind and deaf not to notice it, especially when award-winning journalists like Sheryl Attkisson are quitting over it, and saying that it affects BOTH corporate and political coverage (the former generally, the latter in very slanted fashion). Or when Pew surveys show a level of diversity in the field that approaches the governments of 1-party states.

    Trust level surveys show that the public is noticing. The follow-on consequences are becoming obvious, as outside entities make exploitation of this weakness the core of their plans. Expect more of that. And the Western Media have done it to themselves.

    The way out is individual - the hard-won credibility of individual journalists. Unfortunately, that won't solve the macro problem in the near term. All you can do is start building up, out of the ruins, and trust that it will become something in time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for this article. There is an answer to the Russian propaganda machine; it has to be found. But like all democratic etc. regimes, they work slowly but I believe that we will triumph in the end over propaganda, misinformation, and the underlying disregard for individual human dignity and intelligence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good words. Most think that if is on TV it has to be true. I add that to his piece has it has help RT with their spin tactics.

      Delete
  7. You can try to "fight" the Putinist shills that are paid handsomely btw, by discrediting them but they come to blog sites like this with fake profiles and many accounts that makes it seem that you are outnumbered 100 to 1.

    ReplyDelete
  8. thou shall not kill..anything...

    ReplyDelete
  9. lol - Western Journalism died the day Fox News (and everyone else by extension) won the right to lie to it's audience at the appellate court level back in 2003, see Fox News v. Jane Akre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And everybody by extension LOLOLOOLOLLOLOL.

      Delete
  10. Facts Euan..... you don't have information that can't be discredited? Then they are not facts. It is as simple as that. We don't care what you "believe" we just want you to report exactly what you see. Exactly who it is that told you what. Not social media and anonymous sources. When it comes to WAR and DEATH you better be damn sure you have the truth!

    You don't like the public or the other countries involved questioning your facts and giving another side of the story? Too Bad! There is more than one perspective and in this day of broad global media those different sides of the stories will come out. It's a good thing and healthy that our pre-conceived ideas are being challenged. Step up your journalistic skill or step off!

    Have you found Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction yet?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for your wise words

    IT REMINDS ME OF STALIN I

    the dead speak
    to us, memorials
    for our dead


    IT REMINDS ME OF STALIN II

    first Putin
    takes Georgia,
    then he takes Ukraine


    IT REMINDS ME OF STALIN III

    Danish frontpages
    useful idiots
    turning their backs on

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which Danish front pages? Please elaborate.

      Delete
  12. You definitely make some good points. However, I think one thing you did not mention is that western journalists (just like the western politicians), were o so afraid to be accused of being NOT IMPARTIAL. Even when it was very clear (and there was plenty of evidence from journalists on the ground, witnesses and victims) that there were Russian mercenaries torturing and killing Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine, most western media kept on talking about 'separatists' and 'rebels'. Journalists could have called an ace an ace. Probably they were not allowed to call terrorists 'terrorists' because of management decisions, but still .... Also I think that many western media failed to use the many, many Ukrainian resources available in various media, and preferred to publish press releases by the Russian government .......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hear, hear! well said Jan Waanders. western journalists, if you can call them that anymore, have retreated behind the "objective to a fault" excuse. so much un critical critical thinking going on. they have become nothing more than megaphones for governments as well as scandal chasers. either fear of losing their posh invites and access, or just plain lazy. there are some good ones, just few and far between. it's getting so hard to get accuracy in reporting.

      Delete
  13. Euan,

    1. It's funny. In my experience from a west european nation, "my" media lies all the time. They push their own agenda which is surprisingly similar to the government agenda. All I can guess is that it has to do with the owner structures and that government and big business are in bed together as usual. But the trust I put in them is about the same as I have for RT but for different subjects. Both lie and manipulate when it suits their purpose. But I'm always happy to discover the odd times when they won't.

    2. So risk averse that western journalists just won't risk a mistake? What you say sounds good. it's just that it goes against my entire experience. They make "mistakes" all the time. The mistakes they make has a lot to do with wanting to convince the public that reality looks like their world view and their opinions and if they have to twist it to fit, they will.

    3. The western journalists that you claim are without ethics at RT... it's quite funny because RT allows subjects that would never be allowed in much of western media (perhaps with the exception of a few places in the U.S). Things that goes against the dominating liberal agenda are most often off limits. So what is most free becomes a matter of perspective and topic. If the topic is against Russia then yes, RT might not be credible. But RT is more credible when it comes to taking up politically incorrect subjects that most other journalists would try to ignore because it doesn't fit their world view in the west.

    Latest news from Sweden is that even our most famous science program on state television tried to convince us not to vote for the nationalists. Then you know it has gotten far... That's the media we are to trust? I don't think so.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I read some more posts of your blog here and it becomes painfully obvious what your agenda is.

    It's no more noble than the russian's. As far back as I read in this blog, it's about how "we" can "maneuver" against the russians and win. And what do we win? We win Ukraine for the idea of "Europe", or more correctly, Ukraine for the liberal hegemony of the U.S, parts of the EU and the rest of "the west".

    You write things like "We just have to convince them to look to the future, to Europe". You don't imagine the russians are thinking the exact same thing but replace the word Europe for Russia and possibly future for "good ol' times"?

    So it becomes quite hard to see you as some sort of neutral part reporting "the truth" in this since you'e a part of the war. You're advicing your side on how to expand east and block the russians expansion west.

    How is that any different from what the russians are doing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ask the people of former communist Soviet satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe what the difference is between US/West hegemony and Russian oppression...

      But I get what you mean with your comment: there is no such thing as real objectivity. Of course I try to put nuances to the whole situation but at some point is enough and clear who is just plainly 'fooling' everybody. Nowadays no sain persons tries to 'understand' or 'see' Germany's world view in 39-45...

      Delete
  15. "Western journalists are risk-averse when it comes to reporting - they know that while each one of them is desperate to get the story FIRST, it must also be CORRECT."
    Is this supposed to be a serious statement of fact?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Regards your last paragraph, here is very good article from someone who actually bothered to go east and talk wih locals, not just stayed in Kiev and reported whatever his/hers local facebook friends from similar socioeconomic background told them.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n17/keith-gessen/why-not-kill-them-all

    The author not only confirms the separatist movement is grassroot but also admits how the radical right/neonacist movement played a significant part in Maidan and how these people now form the base and most radical part of the Ukrainan force.

    It also needs to be finally said, those special Russian forces which were probably really deployed in Ukraina in late August helped to push the army line back from huge cities and made the Kiev government (or atleast some more reasonable members including the president) stop the so called anti-terrorist operation before it could turn into a seriously bloody event. So basically, Mr. Putin fulfilled his word and protected the russian speaking east people from slaughtering. If this was some Syria city like Holms and the special forces were from US you would be applauding Mr. Obama for finally doing what should be done times ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .... who started the w ole conflict? And don't you remember what offer the rebels got from Kiev before it starteis anti terrorist operation?

      Delete
  17. __________________________________________________________
    NEED YOUR RESPONSE: Please only YES or NO

    We need your confirmation ...

    We have a new paid survey for you.

    Interested taking it?

    http://adfoc.us/37141461146983

    It's nothing hard and get profits ...

    It is an opportunity in which your only option is to win.
    http://adfoc.us/37141461146983
    __________________________________________________________

    ReplyDelete