Monday, 24 February 2014

Ukraine and Media Fairy Tales

Such a shame. All that media infrastructure, all those highly educated journalists, cutting edge information technology. And what do we get from Western MSM coverage of the Ukraine crisis? Fairytales about big bad Russian ogres and Western-approved of princesses. This is naked self-serving, Western national self-interest dressed up as humanitarian concern for Ukrainians. It is as if the centuries of educational and technological progress since Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm first conjured up stories of good versus evil had never occurred.

Now our storytellers are be-suited official sources and their dutiful establishment conduits in the media, telling us about big bad Russian bears hiding in the Ukrainian woods, stirring up the locals, spreading fear and panic. But these storytellers, with their breathless pronouncements, and their flashing cameras, are not actually telling us a damn thing about the woods - only about the trees. In fact they point our faces straight at the trees, the individual events, the falling of a President, the fragility of the interim government, images of goodies and baddies. They hold our faces up against the fracas, and we feel part of it, informed and so can go about our daily business under the illusion that we know what the fuck is going on when the whole exercise has actually diverted us from the truth. We can’t see the woods for the trees. Not that we are meant to.

I heard an Economist journo on BBC 4 this morning describing how Russia will likely now indulge in “encouraging insurrections” perhaps even with a view to ensuring partition of the Russophile east Ukraine from the Europhile/NATOphile western Ukrainians. A lot of western orientated commentators would have no difficulty nodding sagely along to that view yet at the same time accusing anyone suggesting there has been comparable Western interference and manipulation in the current Ukrainian story of being a nutty conspiracy theorist.

So it can’t be the concept of conspiracy they object to because they already have attributed conspiratorial motives and methods to Russia. No, it’s the notion that we, lovely-peace-loving-humanitarian-democratic us, are somehow above the fray.

Those who claim to abhor conspiracy theories are often the first to promote them as long as they explain the behaviour of an enemy. Understandable this may be. Objective it is not. Informative? Perhaps, in some lopsided way. But it’s another excellent view of those “fascinating” trees - and yet another diversion from those pesky woods.

The woods, in this case, is the geo-political context of what is happening in Ukraine. Russia has been out-foxed by the political and intelligence machinations of the West.  All’s fair in politics and war. And Russia is no innocent abroad here. But the notion that “Machiavellian” Russia is somehow “interfering” in Ukraine while the “honourable” West is simply wanting to ensure events take their “natural” course is as infantile as any fairy tale. Are we really to suppose the West has no interest here?

This is not about anything other than the march of NATO, the vanguard of Western corporate interests. Not that The West is uniquely wicked. On the contrary, this is just what empires do, have always done and always will do. And the West is simply the current leading empire. The notion that we are in some post-history age without empires and where the Great Powers subjugate their economic interests to the rule of international law is indeed comforting, like many a bed time story. However, in the real word, the opposite is true. As Chomsky says, “You don’t need to be a genius to see it. In fact, it takes genius NOT to see it.”

If one considers the history of Great Powers then it’s obvious that Russia has no choice but to resist Western expansion or to accept Western influence on her borders and then perhaps within them. If Russia were to accept that her status as a Great Power would be imperilled. This is why of course Russia went to war in Georgia in 2008. That is why she has resisted Western interests in Syria. And this is why she is deeply unsettled by growing Western influence in Ukraine.

Russia has been out-manoeuvred politically in Ukraine. This deeply divided country on her borders appears to have chosen to lean westward. Certainly this is the wish of many in Western Ukraine. But to suppose that that wish was something Western interests did nothing to encourage is to pretend that Great Power politics does not exist. That takes us back to the land of Hans Christian Andersen.

One expects Great Powers to behave this way. But aren’t we, in a supposedly sophisticated western democracy, entitled to journalism that challenges their press-released narratives? Don’t we deserve more than fairy tales? Or do we just want the comfort of of a bed time story?

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