Saturday, May 7, 2022

An Example of Reality Control by Media: the Russo-Ukrainian War, 2022


Above: Artwork from a Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs PR dossier depicting three cartoon-y Ukrainian soldiers in a roofless JDM-variant Chevrolet LUV/Mazda truck (note the telltale fender-mounted rear view mirrors) with a bed full of coffins with Russian flags. Found on Consortium News.

Above: Redditor spindokto on the Volunteers for Ukraine subreddit, claiming to have been a witness to the Russian missile strike of the Ukrainian military base for mercenaries/"volunteer fighters" at Yavoriv on March 13th. Note the amount of arguments he's getting from other users. Spindokto later deleted his account for reasons now unknown.

Like watching two overlapping films projected onto a wall....

Since the Russian army invaded on February 24th, the mainstream press has gone into a hyperbole mode, claiming that this was the first war in Europe since WWII (forgetting the Yugoslavian civil wars that ran the entire length of the '90s and NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999), pushing for a no-fly zone that would probably end with (at the very least) a limited nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States, and for endless sanctions on the population of Russia - all the American fast food restaurants except for Burger King closed, European countries and the FBI have been seizing superyachts that are either owned by Russian billionaires ("oligarchs") or allegedly Uncle Vova himself. RT America (Russia Today) was closed down at the beginning of March, leaving only Russian-speaking Americans to see any news from the other side, which left a giant opening for the Ukrainian government to put across its points through Reuters and the Associated Press, and then on to the newspapers and TV/streaming newsmedia companies. Twitter and TikTok helped this immensely, with hoaxes like the "Ghost of Kyiv" fighter ace where the video evidence was taken from a simulator, re-use of footage from previous wars, and years-old old footage of Ahed Tamimi yelling at Israeli border troops was uploaded or linked to. This is now Ukraine's media war, and the English-language Internet is a necessary partner, though after the fakes, you began to see less of the gung-ho attitude, except of certain self-made echo-chambers like r/Ukraine, r/UkraineVideoReport, and Facebook (judging by their willingness to allow anti-Russian hate speech and death threats aimed at Putin).

The "overlapping" element is that the basic facts switch from one side to the other: was there a massacre at Bucha? Wikipedia says "yes", (Russian owned) Sputnik International says "no, it was a propaganda fake". The American site Consortium News says "hey, wait a minute...", asks some basic questions. Who was slain changes -- it was originally 300-plus men of draftable age (16 to 60), Wikipedia has a photo of a dead woman behind a ruined building with no English-language source listed (it turned out to be a 11 minute fragment of a Ukrinform video, thus state news of Ukraine) and no photographer's name.  Mel magazine went after the "Ukrainian armed grandmothers" stories, finding holes and oddities.

The Russians

Because of the total shutdown of online Russian media in the United States, you have to find sources wherever you can discussing the Russian side of the war. Novara Media (UK) did a piece on who is actually fighting Russia's war, and it's contract labor from the provinces, not people from the big cities. The Russian Reader has been useful to me for years, laying out the cultural shifts within the country by translating blog and Facebook posts. That blog has shown the war to be a disaster for common Russians. Matt Taibbi started a Substack site, Russian Dissent that is mostly Boris Kagarlitsky right now, but that might change. Moon of Alabama is a political blog that has been around since the Bush II years, and there has been a running commentary on the war, highly critical of the press. The people who comment on the blog are a bit much. If you can tolerate machine-translations from Russian, Colonel Cassad is out there (and pro-war). There are other blogs of a similar nature, but we don't want to name names. The complete opposite is Evgenia Kovda, writing at Yasha Levine's Substack; she can see the disaster, the un-named others can't.

Is there an ending?

We would argue that the war English-language viewers/readers are shown on mainstream media seems to be pro-Ukrainian because the US government favors that state over Russia, The Russians are getting a similarly-warped picture. The conflict benefits nobody but the weapons manufacturers and a tiny elite in Washington and Moscow, and it is long past due to have somebody step in to negotiate a ceasefire. This blog will come back to this subject later.

Above: Oleg Kuvaev's Masyanya, episode 160, "Wakazashi". Kuvaev now lives in Israel, but he still makes his cartoon, which at one point was on Russian television in the early 2000s. Not anymore, if you watck the cartoon to the end. Hard subtitled.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the amazing list of blogs! Russians do love their LiveJournal - a saving grace for me, as they seem to lack a symmetrical answer to Reddit (Pikabu is mainly for women).

    On the other hand, I can't help mentioning that such a pacifist stance is useless currently. This war is being waged for the very existence of Russian statehood, and too many Russians (even on YouTube - Strelkov, Sivkov, Kvachkov, Kalashnikov) understand this much. If Russia asks for peace, there will be no Russia - she will be torn by forces from outside and inside.