How they distort the narrative on Ukraine

This is an example of how the Western media reports on the news so as to keep the central (NATO/US) narrative on track. The art is not (usually) to tell outright lies but to introduce distortions, change the context, emphasise this, omit that, and coat the already distorted report with an editorial gloss. The article is about the Munich security conference.

Scholz said it was unacceptable that a war in Europe was imminent over Russia’s demand that Ukraine’s path to Nato membership be blocked, when Putin knew such membership was not on the agenda. He also described as ridiculous claims by Putin that a genocide was under way in the Donbas.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/19/russia-johnson-munich-security-conference-putin-ukraine

Let’s look at the background to this.

Scholz is the Chancellor of Germany. Putin has recently commented that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is like “genocide”. Putin also made a comment about genocide following his meeting with Scholz in Moscow last week. It is important (of course) to report accurately. Some outlets manage a reasonable stab at this. For example this Turkish outlet reports:

Speaking about the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine, Scholz said a war in Europe is “unimaginable,” pointing out diplomatic possibilities for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis are not exhausted. Putin opposed him, saying there was a war in Europe, in Yugoslavia, “unleashed by the US and NATO,” but Scholz argued that the situation was different there, there was a threat of genocide. To that Putin said what is happening right now in the east of Ukraine, “discrimination of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, cemented in the country’s legislation” is “genocide” for Russia.

An exact transcript of the press conference remarks is available on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Olaf Scholz: I will emphasise that the situation in Yugoslavia was somewhat different. There was a danger and a threat of genocide, and this ought to have been prevented. I am very glad that everything is going peacefully there and that the Balkan nations have found a future in the European Union. All this is a very good sign.

Vladimir Putin: I will allow myself just to add that, in our view, what is happening in Donbass today is, in fact, genocide.

So. Putin did not spontaneously make a claim about genocide in Eastern Ukraine. Putin had brought up the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999 which took place without a UN Security Council resolution. Scholz then claimed that that was justified because the Kosovo Albanians were threatened with genocide by the Serbs. Putin then replied that “in our view” what is happening in Donbass today is genocide. It is both a mild and intelligent point. He is responding to Scholz’s attempt to differentiate the situation in Serbia/Kosovo in 1998/99 from what is happening now in Ukraine/Donbass. Putin says that from the Russian point of view what is happening in Donbass is like how Scholz characterises what was happening with Serbia and Kosovo in 1998. You can argue about the extent of the atrocities in either case * but it is not unreasonable, since Scholz introduced the topic of Kosovo and genocide, for Putin to say that in our view that is what is happening in Donbass now. The situational contexts are similar; a breakaway region of a larger country with a separate linguistic and cultural (and/or ethnic – it is arguable) makeup is attacked by the larger country. It is of course not widely reported in the West but Ukraine has recently brought in a law requiring service staff to always greet customers in Ukrainian – clearly this is discrimination against the Russian speaking people in the East. [1] But the main point is that Putin was responding to a comment by Scholz about ‘genocide’ and Putin said “in our view”.

Of course the Western media-political apparatus has reported this completely without context as if Putin made an aggressive claim about “genocide”. The State Department has dismissed the claim (which Putin did not make in the way it is being reported) as “false and reprehensible”. [2] The BBC reports it as a “baseless claim”. [2] Of course it is not “baseless” to say “in our view this is genocide”. Furthermore the view itself is not baseless; it is a fact that Kiev has introduced legislation which discriminates against the Russian language – widely used in the East of Ukraine. Putin no doubt also has in mind the 2014 attack on the Trade Union building in Odessa in which dozens of pro-Russian anti-Maidan demonstrators were killed. One can argue of course whether this (and no doubt Putin has other factors in mind as well) reaches a bar to be called ‘genocide’ but to simply dismiss the view (not even presented as a fact) as “baseless” as the BBC does is rather sick. In fact it seems to support the ‘genocide’ argument since those who commit genocide always deny it.

Scholz’s remarks – based on a misrepresentation of the press conference remarks – are then amplified. The narrative is that Putin made a claim about genocide – the context of Kosovo, the fact that he was responding to a claim by the Chancellor of Germany who was trying to legitimize NATO aggression against Serbia, and the qualifier “in our view” is removed. The theatre is to present Putin as making an outlandish claim about “genocide” – which can then be mocked and/or used to claim that Putin spontaneously put it forwards as a pretext for war. As so often the constructed narrative (jointly constructed by the State Department and the ‘free press’) is more or less the opposite of the reality.

* The claims of atrocities and mass graves used to justify the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 were, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, wildly exaggerated. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/pearl123199.htm

Notes

  1. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210401-new-law-stokes-ukraine-language-tensions
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60407010

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer