The New Observer International affairs The free press in the West

The free press in the West

Who owns the “free-press”?

SkyNews is owned by BSkyB. BSkyB is a multi-billion dollar corporation traded on the London stock exchange.

Reuters is owned by Thomson Corporation. Thomson Corporation is a multi-billion dollar company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

AP is a US company owned by US media organisations who contribute material to it. Obviously some, all or most of these will be either private businesses or publicly traded businesses.

AFP is based in France. It is subsidised by the French government who subscribes to many of its services. It is an independent commercial organisation which was historically owned by the French state. Currently the French government is trying to open it up to private investment. In 2006 it sold a business it had a joint interest in to Thomson Financial, a division of Thomson Corporation, which owns Reuters.

The Economist is part owned by a publicly traded multinational company Pearson Plc and part by wealthy private individuals.

The answer then in the main is finance capital.

The Daily Telegraph is owned by the Barclay brothers who are believed to be billionaires. (Nothing wrong with that but we would hardly expect then the newspaper to take a line other than one promoting private wealth).

As rioters attempt a coup against the elected government of Ukraine the Western Press continues to print phantasies. Here is Sky News, for example;

Thousands of riot police used water cannon and stun grenades against protesters. Demonstrators responded to the security forces’ assault by hurling petrol bombs, fireworks and stones.

This continues the general narrative being offered by Western politicians and the corporate press. Violent Soviet era policemen are attacking “peaceful protesters”. The government is refusing dialogue, and so on.

Of course demonstrators didn’t “respond” to an “attack” by the police. Firstly it is evident that the rioters are initiating many actions. They are taking over government buildings all over the country for example. Even leaving that aside the police are doing what the police in the UK or any other European country would do in similar circumstances. They are clearing the protesters from a public square. (This is exactly what happens whenever there is a big demonstration in Whitehall for instance).

The ploy by the US and the EU is clear. Completely failing to condemn the rioters.Yet warning the legitimate and elected President of the country not to use force. It seems the plan is to put the government of Ukraine into an impossible position. The aim is to force a situation where the elected President of the country has no choice but to “negotiate” with rioters into agreeing a technocratic government and early elections on their terms. It is already clear the opposition is not going to negotiate its demands. It may even have got out of hand. Many of these rioters, judging by the levels of violence used, will not be interested in an electoral process at all. It is in effect a coup.

Here is the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, on Ukraine:

President Yanukovych should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable

His confederate William Hague appears to have become completely detached from reality. He has “tweeted” his version of the party line:

Violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable and the Ukrainian gov should be held accountable

The US has publicly told President Yanukovych not to use the army. Despite the fact that the police are taking live rounds.

All this is propaganda designed to put pressure on the (elected) government of Ukraine to prevent them using any degree of force to quell the unrest. And thus they will have to concede to the demands of the rioters. Whose petrol bombs, paving stones and fire-arms appear to be invisible to Mr Hague and Mr Cameron.

The corporate press sings the accompanying chorus line about peaceful protesters being attacked by police. This is par for the course. Western public was prepared for interventions in Syria and Libya by similarly over-simplistic portrayals of (fragmented) opposition movements as “democracy protesters”. When it comes to regime change the  role of the press  in the West is to manage public opinion, prepare the conditions for any military intervention, and put pressure on the government in the target country. Truth doesn’t come into it.

When challenged about their “human rights” record or when criticisms are made of them in general Western politicians will often cite the “free press” in the West. As if to say “we cannot be doing anything seriously wrong; remember, we are accountable to a free press”. Clearly the press in the West may be “free”. But it offers fake narratives as news, serving the interests of power, at least as much as any state controlled press anywhere in the world.

These fake stories in the press, these disavowals that they are attempting to manipulate the outcome, when they transparently are, all have a kind of cartoon-like quality to them. Who believes any of this? Are they telling lies simply to appease their own consciences while the populations of the West, to a man (or woman), know that they are lying?

Update 22/2/14

The imprisoned Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed. Sky News headlines the story:

Tymoshenko Freed As Ukraine ‘Dictatorship Ends’

While they manage to put “Dictatorship Ends” in single quote marks it is clear that this is the message of the news article. The facts though support the alternative interpretation. We have seen an armed coup led by violent rioters who have not at any stage demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with the elected government of Ukraine. At every stage they have taken the concessions offered and then broken their part of the bargain. Most recently they have broken the deal brokered by Poland, Germany, France and Russia which would have seen a managed transition and new Presidential elections. They have not handed in weapons and have attempted to impeach the President. Apparently armed rioters are now in control of Kiev.

The corporate press has been almost entirely silent on the violence of the protesters. It is this silence which enables fake claims by Western politicians about “courageous protesters” whose “voice has finally been heard”. The corporate press and Western politicians advance hand in hand.  So much for a “free press”.

 Update 23/2/2014

AFP is reporting as a matter of fact that Yanukovych tried to flee the country. AFP’s source for this story is Serhiy Astahov, a spokesmen for the border control agency. It at least sounds like classic misinformation to discredit Yanukovych. At any rate it does not appear to be a story which has been substantiated according to the standards of professional journalism. At this time of turmoil with power changing hands any story of this nature, which so obviously serves propaganda purposes, needs to be confirmed by several sources and independent witnesses. At the very least then the fact that the story has a single source and the nature of the source should be indicated. Yet AFP is simply reporting this as fact.

Again; the corporate press is shown to be better at producing propaganda than at doing journalism.

Update 24/2/2014

 This is how Reuters is telling the story:

Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovich is on the run after being toppled by bloody street protests in which police snipers killed opposition demonstrators.

It isn’t ‘not true’. But there is no mention in the article about the Molotov cocktails, the beaten policemen, the looted arsenals, the injured (and according to RT multiple dead) policemen. These were not “demonstrators”. They were well-armed rioters who in a sustained and planned way, and rejecting all negotiations, over-turned the constitutional democracy of Ukraine. There are any number of videos available which show time and time again these “demonstrators” trying to kill policemen with petrol bombs, launching ferocious attacks on captured and defenceless policemen and so on. There are numerous still images available on-line showing armed “demonstrators”. Thus without strictly speaking lying Reuters nonetheless manages to put out a nasty and dishonest piece of propaganda.

There are certain rules of reporting and good journalism. You can go to college and learn them if you want. It is truly a dispiriting spectacle to see all the main news organisations throwing them out of the window in their eagerness to assist NATO and Western capitalism take over Ukraine.

Update 26/2/2014

And so it goes on. Here is Sky News today:

“Lavrov called on the OSCE to decisively condemn the rise of nationalist and neo-fascist sentiment in the west of the country, (to condemn) calls to ban the Russian language, to turn the Russian-speaking population into ‘non-citizens’ and to restrict freedom of expression,” his ministry said in a statement.

References to fascism are evocative of the Cold War period, when authorities in the East routinely described the West as fascist.

Mr Lavrov’s words are measured and in accordance with the facts. It is clear that neo-Nazi extremist groups have played a part in the violence in Ukraine in recent days. The new ‘parliament’ has indeed over-turned legislation which allowed Russian to be used as a language of official business. One member of the opposition has indeed made the call which Sergey Lavrov refers to about removing citizenship from Russian-speaking members of the population. But Sky offers them as evidence of a “cold-war mentality” and implicitly suggests that they are idealogical rather than fact-based.

The Western corporate media, not known for its critical stance towards Western capitalism has outdone itself on Ukraine. At times it has resembled the nasty kind of propaganda sheets produced by Goebbels for the Nazis. (For example a mocking characterisation of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as “fuming”). All the main outlets, Reuters, AFP, Sky News, have printed a narrative on the events in Ukraine which was written in some corporate office somewhere to support the political aims of NATO and the EU. They haven’t even bothered to hide it especially.

From the same article quoted immediately above we also have this:

Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych – who has been put on the international wanted list – remains in the country, according to the deputy general prosecutor.

What “international wanted list”? Seriously. The new ‘parliament’ in Ukraine has applied to the ICC to prosecute Yanukovych. The ICC has said they will look into it. But what “international wanted list”? (According to other reports it is not even clear if the new powers in Ukraine have even approached Interpol yet. Let alone obtained a warrant).

Update 27/2/2014

This is AFP today:

Lawmakers in Crimea’s regional parliament, which is currently being controlled by pro-Russian gunmen, voted Thursday to hold a referendum on May 25 on the region’s status in Ukraine, the parliament’s press service said

The clear suggestion is that the vote was subject to pressure by armed gunmen and we can therefore discount it. AFP does not mention in this piece that the local Tartar population in Crimea which, apparently, is favourable to the Ukrainian centre and to the idea of remaining in Ukraine was attempting to block the Crimea regional parliament from meeting because they knew that the parliament would propose a referendum. This was the stated aim of the  Tartar protesters. In Kiev armed protesters over-throw an elected government. AFP, along with other corporate press outlets, presents this as a blow for democracy. In the Crimea armed men secure the sitting of the current (regional) government. AFP reports this with a suggestion that this casts doubt on its democratic legitimacy.

All of the major press outlets have presented a narrative on Ukraine which is tangibly driven by a specific political agenda. They have all been entirely consistent. There has been no deviation from the key theme. (Noble and peaceful protesters for democracy and prosperity who represent the Ukrainian people have over-turned the [some silence on this point] elected government of Ukraine, moving quickly on, which was run by the wanted war criminal Yanukovych who stole millions of dollars from the Ukrainian people to feed his ostriches and fled after shooting dozens of unarmed peaceful civilians. The new parliament in Ukraine is obviously the legitimate representative of the Ukrainian people). The consistency of the narrative across all the major outlets is striking.

Update 28/2/2014

And so it carries on. A report by Sky, provocatively headlined “Russia in ‘armed invasion’ claims” described President Yanukovych as the “disgraced President” who “proclaimed himself as the nation’s legitimate President”, the latter articulated in a tone of surprise. The ‘government’ in Ukraine is, of course, described without any qualification at all as the legitimate authority in Ukraine. That it is the result of the violent over-throw of the elected government of Ukraine is airbrushed out of the narrative. As is the fact that it is in violation of the agreement brokered by Poland, France and Germany which would have seen a managed and peaceful resolution to Ukraine’s constitutional crisis.

The report focuses the camera repeatedly on soldiers in green camouflage uniforms. The reporter more or less suggests that they are Russian soldiers. He doesn’t present any evidence for that – apart from a challenge to one of the soldiers, in beginner’s Russian, which was ignored. He just appears to take it for granted. (Perhaps taking his cue from the ‘authorities’ in Kiev). The reporter says that “Russia has denied it is violating Ukraine’s sovereignty”. That is a misleading representation of the facts. The fact is that there has been an exchange of diplomatic notes between the new powers active in Kiev and Moscow. Moscow has asserted that it is moving military assets around in line with existing agreements with Ukraine and in response to the security situation in the Crimea. That is as non-proactive response as you could get. Russia hasn’t “denied that it is violating Ukraine’s sovereignty”. This whole report is itself a wildly irresponsible provocation. Very short on facts. It gives tacit support to a violent and undemocratic seizure of an elected government and the subsequent violation of internationally mediated agreements. It talks up the possibility of Russian military actions but presents no evidence.

All of the Western corporate reporting on the events in Ukraine has been from the point of view of NATO and the Western powers. It is like reporting during a war, when you expect the media outlets to report in line with the political and military story of the government. Â One possible explanation for the striking consistency of the faked narrative being told on Ukraine, which I commented on in the last update above (on 27/2/14), is perhaps just this. In these peoples’ minds we are at war with Russia. Â What we are seeing is war propaganda.

Update 28/2/2014 (2)

This is an example from AFP:

“Thirteen Russian aircraft landed at the airport of Gvardeyskoye (near Simferopol) with 150 people in each one,” Sergiy Kunitsyn, the Ukrainian president’s special representive in Crimea, told the local ATR television channel, adding the air space had been closed. It was not immediately clear if Russia had the right to use the base or send additional troops there under its agreements with Ukraine.

The corporate press has been repeating every word the opposition has said since seizing power (and breaking all previous agreements) as if it were unquestionably true. So eager are they to print the propaganda of the new ‘government’ in Ukraine that they couldn’t even wait to check the facts in this case before printing the story. The Russian government has stated in a diplomatic note to Kiev that it is moving military assets around in line with existing agreements it has with Ukraine. Why not print that as unquestionable truth? Does an intention to join the EU and possibly NATO effect your reliability? Yes, according to AFP.

This is an example from AP:

In a hastily arranged statement delivered from the White House, Obama called on Russia to respect the independence and territory of Ukraine and not try to take advantage of its neighbor, which is undergoing political upheaval.

It would add to the credibility of AP if they at least offered some consideration of how it has come about that Ukraine is undergoing political upheaval. Could it have something to do, for example, with a stream of senior Western officials who paraded with the demonstrators in Kiev? Could it be that the total failure of Western politicians to condemn the violence of the rioters led them to believe that they were being sanctioned by the West? Could it have something to do with the shrug with which they let the constitutional solution mediated by Poland, France and Germany slip away? Could it be to do with the way that the EU and the US were manipulating for regime change all along?

The US postures for its domestic audience that it “respects the independence and territory of Ukraine”. But senior officials from the US were handing out cakes to demonstrators on the main square in Kiev. There’s no secret about what the US wants. The Secretary General of NATO is already publicly salivating at the prospect. It isn’t anything to do with the “independence” of Ukraine. We have come to expect the expansion of the Western empire to be accompanied by a PR campaign about “democracy”. But that the press is in on the act is alarming.

Update 1 March

This particular invention is from Reuters:

MOSCOW/KIEV – Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament’s approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert and appealed to NATO for help

No. Mr Putin has not won his parliament’s approval to “invade” Ukraine. He has won their approval to deploy forces to the Ukraine to ensure stability and security. The report is factually wrong. It is yet another example of the extraordinary series of provocative claims made by Western media. It as if they are reporting on an upcoming boxing match and they want to stoke as much tension as possible in advance.

It is dishonest. Nothing to do with journalism. And tragically irresponsible.

The background to this decision by the Russian parliament is the actions by what Reuters calls the “new government” in Kiev. Already they have passed legislation to stop Russian being used as a language of official business in all Ukraine. Members of the opposition (“new government”) have made threats against the Crimea. There have already been confrontations in the Crimea between pro-Kiev sections of the population and those who are more pro-Russia. It is rational of the Russians to want to protect their interests there and in other parts of Eastern Ukraine.

In the same article Reuters says:

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago

This is sheer mischief and propaganda. “A government that took power” is one way of describing a mob take-over. They didn’t “take power” after Viktor Yanukovich fled. They broke their agreement with him and various European powers. They took power. By his account he was then threatened and then fled. Either way they chased him out. They didn’t politely wait for him to leave and then responsibly “take power” to fill the vacuum.

It goes on:

Troops with no insignia on their uniforms but clearly Russian – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – have already seized Crimea

Troops (Russian or otherwise – more careful media outlets are acknowledging that it isn’t proved that they are Russian soldiers) haven’t “seized” Crimea. Very small numbers of troops are placed at strategic locations.

The next bit is so delusional I worry for the mental health of whoever wrote it:

The Russian forces solidified their control of Crimea and unrest spread to other parts of Ukraine on Saturday

The truth is exactly the opposite. Unrest in West and central Ukraine has been spreading East. Hence the Russian actions. The attempt appears to be to sow the fabrication that the unrest in the Centre of Ukraine is the result of Russian (?) actions in the Crimea.

This Reuters piece is a good example of “reverse truth journalism”.

Update 2/3/14

This one is Sky News:

In Moscow, the state propaganda machine is already in overdrive, dismissing Oleksandr Turchynov as the “self-imposed president” and dismissing the mass protest movement as extremists and armed gangs.

For weeks now all the main media outlets in the West, along with the politicians, have been studiously ignoring the violence of the protesters. Yet it is absolutely clear that the intention was to seize the government, the elected government, of Ukraine by force. Members of this ‘mass protest movement’ were taking over police stations, looting weapons, arming themselves, throwing thousands of petrol bombs at police. Beating police with staves. Killing people. Threatening administrative officials with fire-arms. They broke every agreement they made even one mediated by France, Germany and Poland. These are the absolute facts most of which which can be probably be seen somewhere in reporting in the corporate press. It was not a ‘mass protest movement’. It was successful in toppling the elected government because of a willingness to use violence. Maybe only up to 50,000 people in a country with a population of 45 million took part in this violence. Manifestly this ‘mass protest movement’ does not represent the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the Crimea and the East of the country. Indeed it is hostile to them. For example another Sky News story covers how armed extremists from Kiev are trying to smuggle weapons into the Crimea. (This piece of reporting, in contrast to the reporting on Russia’s actions, is characterised by careful journalistic caution).

The head-line for this piece refers to “Russia’s gamble”. A typical characterisation of Russia as reckless and dangerous. The real gamble here though has been the gamble of the US and EU openly siding with the protesters trying to bring down the elected government of Ukraine. In fact Presidential elections in Ukraine were scheduled for early 2015 anyway. The question of whether Ukraine joins the EU or not could have been settled through the existing constitutional and democratic means.

The propaganda here has been that provided by the Western media. As the examples on this page amply illustrate.

Here is another piece of propaganda masquerading as reporting, from AFP:

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Saturday that “for the moment, this decision (to invade) has not been taken”.

In fact the spokesman didn’t say anything of the sort. AFP is putting words into his mouth. It would be amusing if lots of peoples’ lives were not at stake. “Invade” is the Western invention for a limited operation to protect their citizens and bases. That is the operation which has been authorised by the Russian parliament.

AFP reports that Mr Putin is claiming that Russia has the right to intervene in Ukraine without a UN mandate because the purpose is to protect “their own citizens”. Abandoning any semblance of neutral, objective, reporting AFP argues that this is in contrast to what “Putin had demanded for any Western action in Syria”. Firstly it isn’t accurate that “Putin had demanded” a UN mandate for action against Syria. That flatly isn’t true. A schoolboy level of understanding. It is the case in general that under international law – the UN charter – it is illegal for any country to invade another. Self-defence or a resolution of the Security Council provides the exception. Russia indicated that it would veto any such mandate on Syria. So, that comment is already fiction. As to the legality of this reported (if true) claim by Russia that a Russian intervention in Ukraine would be legal because it is aimed at protecting their own citizens on the territory of another country I don’t know. But I can see the US, say, acting in a similar fashion and on the same grounds if US citizens at one of their bases were under threat somewhere. (Let’s say there was a coup in Saudi Arabia and the US bases there were threatened by the new regime. Of course the US would get involved). Once again then this is just another example of puerile “Big Bad Russia” propaganda posing as news reporting.

Update 5/3/14

This is a nice example of how the corporate press tells lies:

Some 16,000 Russian troops are on the ground in the region – a move the US said was a clear violation of international law.

Arguably, strictly speaking, this is not a lie. There are indeed 16,000 (or thereabouts) Russian troops based in Crimea. The report says that the US says that this is a violation of international law. It doesn’t report that as a fact. But really it presents a wholly misleading impression. Readers who are not well-informed, who have not researched this (e.g. through Wikipedia articles on Russian bases in Ukraine) will be given the impression that 16,000 Russian troops just “moved” into Ukraine. That is a total lie. The troops referred to are based in Russia’s naval bases. They have been there for years under a treaty agreement with Ukraine. The author of this piece of propaganda is quite clearly trying to create the impression of an invasion.

Update 5/3/2104

This is a piece by Channel 4 educating its readers about Russian propaganda and propaganda from (The news organisation funded by the Russian tax-payer).

I haven’t got time to go through it line by line but one aspect gives the flavour. Notice the two photographs printed side by side with the caption “(Above: local defence groups at Belbek airbase, and local defence groups as seen on RT)”. The idea is to paint a picture of RT as a silly propaganda organisation. What they’ve done of course is find an aggressive shot of an armed man (Russian soldier, whoever), from their own Western media sources, and contrast this with one they say (presumably correctly) they found on of men in civilian dress relaxing in a tent over a cup of tea which captioned as self-defence forces. If that was all that RT had done perhaps this would be valid. But if you look at (both its videos and its images) the fact is they have printed a wide range of images of the armed men in Crimea. Don’t just take my word for it. (And certainly don’t take Channel 4’s). Just go to Google images and enter: ‘ crimea self-defence forces’. It is true that RT is sometimes calls them self-defence forces. But they show plenty of images of well equipped, armed and trained looking men in masks. If you want to believe that some or all of these armed men are Russian soldiers there is plenty to go on on Channel 4’s story is no more than crude propaganda. A schoolboy joke.

Furthermore; even if there are Russian soldiers on the streets in Crimea there are also likely to be genuine local self-defence forces. (In this part of the world there is a tradition of this sort of thing). If RT have picked an image at one point to tell a narrative about homely self-defence forces it is no more than Western media do with their endless looping of a single cellphone clip of Russian helicopters flying (quite possibly completely legally from one base to another) to tell their story of a “Russia invasion”.

Update 6 March (1)

Here is Sky’s Alex Rossi with another report from Crimea.

There is what looks like cellphone footage of a woman being arrested after demonstrating in front of the regional parliament in Simferopol. We are told that it was “very hostile”. Mr Rossi “thinks” she was sprayed in the face with pepper-spray. There is also a section of the clip with a policeman holding the woman’s hair. Together with the write-up given to it (perhaps by a sub-editor in London) the whole tone of the report is hysterical. It is offered as an example of the “aggression” that Russia is waging in Crimea.

Here is some news for Mr Rossi. People can and often do get arrested in the UK for making one-person demonstrations at local council offices. The police in the UK frequently use pepper-spray to make an arrest. They spray it in peoples’ faces. That is how it works. Nasty and hostile indeed. The police in the UK are trained to use head-control when making an arrest and detaining someone. (In fact if you hold someone’s hair in a large handful and close to the scalp it only causes a minimal amount of pain).

(Quite possibly the local police were arresting the woman to protect her from the crowd).

This is a good example of purely hysterical reporting.

It is almost too obvious to point out the farce of how Sky News makes so much out of this one incident while, along with the rest of the Western media, they have almost totally ignored the violence of the Maidan protesters which went on for weeks and continues.

Update: In fact 2 days later armed men from Kiev ‘arrested’ a local pro-Russian leader in Eastern Ukraine. Now; I would fear for his safety.

Update 6 March (2)

Sky TV News tonight reported on the vote by the regional parliament in Crimea to secede from Ukraine and cleave to Russia. The caption on the screen read “The Pro-Russian parliament of Crimea decides to join Russia”. (I can’t remember the exact phrase used for ‘join Russia’). By putting in “Pro-Russian” they manage to devalue it. The institution is “pro-Russia”. Therefore we can discount it. Objective reporting would have been to say “The regional parliament in Crimea votes to….”. This is a good example of how careful use of words in headlines can be used to help fabricate the narrative.

Update 7/3/2014

In this piece Sky News mentions the US warship sailing into the Black Sea. The caption to the video is: “The navy has sent a guided-missile destroyer war ship to the Black Sea as part of a training exercise scheduled before the crisis in Ukraine unfolded”. Then, a couple of paragraphs into the article we have this:

The USS Truxtun passed the Dardanelles strait on its way to the Black Sea, amid reports that Russia has now 30,000 troops in Crimea .

Notice the contrast. The US’s military escalation is described as a scheduled training exercise. Not in the text of the article but loudly broadcast in the caption to the video. Then “reports” about Russia’s 30,000 troops in the Crimea. Somewhat amusingly, we can discover from another Sky News report that the source of what are here described as “reports” is in fact the Kiev-affiliated Border Guards. It is true that Russia has several thousand personnel in its bases in Crimea. They are there legitimately as part of an agreement with Ukraine. The “new government” in Ukraine is clearly trying to present this as some sort of “invasion”. It is indicative of the absurd levels of media collusion with the “new government” in Kiev and the West’s project for Ukraine that the media simply regurgitates this propaganda. Even if your editorial line is critical of Russia they should report the facts. Russia is permitted to have troops in Crimea. Maybe there is evidence of Russian forces acting beyond their remit. Maybe the numbers exceed the permitted levels. These are valid questions. But what we see here is not critical reporting but crude and misleading propaganda.

And that US destroyer. It is quite possible that it is on a scheduled training exercise. As it is quite possible that recent Russian military exercises were part of a planned exercise, and nothing to do with Ukraine. Then again, all big military powers make this claim as they position their assets. There is just something so credulously slavish about announcing the US government press release about this ship as if it were absolutely, unquestionably, true. But then this is what happens when corporate school-boys pose as journalists.

Update 10 March

This one is from AFP. It is pure, shameless, propaganda. This is a taste:

US President Barack Obama and his European allies are urging Russia to call its Crimean troops back to their barracks and launch immediate negotiations with a Ukrainian leadership that Putin claims rose to power thanks to an “unconstitutional coup”.

“Putin claims”. “Unconstitutional coup”. How does AFP think the “new government” in Kiev came to power? By an election? What does AFP call the kind of violence we saw in Kiev as the “protesters” toppled the elected government? All these claims about “democratic leaders”, “new government”, “new interim government” or even the “new interim team” etc. are designed to whitewash from our minds the facts on the ground that happened only two weeks ago. It is worthy of any of the most biting portrayals of “communist brain-washing” during the cold war. It really is truly astonishing.

Or this:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine after last month’s ouster of a pro-Kremlin regime by pro-EU leaders has set off the most explosive crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.

No. The Russian parliament has authorised the use of force in the East of Ukraine and Crimea to protect ethnic Russians and their bases. There is no question of “invading” Ukraine. Did Britain “invade” Sierre Leone when it sent an intervention force there in 2000? There was no “threat to invade Ukraine”. Does AFP think it is in Russia’s interest to fight a war in Ukraine and risk a fight with NATO? Apart from anything else it would be the destruction of 10 years of careful hard-work on the diplomatic front. The assumption running through the corporate press is that Russia is “aggressive”, “threatening”, getting ready to “invade”. This is just a sort of fiction that takes the place of any attempt to analyse the situation or understand the Russian point of view. Perhaps it is naive but the expectation of this editor was that the journalistic objectivity might extend beyond blind patriotism. In fact it isn’t really patriotism so much as a blind acceptance that every word issued by corporate politicians is true and absolutely and finally true. Evidentially these people aren’t journalists. They are writing corporate newsletters. Interestingly if the user comments on Yahoo are anything to go by very few people are buying this propaganda.

It isn’t just the corporate news agencies. This is from the New York Times:

But while the West recognizes the new interim government in Kiev, with presidential elections scheduled for May, Russia wants to return to a late February deal that former President Viktor F. Yanukovych signed, agreeing to a new unity government and new presidential elections in December.

This isn’t “not true”. President Yanukovych did sign. But the fact that several leading opposition figures, together with Poland, France and Germany also signed has been conveniently dropped. Because, obviously, that being the case it is a legitimate question to ask why this agreement isn’t being maintained. Indeed we can ask why isn’t the Western press asking just that question of Western politicians?

And this is from the something called EuroActiv Network (a news web site covering EU affairs):

Russia often speaks of extremists, nationalists and even fascists, when it refers to EuroMaidan protestors.

I.e. they are trying to tell their readers, this is not true. But the fact is that there are now members of the Svoboda party in power in the “new government” in Ukraine. Including, for example the Deputy Prime Minister. The Wikipedia article on Svoboda cites multiple scholarly references which describe them as “fascist” and “far-right”. Channel 4 somewhat redeems themselves for their silly propaganda stunt (see 5th March above) by this interesting study of how involved far-right parties are in the “interim team” in Kiev. It looks like Russia is telling the truth and the amazing thing is the silence of the Western “democracies” and the Western media about this aspect of the Ukrainian revolution. A small clue into one of the drivers for this wave of propaganda may be found in the information on the EuroActiv site about their sponsors. They include US corporations such as Dow Chemicals, Boeing and  Microsoft. Perhaps these sponsors would re-consider their sponsorship if EuroActiv told the truth?

Update 13/3/2014

This one from Reuters, is a work of pure fiction. It is just shameless lying.

Pro-Moscow separatist politicians, who took power in Crimea after armed men seized its parliament on February 27, are planning to hold a referendum on union with Russia on Sunday. Western countries say the vote is illegal.

Well. Let’s be clear. The armed men allowed the parliament to meet after Tatars opposed to a union with Russia tried to prevent it from meeting. The regional parliament reflects the opinion of the majority of people in Crimea. The politicians who voted for a referendum did not “take power” after armed men “seized” anything. They were already in place and elected. No one “seized power” in Crimea. The decision of the regional parliament was made by a legitimate and elected body without a shot being fired. This contrasts with the situation in Kiev where an extremely violent coup took place. And where people really did “seize power”.  Where, according to an EU ally, MPs are physically threatened. This is how Reuters reported those events:

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago (see above 1 March)

A violent coup where people by any stretch of the imagination really did “seize power” is presented as a peaceful and responsible slide into power. A peaceful and democratic referendum organised by an elected regional government as “separatist politicians” and “armed men seized”. Reuters is just publishing lies.

This is another quote from the same article:

The crisis over Crimea began after pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

This line about the “new government” having stepped into power after President Yanukovich fled (from threats to his life according to him) is precisely the one that Western leaders like Mr William Hague found (after fishing around for a justification for a while) to justify the “new interim government” in Kiev. The politicians and the media editors spin exactly the same stories. The Ukraine crisis has shown, apart, from anything else, what a fiction the idea of a “free press” is in the West.

Update 14/3/2014

This is from AFP.

The United States and Russia failed Friday to resolve a Cold-War-style standoff sparked by Moscow’s military intervention in Crimea, as the clock ticks down to the region’s vote on splitting from Ukraine.

Members of the “interim team” which seized power in a violent coup are linked to a party which has been condemned by the European parliament for being anti-semitic. The new Deputy Prime Minister is a member of this party. One of the first acts of the “new government” was to overturn a law allowing Russian to be used as a language of official business. Naturally ethnic Russians in Crimea are concerned. The Western media, as the Western political establishment, is simply air-brushing all that out of the picture. Though they know it full well. Having air-brushed the history of the last few weeks totally out of the picture they proceed to paint a picture of Russia as the aggressor. These lies mask their own aggression.

This single quote contains another piece of theatre. All the Western press is now talking about “Moscow’s military intervention in Crimea”. Even though it hasn’t happened. Yet.

Update 16/3/2014

This is from AFP. Who are some of the many foreign media organisations able to freely observe the referendum in Crimea.

Anyone can vote: those whose name is not on the large voter registration lists can just ask the electoral commission secretary who then checks their Ukrainian passport and writes down their names and addresses in purple ink on a loose sheet of paper.

It is poetry. The names are not on the “large” registration lists. (The implication being that they are large so it is suspicious that names are not on them). “Purple ink”. Obviously something wrong there. On a “loose sheet of paper”. More evidence of how “loose” this process is. (Poetry aside loose sheets of paper with purple ink can of course be put in folders). I would have thought checking of passports was a good way of checking voter authenticity. Anyway the farce is that AFP is now sounding all sceptical about a democratic referendum while they’ve studiously avoided reporting on the violence that brought the “interim team” to power in Kiev.

Update 20/3/2014

Here is another piece of imaginative writing from AFP:

The march by Moscow’s troops and pro-Kremlin militias across the mostly Russian-speaking region roughly the size of Belgium has been unhalting since the day Putin won parliamentary approval to use force against his ex-Soviet neighbour following the February 22 fall of Yanukovych.

There hasn’t been anything resembling a ‘march’. If AFP was asked to document that statement they would not be able to. It isn’t reporting. It’s lying. A ‘march’ is consistent with the ‘invasion’ story which the Western press has been fabricating. In fact a number of armed men (possibly some of them Russian soldiers) have provided security at key sites in Crimea. “Moscow’s troops” have not marched anywhere. The numbers present in Crimea are, according to Russia, within the limit set by their treaty agreement with Ukraine. No Western journalist has presented evidence to the contrary. They’ve simply trumpeted claims from the “new interim government” in Kiev to the effect that Russia has been “invading” Crimea. Nor is it true that “Putin won parliamentary approval to use force against his ex-Soviet neighbour”. He won parliamentary approval for a limited and temporary action in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to protect against the “threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory”. While you could say perhaps that President Yanukovych “fell” the use of the passive voice means they can avoid talking about the violent over-throw of the elected government which constituted that “fall”. You can say he “fell” but in fact he was “pushed”. But it is this push or putsch which is being brushed under the carpet by everyone in Western political and media circles. The whole tilt of this sentence is to create a fictitious narrative about an aggressive Russia “marching” on a defenceless neighbour. The press, as the examples, on this page show have set out to ignore the facts on the ground – the ones they should be reporting on – and simply spin a narrative which is exactly the same one as the one spun the politicians.

Also today Reuters sees fit to refer to the “Putin regime” in a piece on sanctions.  Russia is a democracy. They have a parliament to which members are elected at regular intervals. They have a President who is elected. They have political parties. It is a presidential democracy, like America. Apart from being wildly inaccurate then we see here the very nasty demonising of the leader of the “enemy” which the Western press is so good at. And the portrayal of entire countries as being defined as an evil “regime”. All this is usually a prelude to a regime-change project.

Update 28/3/2014

This, from AFP, is offered really as a case-study in propaganda.

NATO’s build-up of forces in the region described thus:

Obama’s blunt message added further urgency to a standoff that has forced NATO to reinforce positions along Russia’s frontier in a bid to calm anxious ex-Soviet satellite nations about the Kremlin’s new expansionist mood.

The West is “forced” to deploy troops. While Russia is depicted as having “seized” Crimea in an “expansionist mood”. Claims by the “interim leaders” in Kiev (usual glossing of the violent coup) about Moscow massing troops are reported as true without question. AFP refers to the last government as the “Moscow-backed regime”. AFP does not tell its readers that the “Moscow backed regime” was democratically elected – in stark contrast to how the “interim leaders” came to power. The piece has an absurd kind of unreal phantasy feel to it. Even if you believed 90% of the narratives produced by the West it would be intrinsically implausible that they were 100% “in the right”. (At any rate complex historical-political-social situations cannot be reduced to this absurd narrative of “right” and “wrong”). In this presentation which is so close to the official political narratives we see the total collusion of the “press” with the project of the Western governments, and whoever they represent.

AFP is subsidised by the French government.

Update 26/4/2014

This is the UK’s Daily Telegraph doing its best to add to the lies and stoke tensions for war.

The story is headlined ‘pro-Russian separatists’. That is a fiction for a start. While there are demands for secession to Russia the majority of the resistance in Eastern Ukraine is simply calling for federalisation and language rights. (There is a somewhat more honest and much more detailed article in the Guardian based on an eye-witness report. This shows that there are various demands from the resisters in the East and outright secession to Russia is by no means at the forefront). By using the phrase ‘pro-Russian separatists’ though the newspaper can malign Russia. It helps build the narrative that big bad Russia is behind it all. Politics aside this is simply bad journalism because it is factually wrong. How does the ‘journalist’ who penned that heading live with herself?

The article continues with the absurd narratives from the G7. It is reported that the G7 have issued a statement praising the ‘restraint’ of the junta in Kiev in not using more force while saying:

In contrast, Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord. It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilise Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they’ve occupied and put down their arms.

This is consistent with the intrinsically implausible line the West has been issuing for some time. They are 110% right. Russia is 100% responsible for everything that is going wrong. This is just intrinsically implausible. It is just unlikely that complex geo-political situations can be accurately analysed through such absurdly simple, almost cartoon-like narratives. Turning to the detail. It is part of the pattern of treating international agreements in an entirely one-sided way. The terms of the agreement always apply to the other. Never to us. (We are above the law. The law is a tool to protect our interests. This is always the attitude of the powerful to the law). In fact it is hardly praise-worthy that Kiev while flooding the area with armour and fighter jets has yet to kill dozens of people. They have not withdrawn. They have not disarmed the radicals. On the contrary the evidence is that Right Sector radicals are involved in the crack-down in an organised way. A Right Sector leader has claimed as much. A Right Sector leader holds an official position in the Defence Ministry in Kiev. Kiev has not removed the radicals from occupying buildings in Kiev. All the points made here have been coherently addressed by the Russian foreign minister in public. In fact it is simply a matter of demonstrable fact that Russia has publicly supported the accord. Sergey Lavrov does so in this interview. The statement from the G7 can easily be shown to be a lie.

Well. Perhaps we expect lying and absurdities from the political class in the West. But we might hope for more from journalists. But there is nothing in this Daily Telegraph article which questions, doubts, or criticises the line taken by the Western political leadership. It is just reported without a line of questioning or doubt. But all the material to do so is in the public domain. It isn’t even hard to come by. The Western press freely acts as the stooges of power. Newspapers are no more than corporate newsletters echoing the statements of the political class. (Even the liberal press while being slightly more open to facts falls over itself at every turn to distance itself from any real radical criticism of Western power. The Channel 4 piece we have referenced several times in the above and the Guardian piece mentioned here do just this. The Channel 4 piece for example while acknowledging the influence of nationalists and extremists in the new regime in Kiev manages to quote a Swedish academic saying that even so Russia is still exaggerating this problem. The Guardian piece describes the formation of local defence forces and resistance in Donetsk but has to emphasise that an agreement was reached by ‘a quick show of hands’. How do they expect agreements to be reached in revolutionary situations under fire? By postal vote?).

There is something horrible and primitive about this lust for war and this displacement of rationality with pure tribalism the moment things get a bit sticky.

Update 4 May

The corporate press has covered the fire in Odessa in which 38 pro-autonomy demonstrators died. Visual evidence from the scene and numerous eye-witness accounts describe a scenario where pro-autonomy protesters came under attack from a pro-Kiev force. (This link includes a Reuters photograph of someone throwing a petrol bomb into the building – since the victims were pro-autonomy demonstrators this would appear to be quite compelling evidence for the account that the fire was started by the opposing group).  This account is consistent with the general picture of what is currently happening in Eastern Ukraine.

The corporate press though suddenly discover their sceptical side. RT has published an analysis of these diffident and sceptical reports. “We don’t really know” is the line. That would be believable if these same outlets were not repeatedly publishing the most flimsy stories about Russian “aggression”, “invasions” and so on and echoing the press releases of the Kiev junta without even mentioning the source when it fits the narrative they want to tell. (See for example 20/3/2014 and 28/3/2014 above). By exercising scepticism only when the facts go against the telling of a certain political narrative the Western media disclose that they are political tools not journalistic outlets.

Read Part II


While Channel 4 do to their credit print this research which is largely absent from the main news agency reports they can’t help themselves quoting a Swedish academic that “Russia is using this to legitimise their unjustified aggression”. However in the article they quote one new member of the “interim team” (see above, in the section for 10th March) in Kiev who openly threatens armed conflict against Russia.