First – have a look at this satirical programme from Germany. It has English captions but is worth watching a few times for the subtleties.
I have commented before about the information war going on around the Ukrainian conflict. It might seem like a distant issue here (and it usually doesn’t get much coverage). But I believe the biassed propaganda we are exposed to is dangerous because of its jingoism.
And this week the NZ Listener brought the conflict right into our living rooms with an editorial which uses the same innuendo and unconfirmed claims that feeds this jingoism (see Alarmed World).
Out of the blue in a piece seeming to be about Islamic State and the conflict in the Middle East we get this:
The West faces a similar test of its resolve in Ukraine, where attempts to deter Russian-backed aggression have been largely ineffectual. The world knows that Russia supports the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, that it has troops on Ukrainian soil and that it probably supplied the missiles that brought down a Malaysian airliner. Yet the European Union’s sanctions against Russia have succeeded only in provoking economic counter-measures that have hurt European food producers, for whom Russia was a $19 billion export market, and threats to ban “unfriendly” airlines from Russian airspace.
The assertion the “world knows” has become a substitute for evidence! The world certainly knew when the USSR invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or the US invaded Iraq. We could see the evidence. Tanks surging across borders, planes bombing, troops on the ground. But nothing of that here (except the occasional soldier who claims to have lost his way – or fuzzy satellite photos of combine harvesters*).
[Yes, I know the presence in Ukraine of Russian and other voluntary (or even mercenary) fighters is well established - fighting on both sides. But that is not the same as invasion of a foreign army the media often claims.]
The “world knows” that Russia “probably” supplied missiles used to shoot down Malaysian airline MH17 – when the world knows nothing of the sort! At this stage this issue is wide open (see MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intact) – but it seems our media thinks we don’t deserve anything better than unwarranted claims on such a serious matter.
That shows no respect for the victims of this tragedy.
As for the danger of this sort of biased reporting and media manipulation, and the jingoism it promotes, we can read the last paragraph in the Listener editorial.
“What has become painfully apparent, in both the Middle East and Ukraine, is that the democratic West is susceptible to paralysis and self-doubt when confronted with the forces of totalitarianism and autocracy. Perhaps it’s time to consider what the world’s fate might have been without the moral resolve exhibited by Churchill and Roosevelt in World War II.”
Isn’t this the sort of talk used to prepare a population for war?
* Of course I have taken poetic license here about these fuzzy photos. After all, whether these were photos of artillary or combine harvesters is not evidence for or against an invasion. We know that both sides in Ukraine have plenty of artillery weapons and are using them. But for the pedantic, and those confused by my aside, here are some links to the combine harvester/artillery story:
Dave Lindorff writes about it in his article Satellite Images of Alleged Russian Artillery in Ukraine Come A-Cropper. He produced this photo below:
“In the ongoing propaganda campaign mounted by the Obama administration to claim that Russia has “invaded” Ukraine from the east, it offered up some grainy black-and-white satellite images purporting to show heavy Russian military equipment inside Ukraine.
I earlier noted how unlikely it was that heavy mobile artillery pieces would be set up in a perfect line in what appeared to be a field of crops, with, as the government claimed, cannons aimed towards Ukrainian positions in toward the west. As I pointed out, there was no sign of piles of ammunition alongside these “units” as we routinely see in closeups of heavy mobile artillery — for example in photos of IDF pieces positioned outside of Gaza. I also noted the unlikelihood that such equipment would have been set up in an open field, unprotected by trees or other cover, and lined up to make for easy targeting by enemy artillery or air attack.
Now an alert reader from the agricultural state of Texas (Laredo, TX to be precise), has sent a note suggesting out that what the supposedly incriminating images most likely show are combines in a field of grain or some other crop planted in rows. He sent along photos showing harvesters, which of course feature a long, straight “cannon-like” tube which is used to shoot the harvested grain up and into an accompanying truck to be hauled off to market or to a storage silo.”
Here is a higher resolution of the satellite photo which, I understand, came from the US State Department:
(from European Union Court of Justice Imposes Anti-Rasmussen Rule – Sanctions Cannot Be Imposed by Reason of Fabrication, Lies, Dissimulation)
I wouldn’t pretend to draw any definite conclusions from these photos but I think Dave Lindorff has a point:
“Now maybe the released satellite images do show Russian artillery, but given Washington’s extensive history of abject lying in the interest of promoting its war agenda (think Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq WMDs and mobile poison gas factories, Assad gas attacks in Damascus, etc.), it’s worth taking the claim with a “grain” of…well, in this case actual grain.”