Diagnosing Sochi Media Coverage: Virulent Russophobia

Sochi, ‘Pussy Riot,’ and the battle for Ukraine

by , February 10, 2014

Any illusions some naïve soul may have had about the objectivity of the US media has been dispelled by their embarrassing performance at the Sochi Olympics: the chorus of whining complaints might as well have been written for them by the US State Department – which, come to think of it, is entirely within the realm of the possible given the imperious tone. The water, the toilets, the hotelsnothing pleases our pampered media divas, whose hatred of all things Russian oozes from between the lines of their "reporting" like pus from an old wound.

All the antipathy we saw aimed at Russia during the cold war years is now being revomited up by the political class, albeit in a new flavor: instead of genuine martyrs like Andrei Sakharov and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn being lionized, we see the professional provocateurs of "Pussy Riot" elevated by Western media to the status of "dissident" stars. Why do these heavily made-up show biz types merit our attention? Well, didn’t they desecrate a Russian Orthodox cathedral by stripping off their clothes, screaming obscenities, and insulting parishioners? Clearly this is the type of "dissident" the American media can get behind. (Try that in New York City, ladies, and see what happens.)

Our shameless media is always eager to place itself at the disposal of the State. If it isn’t David Gregory calling for the arrest of Glenn Greenwald, it’s the ubiquitous Richard Engel of NBC "News" – tireless cheerleader of US-sponsored "revolutions" abroad – deliberately downloading a virus onto his computer and then pontificating about how the minute you enter Russia you are bound to be "hacked."

In the midst of this orgy of Russophobia, the foul-mouthed Victoria Nuland’s leaked conversation went viral over the Internet, exposing the real extent of Washington’s stake in the latest anti-Russian campaign, Ukraine being the battleground this time. Not that it wasn’t fairly obvious before, what with US diplomats demanding an end to government "repression" against rioting violent "protesters," but the Nuland intercept made the strings tying the Ukrainian opposition to Washington starkly visible.

Ooops!

But wait – didn’t the cold war end with the downing of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the old USSR? So how did it get reignited – and who lit the fuse?

It started, as so many of these overseas vendettas do, when the Russkies earned the ire of the neocons by 1) Overthrowing communism, thus depriving several leading neocons of their jobs as professional anti-communists, 2) throwing out the hated oligarchs, who had looted what was left of Russia after the commies got through with it, and 3) refusing to go along with the Iraq war, and blocking US intervention in Syria. Granting Edward Snowden refuge was the absolute last straw – a tactic that inverted the familiar cold war narrative by casting the Russians as the patrons of dissidence and the Americans as their relentless pursuers.

Yes, this is my ultimate proof that we have indeed entered the Bizarro Era, where up is down and history stood on its head: even the terms of the Russo-American propaganda war have been reversed. It used to be that Russian propaganda was the worst of the worst: wooden, unconvincing, ideological gibberish expressed in the crudest possible terms. The Americans, on the other hand, were relatively sophisticated about it, covertly spreading Washington’s party line through a multitude of mostly center-left "fronts," like the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Encounter magazine, which weren’t exposed until well after they had served their purpose.

Now, however, those roles are reversed, and it is the Americans who are stumbling over themselves trying to make Sochi (and Putin) look bad, and only revealing their utter incompetence – while the Russians broadcast Nuland’s vulgar king-making to the world.

Ukraine has been a battleground in the new cold war since the early days of the new millennium, back when the "Orange Revolution" was all the rage in the Western media and the martyrdom of Viktor Yushechenko was the driving narrative that toppled the pro-Russian government of the "Party of Regions," the Eastern-oriented pro-Russian party then in power.

The official story, as pushed relentlessly in the Western media until it became the Conventional Wisdom, was that Yushchenko, the pro-Western ex-central banker and presidential candidate, had been poisoned by the KGB for daring to defy Putin and his Ukrainian sock-puppets.

This story began to unravel, however, when several medical authorities – including the former chief diagnostician of the facility that treated Yushchenko, Dr. Lothar Wicke – called it into question. Yushchenko didn’t help matters when he refused to cooperate with the Ukrainian investigation into the matter, and suspicion turned to certainty when his old campaign manager, David Zhvania confessed that the whole thing had been a fraud from the beginning. A reporter who dared interview Zhvania was hauled into police headquarters and interrogated for seven hours. Perhaps Yushchenko’s decline into his present status of political irrelevance can be traced to his response to Zhvania’s confession – he accused Zhvania, the godfather of one of his children and once his closest confidante, of being the culprit!

So much for the Putin-did-it narrative.

What’s happening today in Ukraine is a replay of an old struggle that cannot be resolved except by the partition of the country, which is not a real nation but merely an administrative unit of the old Soviet Union. This article explains the cultural divide well: the truth is that Russian is the language of choice in Ukraine, and as far as the Internet is concerned, Ukrainian language sites come in third behind Russian and English.

Yet the historical antipathy to Russia still lives in the Western part of the country, where the opposition is strongest, and where – not coincidentally – support for the Germans during World War II was greatest. I may be in danger of violating Godwin’s Law, but the undeniable legacy of wartime pro-German sentiment is felt in the growing influence of ultra-rightist groups such as Svoboda and outright neo-Nazi organizations within the opposition. They are the shock troops of what they call a "national revolution," providing the organizational muscle for violent takeovers by the opposition of city halls around the country. The brazen anti-Semitism of the anti-government protesters has been studiously ignored in most of the Western media – but this is just a function of their requisite Russophobia, which frames every news story from the region in cold war terms.

Nuland’s cursing out of the EU is just a dispute among thieves about who gets the loot; the Germans have a different candidate in mind to preside over the EU takeover of the country, while the Americans have their own plans – with a different cast of beneficiaries. What’s revealing about her little exchange with an underling is the casualness with which the Americans move Ukrainian politicians around on the chessboard, just like the Kremlin used to. One doubts Putin exercises half as much influence over Yanukovich.

Confirming George Orwell’s theory that sport, international games, and militant nationalism are all inextricably intertwined, Sochi is the stage on which the new cold war is being fought. The battlefield is in the column inches given over in the Western media to the alleged shortcomings of Putin’s "Potemkin Village," as the critics are calling it. However, the nature of their complaints – the lack of luxuries to which they feel entitled, and which much of the rest of the world goes largely without – just underscores the utter cluelessness of Western propagandists posing as "reporters." They fail to understand why this makes them look bad to everyone outside of Brooklyn’s hipster precincts and Washington’s tonier neighborhoods.

The post-cold war strategy of the Americans has been to encircle the Russians, building an iron wall of alliances and military bases from the Baltic Sea to the steppes of Central Asia. The Clinton administration set up a special department devoted to development of Caspian Sea energy resources, and made a determined outreach to the post-Soviet potentates of the various ‘stans – ruthless dictators like the President-for-Life of Kazakhstan and the former despot in charge of Turkmenistan, who has been called the Kim Jong Il of Central Asia. The series of "color revolutions" in the former Soviet republics, from Georgia to Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan, were all generously funded and directed from afar by US government agencies, with the Western media playing a familiar role as their echo chamber.

The same scam is being played out in the media today, with the viciously anti-Semitic and violent "opposition" portrayed as heroes of "democracy," and the pro-Russian factions (a majority of the country) cast as villains. And looming over this trumped up scenario is the threat of Western intervention, as in the case of Kosovo and Bosnia. The media’s war against the Russians is the kind of virtual onslaught that can ultimately result in a military offensive – we saw this in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, as well as the Balkan wars, and we are seeing it again in the propaganda campaign waged against the Iranians in the past few years.

That’s why we founded Antiwar.com in the first place, way back in 1995 or thereabouts: because the Western and specifically the American media was playing such a vanguard role in ginning up wars. Their warmongering was so brazen that we couldn’t let it go unchallenged.

We’ve been challenging the foreign policy "conventional wisdom" – which always seems to argue in favor of extending US power and influence – ever since that time. But we just can’t continue to do it without your help. We didn’t ask for money in the beginning: people sent it in anyway. As we expanded beyond being basically a one-man operation – our heroic webmaster, Eric Garris – we began the quarterly fund drives. This is what has sustained us lo these many years, and hopefully will continue to do so as the issues we have pressed come to the fore.

In 1998, we were a small minority, a voice in the wilderness crying out against the madness: the militarism of the post-9/11 era only increased our isolation – and provoked an investigation into our alleged role as "foreign agents" by none other than the FBI! But we stuck to our guns, and inspired a growing group of supporters to keep our little operation going through all the years of that dark era.

When all the world "knew" for sure the WMD were hiding underneath Saddam’s palace, we called BS on their patchwork narrative – and we were right. We not only proved them wrong, we proved that they were lying. That’s not the kind of thing you read in the "mainstream" media: indeed, to even suggest such a thing automatically excludes you from that elite club.

Today’s journalists for the most part are simply servitors of the State: they might just as well be put on the government payroll for all the light they shed on what is happening in the world, especially when the reality conflicts with official US policy. That’s why Antiwar.com has survived all these years: because readers know they can get the real story – or, at least, a clue as to where to find it – when they turn to Antiwar.com.

There’s been much talk about how independent journalism in the age of the Internet can sustain itself, but I haven’t heard anyone so much as mention our own success in this regard: after all, we’ve been around for the past fifteen years or so, a millennium in Internet years, utilizing the same model we’ve depended on since the beginning – the old-fashioned fund drive.

A few years ago my favorite radio station, KDFC, the classical music station for the Bay Area, went from being a commercial station dependent on ads to the nonprofit model, and it’s really the same one we use. People who love classical music and want to preserve it on the air sustain KDFC – just as those who want to preserve some semblance of dissent in an age of ideological conformity donate to Antiwar.com. And both are tax-deductible.

The war for hearts and minds in the age of the Internet is an information war – and that’s our battlefield. In order to win the peace we must continually challenge the "conventional wisdom" in foreign affairs, which is invariably slanted to rationalize one form of US intervention or another. We need your help in this fight – indeed, we would cease to exist without it. The FBI memo authorizing an investigation into Antiwar.com asked "Where do they get their funding?" But of course the answer, which for some reason must have slipped by them unnoticed, is that we get it from you, our readers and supporters, exercising your constitutional right to free expression.

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NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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