[News] Russia-Ukraine: Western media are acting as cheerleaders for war

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Mar 5 11:47:51 EST 2022


middleeasteye.net
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/russia-ukraine-war-western-media-cheerleaders>
Russia-Ukraine:
Western media are acting as cheerleaders for war
Jonathan Cook - March 5, 2022
------------------------------

It is simply astonishing how many
<https://twitter.com/Lowkey0nline/status/1497642892680118272> western
journalists, including normally cautious BBC reporters, are shamelessly fawning
over <https://twitter.com/sarahrainsford/status/1497606424398024709> young
women building Molotov cocktails on the streets of Ukrainian cities like
Kyiv.

Western journalists’ difficulty containing their identification with, and
support for, Ukraine’s civilian 'resistance' must be maddening to
Palestinians in tiny Gaza

It’s suddenly sexy to make improvised explosives – at least, if the media
consider you white, European and "civilised
<https://twitter.com/AMEJA/status/1498042762654015490>".

That might surprise other, more established resistance movements,
especially in the Middle East. They have invariably found themselves tarred
as terrorists for doing much the same.

Western journalists' difficulty containing their identification with, and
support for, Ukraine’s civilian "resistance" must be maddening to
Palestinians in tiny Gaza, for example, who have been locked into a metal
cage by an Israeli military <https://www.middleeasteye.net/tags/gaza-siege>
occupier for decades.

Palestinians in Gaza make their own Molotov cocktails. But because they
can’t get close to the Israeli army, they have to pack them into balloons
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-57492745> that drift over the
steel barrier surrounding Gaza and into Israel, sometimes setting fire to
fields.

No one from the BBC has celebrated these "incendiary balloons
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/gaza-palestinian-balloon-bombs-israel/2020/03/08/d2069346-54d5-11ea-80ce-37a8d4266c09_story.html>"
as a small act of resistance. They are reflexively blamed on Gaza’s
governing group Hamas, the political wing of which was recently designated a
terror organisation
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/uk-israel-palestine-hamas-criminalisation-betrayal>
by the British government.
Double standards

Palestinians in Gaza have also suffered a trade blockade by Israel for the
past 15 years
<https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/suffocation-and-isolation-15-years-israeli-blockade-gaza>,
one designed to put them on a "starvation diet".
<https://imeu.org/article/putting-palestinians-on-a-diet-israels-siege-blockade-of-gaza>
Protesters, including women, children and people in wheelchairs, have
regularly turned out to throw a stone in the direction of distant Israeli
snipers, hidden behind fortifications, as a symbolic way to demand their
freedom. These protesters have often been shot by the Israeli army
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/shoot-maim-how-israel-created-generation-crutches-gaza>
in response.

Russia-Ukraine war: How social media became a battleground

The western media offer
<https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-israel-palestinians-amputee-idAFKCN1RK1N1>
occasional anguish at the lives lost or the legs amputated of those
targeted by the snipers. But none of them cheerlead this Palestinian
"resistance" as they do the Ukrainian one. More usually, the protesters are
treated
<https://www.commentary.org/evelyn-gordon/hamas-and-israel-agree-gaza-protesters-civilians/>
as dupes or provocateurs of Hamas.

Gaza, unlike Ukraine, does not have an army, and its fighters, unlike
Ukraine’
<https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-ukraine-russia-funding-weapons-budget-military-aid/>s,
are not being armed by the West.

The Guardian newspaper even censored
<https://pressgazette.co.uk/spiked-cartoon-that-sparked-censorship-row-between-guardian-editor-and-cartoonist-steve-bell-was-ill-judged-says-readers-editor/>its
cartoonist Steve Bell when he sought to depict one of the victims of
Israel’s snipers, a nurse, Razan al-Najjar
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/tags/razan-al-najjar>, who had been trying
to help the wounded. The paper implied that the cartoon
<https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/guardian-cartoonist-steve-bell-denies-antisemitism-cartoon-1.465204>
– of Britain’s then prime minister, Theresa May, welcoming her Israeli
counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, to London, with al-Najjar a sacrificial
victim behind them in the fireplace – was antisemitic.

Assuming the media has in the past been reluctant to encourage ordinary
people to confront well-armed soldiers – so as to avoid civilian casualties
– then why has that policy suddenly been ditched in Ukraine?

The double standards are glaring and everywhere. It is impossible to claim
that the journalists doing this are ignorant of reporting conventions
elsewhere. They are mostly veterans of Middle East war zones, well used to
covering Gaza, Baghdad, Nablus, Aleppo and Tripoli.
Fuelling the fire

Britain and other European states have chosen to fuel the fires of
resistance in Ukraine by sending it weapons
<https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-speech-in-poland-on-the-russian-invasion-of-ukraine-1-march-2022>
that can only lead to greater loss of life, especially of civilians caught
in the crossfire. One might have expected the British media to examine the
ethical implications of such a policy, and the hypocrisy. But not a bit of
it.

The double standards are glaring and everywhere. It is impossible to claim
that the journalists doing this are ignorant of reporting conventions
elsewhere

In fact, much of the media have not only been acting as lobbyists
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/28/weapons-from-the-west-vital-if-ukraine-is-to-halt-russian-advance>
for more weapons to be sent to the Ukrainian army, they have whipped up
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/28/its-my-duty-to-go-the-volunteers-leaving-the-uk-to-help-ukraine>support
for civilians in the UK to get more involved
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-60589580> in the
fighting.

That has been the case even after No 10 distanced
<https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/prime-minister-boris-johnson-liz-truss-uk-government-ukraine-b2025893.html>
itself from comments by Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, that Britons
should be encouraged to volunteer for Ukraine’s so-called "international
legions" <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60544838>, supposedly to defend
Europe.

Her position was in conflict with usual government practice, which has
treated those heading off to fight in war zones in the Middle East as
terrorists. Shamima Begum,
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/shamima-begum-uk-citizenship-not-allowed-fight-supreme-court>
who went to Syria aged 15, has been stripped of her British citizenship and
denied the right to return for doing what Truss has proposed in Ukraine.

[image: Headquarters of British Broadcasting Corporation in London (AFP)]
Headquarters of British Broadcasting Corporation in London (AFP)

Nonetheless, that did not dissuade the BBC from travelling to Essex to meet
"Wozza <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-60560589>", a supplier of surplus
British army kit he has been selling cheaply to Ukrainians in Britain so
they can head off to the battlefront. Wozza was shown tearing off Union
Jack insignia from uniforms so Ukrainian militiamen could use them.

Compare that with the treatment of an entirely peaceful form of resistance
by westerners in solidarity with the Palestinians, the international
Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement. It has been treated
<https://www.thejc.com/news/news/government-takes-first-historic-step-to-ban-bds-in-britain-3PwdQKkL5Kqg9FlohA5pQW>
as barely better than terrorism, with bans on support for BDS
<https://theintercept.com/2018/12/17/israel-texas-anti-bds-law> across
Europe
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/european-rights-court-faults-france-for-convicting-israel-boycott-activists/>
and the US.
Compromised 'impartiality'

It is hard to remember in all the media agitation over Ukraine that this
sympathetic coverage flies in the face of its reporting conventions. It is
inconceivable, of course, that Britain would ever send arms to help, for
example, Gaza liberate itself.

We need to stop with our racist view of the world, in which our suffering
matters and the suffering of others doesn’t

For that reason, the media will never have the opportunity to exercise
their vocal chords in outrage at such a development.

In fact, the western media more typically echo western government
opposition to any support for Gaza, even construction materials like cement
to rebuild the enclave after one of Israel’s intermittent wrecking
sprees. That is because reporters treat uncritically Israeli claims
<https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-08-15/gaza-needs-to-rebuild-yet-israel-controls-the-cement>that
humanitarian aid will be repurposed by Hamas and bolster "terrorism".

Back in 2010, for example, a BBC Panorama programme failed
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00thr24> to mention that an Israeli
naval attack on a humanitarian aid convoy to besieged Gaza was conducted
illegally in international waters. Nine activists trying to deliver aid
items like medicine to Gaza aboard the Mavi Marmara ship were killed by
Israeli commandoes, but the interviews with these masked men were largely
uncritical
<https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/icc-judges-order-new-probe-israeli-massacre-mavi-marmara>.
There
was very little sympathy from the BBC for that act of resistance against a
brutal occupier.

A year earlier, the BBC broke with tradition and refused
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WsyC1joa-s> to broadcast a
long-established aid appeal because on this occasion it was to provide food
and shelter to Gaza, following an Israeli assault that destroyed swaths of
the enclave. The BBC justified
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/complaints_and_appeals/dec_gaza/appeal_findings>
the decision on the grounds that it would compromise its "impartiality" –
something it seems entirely unconcerned about in Ukraine.

The BBC had not responded to questions about these inconsistencies by the
time of publication.
Fog of war

The battlefield is well known for becoming quickly enveloped in the fog of
war. That is one reason why inexperienced journalists are cautioned by
their editors to wait for evidence and to be alert to propaganda. In
practice, however, one can assess where the media’s sympathies lie –
concealed behind flimsy claims of objectivity – by noting when and for
whose benefit these caution rules are abandoned, and which side’s
narratives are accepted quickly and uncritically.

<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/russia-ukraine-war-invasion-madman-script-same>

Russia-Ukraine war: A different invasion, the West's same 'madman' script

In the Middle East, it is clear that US, European and Israeli claims are
all too readily amplified, even when their veracity is in doubt.

Such media-fuelled lies have been manifold. That Israel urged the
Palestinians it expelled
<https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-ben-gurion-ordered-prevent-arabs-from-returning-to-haifa-1.5366272>
in 1948 to return home. That Saddam Hussein’s troops ripped babies
<https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/oct/04/socialsciences.highereducation>
from incubators in Kuwait, and that the Iraqi leader colluded
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/mar/13/iraq.usa> with his
arch-enemy, al-Qaeda, in the 9/11 attacks. That Muammar Gadaffi’s soldiers
in Libya took Viagra
<https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-that-gaddafi-ordered-rape-as-weapon-of-war-2302037.html>
to rape civilians in Benghazi. That Russia paid bounties
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/15/russian-bounty-us-troops-afghanistan>
to the Taliban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

These deceptions and fabrications grabbed headlines when they were useful
as propaganda, only to be quietly withdrawn much later on.

In the case of Ukraine, a similar pattern appears to be emerging. There
were widespread, inciteful and entirely fictitious reports in the western
media of Russian troops butchering a contingent of 13 Ukrainian soldiers on
Snake Island, in the Black Sea. A fake audio tape was released of the
Ukrainians supposedly cursing the Russian invaders. Ukraine’s government
promised
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/25/ukraine-soldiers-told-russians-to-go-fuck-yourself-before-black-sea-island-death>
each of them a Hero of Ukraine award.

But in fact, it was Russian media reports that were true
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60554959>. There were 82 Ukrainian
soldiers and they had surrendered. All were alive and well. In another
example, a clip from a video game
<https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1572582/Ghost-of-Kyiv-Ukraine-air-force-Russia-plane-shot-down-video-vn>
was widely promoted as a heroic
<https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-animation-ukrainianjet/fact-check-animation-miscaptioned-as-if-to-show-video-of-ukrainian-fighter-jet-shooting-down-russian-plane-idUSL1N2V035G>
lone Ukrainian fighter pilot – dubbed the Ghost of Kyiv – shooting down
Russian planes and helicopters.

Misinformation has been shared even more aggressively on western social
media accounts, and most of it is designed to evoke sympathy for Ukraine
and hostility to Russia
<https://twitter.com/ReutersFacts/status/1497320071177375745>.
Softening-up operation

But what we are seeing is more than just an appetite in the media for
evidence-free stories and falsehoods so long as they are directed against
Russia. And it is about more than the media’s sympathy for Ukrainian
“resistance” denied other groups battling their oppressors, when those
oppressors are the West and its allies.

The problem for western audiences is not their exposure to Russian state
propaganda. It is their constant exposure to relentless western state
propaganda

The media is chock full of commentators far more rabidly tribal than even
western governments and military generals. The media chorus for "more war"
seems to be serving as an ideological softening-up operation, clearing the
path for governments as they prepare for more extreme propaganda and
undemocratic measures.

Along with many others, Mail on Sunday commentator Dan Hodges has been
calling for a no-fly zone
<https://www.politics.co.uk/news/2022/03/02/former-nato-deputy-commander-says-ukraine-no-fly-zone-could-risk-ww3/>
over Ukraine that even Boris Johnson has rejected
<https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/johnson-rejects-no-fly-zone-and-suggests-putin-could-be-tried-for-war-crimes-3592337>
for very obvious reasons. It would lead Europe into a direct confrontation
with the Russian airforce and risk confrontation with a nuclear power.

Nonetheless, Hodges has described any rejection of this idea as “an act of
appeasement no different to our appeasement of Hitler in 1938”. Russia's
invasion came after nearly a decade of goading by the US using Nato as
cover to forge ever tighter military relations with its neighbour.

[image: A demonstrator holding a placard reading "No to war" protests
against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Saint Petersburg on
February 24, 2022.]
A demonstrator holding a placard reading "No to war" protests against
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Saint Petersburg on 24 February,
2022 (AFP)

Rightly or wrongly, Moscow interpreted
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/russia-ukraine-war-invasion-madman-script-same>
Nato’s behaviour as an aggressive move by the US and its allies into its
“sphere of influence”. The idea that no concession could, and can, be made
to Russia – that the only “moral choice”, as Hodges calls it, is risking a
potential nuclear war – should be understood as the belligerent provocation
it clearly is.

NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, tweeted
<https://twitter.com/RichardEngel/status/1498381591306981379> out what he
saw as a "risk calculation" and "moral dilemma": should the West bomb a
convoy of Russian tanks on their way towards Kyiv? Apparently concerned by
current inaction, he asked: “Does the West watch in silence as it rolls?"
Utter hypocrisy

Condeleeza Rice, an architect of the criminal invasion of Iraq, has not
been challenged by the media over her utter hypocrisy
<https://twitter.com/AlanRMacLeod/status/1498064608585736193> in agreeing
that “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime." If that is
the case – and international law says it is – then Rice herself should be
on trial at the Hague.

Russia's intervention in Ukraine has gotten much more coverage, and
condemnation, in just 24 hours than the US-Saudi war on Yemen has gotten
since it started nearly 7 years ago

377,000 Yemenis have died. US-backed Saudi bombing now is the worst since
2018 https://t.co/LKyeW0LsNB
— Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 25, 2022
<https://twitter.com/BenjaminNorton/status/1497071519641620481?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

Or what about the media’s horror this week at the shelling of Kharkiv
<https://twitter.com/Jonathan_K_Cook/status/1498609767815786498>, Ukraine’s
second city, where "dozens" were reported killed? Compare that to the
media’s breathless excitement over the "Shock and Awe” bombing campaign
that likely killed thousands
<https://twitter.com/medialens/status/1497138600122540033%20]> in the
opening hours of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

What about the media’s mostly complicit silence
<https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-04-16-bae-systems-sold-weaponry-worth-17-6bn-to-saudis-during-yemen-war/>
over many years of Saudi bombing – using British planes and bombs – of
civilians in Yemen, leading to a barely imaginable humanitarian catastrophe
there? Those in Yemen who resist the Saudi horror show are not heroes to
our media, they are simply dismissed as puppets of Iran?

Veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Vine, meanwhile, expressed
<https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tv/jeremy-vine-sparks-furious-backlash-26366585>the
view that conscripted Russian soldiers “deserve to die” when they put on a
Russian army uniform. "That’s life," he told a shocked caller to his show.

Did Vine think British and US troops – professional soldiers, unlike
Russia’s conscripts – also deserved to die when their armies illegally
invaded Iraq? And if not, why not?

The racist undertones and overtones of much western coverage – with
commentators and interviewees regularly stressing how Ukrainian refugees
are "European", "civilised”, "blond haired and blue eyed"– is hard to miss
<https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-ukraine-russia-funding-weapons-budget-military-aid/>
.
State propaganda

And in the midst of this rampant, often unhinged western war propaganda,
much of its coming from the British state broadcaster, Europe has banned
Russia’s state broadcaster RT
<https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-bans-rt-sputnik-banned-over-ukraine-disinformation-2022-03-02/>
from the airwaves, while Silicon Valley scrubs its presence
<https://twitter.com/googleeurope/status/1498572529409179648> from the
internet.

There is no doubt that RT generally promotes an editorial line largely
sympathetic to Moscow’s foreign policy goals – just as the BBC can
invariably be relied on to promote an editorial line largely sympathetic to
Britain’s foreign policy goals.

<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/russia-ukraine-war-media-bias-west-blatant-racism>

Let's call out the West's bias over Ukraine for what it is - blatant racism

The problem for western audiences is not their exposure to Russian state
propaganda. It is their constant exposure to relentless western state
propaganda.

If we seek peace – and there are few indications of that at the moment –
then we need the western media held to account for its mindless jingoism,
its exaggerations, its credulity, its double standards, and its deceptions.
But who is going to act as a watchdog on the supposed watchdog of the
Fourth Estate?

Right now, we need voices from Russia to understand what Putin thinks and
wants, not what the BBC's "chief international correspondents" think he
wants. We need information sources ready to quickly challenge both western
and Russian "fake news".

And most of all we need to stop with our racist view of the world, in which
we are always the Good Guys and they are always the Bad Guys, and in which
our suffering matters and the suffering of others doesn’t.

*The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.*
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