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Part Two: The Propaganda War over Ukraine: The New York Times vs. Russia's "White Book" (December 2013)

By       Message Walter Uhler     Permalink
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From flickr.com/photos/35468156631@N01/14019147080/: The New York Times Building. NYC
The New York Times Building. NYC
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When it comes to recent events in Ukraine, Russia's "White Book," unlike the New York Times, does not claim to deliver "all the news that is fit to print." More modestly, it simply claims to address the "violations of human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine" from November 2013 through March 2014.

Such modesty is in order, because the "White Book" inexcusably fails to mention the 30 November 2013 assault on hundreds of protestors in Kiev by Ukraine's riot police; an assault that provoked hundreds of thousands of protestors to take to the streets there and, thus, threaten the ability of corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych to remain in power.

According to the New York Times (1 Dec. 2013), the assault created a "new revolutionary urgency" among the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets of Kiev. In fact, such "revolutionary urgency" would return to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) a few times during the month of December. But it didn't last.

Nevertheless, the false idea of a "revolution" against Yanukovych's corrupt, pro-Russia government became a staple in Western mainstream media reporting. At the Times, it was based upon gross incompetence, at best, and malicious dishonesty, at worst. But it served to distort and obscure events, as well as close minds throughout the West.

For example, consider David M. Herszhenhorn's Times article on December 1st titled, "Thousands Demand Resignation of Ukraine Leader." While it waxed euphoric about a "new revolutionary urgency," it failed to say on word about the violence perpetrated by the neo-Nazi group, Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor).

In contrast to the incompetence or dishonesty of Mr. Herszhenhorn, in early January 2014 the highly respected Deputy Director of the Center for Society Research (Kiev), Volodymyr Ishchenko, claimed: "For several hours on December 1, 2013 protesters were violently storming the unarmed police line near the Presidential administration building, until they themselves were finally attacked by the riot police, resulting in the bloodiest street confrontation in the whole history of independent Ukraine, with more than 300 people injured. Despite the popular version blaming the violence on some 'provocateurs' numerous investigations show that the overwhelming majority of attackers were the far right and neo-Nazi militants from so called 'Right-wing sector,' which unites various nationalist groups participating in Euromaidan."

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Mr. Ishchenko added: "At Euromaidan, particularly, the far-right attacked a left-wing student group attempting to bring social-economic and gender equality issues to the protest. Several days later the far-right mob beat and seriously injured two trade union activists accusing them of being "communists." Needless to say, the good folks at the Times overlooked these right-wing attacks.

In addition to his incompetence or dishonesty, when failing to report on Right Sector's role in the attacks on December 1st, Mr. Herszenhorn thoughtlessly followed the lead of the protesters in their failure to ask whether the "new revolutionary urgency" was shared by the rest of the 45 million people living in Ukraine.

Fatefully, it was not -- which is why the coup regime in Kiev finds itself committing war crimes by ordering murderous air and artillery attacks on innocent civilians in Slavyansk today. As the Times belatedly reported on December 13th, the message for Kiev's protesters coming from eastern Ukraine was "get back to work" or "get some tanks and drive them off the square." Moreover, as the Los Angeles Times reported on December 17th, weeks of anti-government street protests, didn't prevent Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling party from winning four of five seats in parliament during a by-election. Finally, in late December even Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of the opposition Fatherland party tacitly acknowledged that street protests would not topple Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Nevertheless, in early December the Times David Herszenhorn not only reported about the "revolutionary urgency" of the protesters, but also erroneously predicted that "anger over Russia's role has made it all but impossible for Mr. Yanukovych to take the alternative offered by the Kremlin." (In fact, Yanukovych "took" Russia's offer on December 17th.)

Mr. Herszenhorn's emotionally inspired mistakes were compounded by bias. Thus, he wasn't troubled by the stun grenades set off by protesters or by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's assertion that the unrest "has all the signs of a coup." But, on December 2nd, he did trouble himself to make a snide remark about the "blatant ballot fraud that handed Mr. Yanukovych an easy victory" in 2004.

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On December 2nd the ignorant editors at the Times asserted: President Putin "has to understand the message from Kiev's streets: that Ukraine will not long be denied association with the European Union." Presumably ignorant of the violence committed by neo-Nazis and, thus, under the thrall of revolutionary urgency, the editors also ignorantly assumed the "Kiev's streets" spoke for all of Ukraine.

Kiev's streets were filled with Russophobes from Western Ukraine, whose heads had exploded when President Yanukovych accepted a short-term economic lifeline from Russia that was vastly superior to the one offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund. But, under the thrall of "revolutionary urgency" manifested by Russophobes, the editors at the Times made Russia the villain, thereby contributing its biased voice to the incitement of a new cold war.

Thus, the editors averred: "The West's duty" is to give full support to the Ukrainians who are fighting for everything that an association with Europe represents to them: the commitment to democracy, the rule of law, honest government, human rights and a better future."

Even the editorial board of the Washington Post cautioned against such reckless "full support." On December 3rd, the editorial board observed, "If Mr. Yanukovych is forced from power by street marches or other extra-constitutional means, Ukraine will be vulnerable to the endless turmoil that has afflicted other nations that removed elected leaders, including Thailand and Egypt. Europe's insistence on democratic standards will look hollow, and Mr. Putin, who regards both the Orange Revolution and the current protests as a Western plot, will likely escalate his meddling."

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
 

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