Journalism 101: "If someone says it's raining, and another person says it's dry, it's not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the f***ing window and find out which is true." – Sally Claire
There is a groundswell of abhorrence and disgust in a large group of people from a broad cross-section of society at what I am going to call “Janus Journalism”. A harbinger of transition from peace to war, enlightenment to ignorance, order to chaos. It peaked again and will continue to peak from time to time, especially in the face of russian disinformation.
Just as we have failed to live up to our stated aim of “never again” in the light of the WWI and the Holocaust by allowing the concentration camps and massacres of Rwanda, Bosnia and Mariupol, in our journalism we suffer from a luxury problem that unintentionally provides a cover story to the ongoing butchery of the so-called russian, so-called federation in Ukraine.
We are able to fall back with disgraceful abandon on the formula “he said-she said”, devoid of context and analysis. Plurality is desirable of course but it doesn’t excuse equivalence being afforded to bad vs good.
To borrow from Douglas Adams, this is important; this is really really important. I mean you might think it is really important to get up in the morning or not miss that appointment with the dentist, or your wedding anniversary, but that is nothing compared to a vital, rambunctious and engaging free press.
It is one of the two most overlooked pillars of the Open Society. Journalists who choose to do the work and uncover truth at the heart of the matter are crucial. It is important work – way more important than this or that electoral system, to maintaining the freedoms of the Open Society and to preventing a slide towards authoritarianism.
At the time of writing, I am even surprised at the fact that this is worth reminding ourselves of. Yet it is. For the slide is insidious, like cracks in a dam, they appear and let in water unnoticed. Without regular inspection and deliberately focusing your attention on the issue, the dam will eventually collapse.
Now it is especially important – revisiting that issue and forcing that inspection of the Open Society’s dam, without which that society is doomed to inundation from the forces of post-truth and the firehose of fecal disinformation emanating from GRU and PLA troll farms.
To witness what happens when we fail to maintain the dam, we need only look at today’s so-called russian, so-called federation.
First, I will explain the hyphenation. Muscovy stole rus’ (Русь) from the Belarusians and Ukrainians and anyone who thinks that the current russia bears any relation to the meaning of the word federation, frankly needs to be medicated. Russia is a federation as the German Democratic Republic was democratic. Consequently I will refer to the mob of spooks in control of the geography as “the Firm” from hereon in.
The lamentable lack of journalistic vigor has been on dismal display over the course of their invasions and attempts to drill holes in the dam of the Open Society. We do not so much need to fill these holes as we need to remove the drill altogether. And it is the responsibility of each of us in the Open Society to make sure this is so.
The “federation” facade is only the facade on top of the facade. Like skins on an onion or matryoshka dolls, you peel back each layer of facade after facade, except at the end you don’t get a doll, you get nothing.
It is no accident that we have a widespread and well understood concept of the Potemkin Village in the English language. It is the modus operandi of moscow from time immemorial. They are a potemkin state with potemkin armed forces, potemkin defenses, potemkin laws, potemkin courts, potemkin pipelines, potemkin newspapers and potemkin charities – all of which are carefully constructed to mask the Firm’s machinations as it strips russia bare of resources to fund the education of its children abroad and the indoctrination of the real russian youth with their poisonous potemkin myths.
Anne Applebaum calls it a “cult of nihilism”. It is an apt interpretation. It has institutionalized that cult at home with its stranglehold on power growing before our eyes while we did nothing. It has been busy recruiting in the West and we have done little to resist. Yet.
Without digging, our journalism ignores all of the above context when reporting on Ukraine. It is beyond odd. We are sick and disgusted with the negligence and we burn with the desire to address this injustice. We construct more dams and reinforce those of the Open Society. We demand your attention.
We start with the obvious target of the BBC. We could broaden the sample but there is only so much space to make the point. This will not be our only iteration. I will focus on the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam over the course of the past week to illustrate this point:
Source: BBC Online
“Ukraine's military and Nato have accused Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russia has blamed Ukraine.”
“It's not yet clear what caused the breach in the dam, but Ukraine's military has accused Russia of deliberately blowing it up.”
“But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov blamed Ukraine, calling it an act of ‘sabotage’ that would deprive the Crimean peninsula – an area annexed by Russia in 2014 – of water.”
“Neither Ukraine nor Russia's claims have been verified by the BBC.”
“Alternative theories of what could have caused, or at least contributed, to the breaching of the dam have been put forward.”
“Fighting in the area could have affected the structure, Mark Mulligan, professor of Physical Geography at University College London, told the BBC.”
“’Structural failure resulting from the impact of earlier damage associated with the war remains a possibility,’ Prof Mulligan said.”
Overwhelmingly and repeatedly, we see the BBC providing both sides with equal weight. Far from being objective, this ends up achieving exactly the aims of the Firm’s Fairy-Tales. Nothing can be trusted. It might be the Ukrainians or it might be the russians – they are both equally untrustworthy – it is nothing to do with us.
Just make them stop. Give the Firm their protection money (Donbass and Crimea) and they will go away. It is a seductive line that people like John Mearsheimer, Elon Musk and David Sacks have been prominent in promoting. Its insidious nature makes it so very dangerous. An organization with policies aimed at objectivity ends up providing a platform for “alternative theories” of reality which are then exploited by actors like the Firm. The BBC ends up supporting a genocide, without even realizing that this is what it is doing.
The Washington Post is no better:
Source: Washington Post
“Russia and Ukraine have previously accused each other of plotting to destroy the dam, which is in the hands of Russian forces and is the source of a canal delivering water south to the Crimean Peninsula. On Tuesday, Zelensky accused Russian forces of ‘deliberate destruction’ of the dam; the Kremlin denied this and blamed ‘Ukrainian sabotage.’”
Source: Washington Post
Again and again. We have had enough. It is time for journalism to find a spine. There is such a thing as objective truth. That truth does not lie on the side of organizations like the GRU or the PLA or of QAnon, and this is demonstrably so. We will plead with you, dear journalists, to find it. And we will not go away.
To quote on liars:
“We know that they are lying, they know that they are lying, they even know that we know they are lying, we also know that they know we know they are lying too, they of course know that we certainly know they know we know they are lying too as well, but they are still lying. In our country, the lie has become not just moral category, but the pillar industry of this country.”
David Bailey spent the 90’s working across the collapsing Soviet Union. He was at Bosch for 20 years based in Stuttgart and is now an independent technology consultant working in the development of hard real-time control system software and hardware.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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