The Ukrainian government is quickly learning that it can say anything, literally anything at all, about what’s happening on the ground there and get it uncritically reported as an actual news story by the mainstream western press.
The latest story making the rounds is a completely unevidenced claim made by a Ukrainian government official that Russians are going around raping Ukrainian babies to death. Business Insider, The Daily Beast, The Daily Mail and Yahoo News have all run this story despite no actual evidence existing for it beyond the empty assertions of a government who would have every incentive to lie.
“A one-year-old boy died after being raped by two Russian soldiers, the Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday,” reads a report by Business Insider which was subsequently picked up by Yahoo News. “The accusation is one of the most horrific from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but is not unique.”
At the end of the fourth paragraph we get to the disclaimer that every critical thinker should look for when reading such stories in the mainstream press:
“Insider could find no independent evidence for the claim.”
In its trademark style, The Daily Beast ran the same story in a much more flamboyant and click-friendly fashion.
“The dead boy is among dozens of alleged child rape victims which include two 10-year-old boys, triplets aged 9, a 2-year-old girl raped by two Russian soldiers, and a 9-month-old baby who was penetrated with a candlestick in front of its mother, according to Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights,” The Daily Beast writes.
The one and only source for this latest spate of “the Russians are raping babies to death” stories is a statement on a Ukrainian government website by Ukraine’s Human Rights Commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova. The brief statement contains no evidence of any kind, and its English translation concludes as follows:
I appeal to the UN Commission for Investigation Human Rights Violations during the Russian military invasion of Ukraine to take into account these facts of genocide of the Ukrainian people.
I call on our partners around the world to increase sanctions pressure on russia, to provide Ukraine with offensive weapons, to join the investigation of rashist crimes in our country!
The enemy must be stopped and all those involved in the atrocities in Ukraine must be brought to justice!
This is what passes for journalism in the western world today. Reporting completely unfounded allegations against US enemies based solely on assertions by a government official demanding more weapons and sanctions against those enemies and making claims that sound like they came from an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia bit.
Reuters made a questionable cover photo selection in an article about the conflict in Ukraine. For a recent news story on a reported Ukrainian assault in the Sumy region, the outlet went with a picture of soldiers armed with paintball guns.
The photo shows several military gear-clad men crouched in a defensive position with weapons. A close examination of the photo reveals that the men are armed with paintball guns. As would be expected, many Twitter users found the notion of insurgents fighting off a hostile foreign invasion with paintball guns to be absurd. A barrage of ridicule ensued.
The “paper of record” managed to completely avoid the reality that some 300 Azov militants surrendered – instead opting to suggest that somehow Ukraine’s forces decided to wind down their “combat mission”. The headline also emphasized they were “being evacuated”.
But then awkwardly, the very first sentence of the Monday Times report indicated after they laid down their arms, the fighters were taken into Russian custody and transferred to pro-Kremlin territory (specifically to Novoazovsk – in the Donestsk People’s Republic). So again, they were “evacuated” by their Russian enemies who’ve captured them.
“Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters were taken by bus to Russian controlled territory,” the NYT report said. “Ukraine’s president said the combat mission in the city was over, capping some of the longest, fiercest resistance.”
On Monday, retired four-star general and MSNBC “military analyst” Barry R. McCaffrey posted a clip of video game footage to Twitter. Alongside it he claimed it was a display of strength from Ukraine’s air defense. It’s actually footage from a video game.
The clip in question came from YouTube’s “shorts” section, and is titled “Russian MiG-29’s Get Shot Down By Air Defense System | Arma 3 #Shorts #Airdefense #Arma3.”
ARMA 3 is an open world military tactical shooter game for PC published in September 2013.
What’s captured on video is two in-game jets being shot down by an air defense system set up on the ground. McCaffrey’s tweet was deleted at some point after Benny Johnson pointed out the glaring mistake.
“Why is Left-Wing corporate media allowed to spread “misinformation” about a war, while they advocate for Censorship of Conservatives and Fact Checking of Memes?” he added.
“Russian aircraft getting nailed by UKR missile defense. Russians are losing large numbers of attack aircraft. UKR air defense becoming formidable,” McCaffrey had originally tweeted.
While the so-called liberal and conservative corporate mainstream media – all stenographers for the intelligence agencies – pour forth the most blatant propaganda about Russia and Ukraine that is so conspicuous that it is comedic if it weren’t so dangerous, the self-depicted cognoscenti also ingest subtler messages, often from the alternative media.
A woman I know and who knows my sociological analyses of propaganda contacted me to tell me there was an excellent article about the war in Ukraine at The Intercept, an on-line publication funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar I have long considered a leading example of much deceptive reporting wherein truth is mixed with falsehoods to convey a “liberal” narrative that fundamentally supports the ruling elites while seeming to oppose them.
This, of course, is nothing new since it’s been the modus operandi of all corporate media in their own ideological and disingenuous ways, such as The New York Times, CBS, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, Fox News, CNN, NBC, etc. for a very long time.
Nevertheless, out of respect for her judgment and knowing how deeply she feels for all suffering people, I read the article. Written by Alice Speri, its title sounded ambiguous – “The Left in Europe Confronts NATO’s Resurgence After Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” – until I saw the subtitle that begins with these words: “Russia’s brutal invasion complicates…”
But I read on.
By the fourth paragraph, it became clear where this article was going. Speri writes that “In Ukraine, by contrast [with Iraq], it was Russia that had staged an illegal, unprovoked invasion, and U.S.-led support to Ukraine was understood by many as crucial to stave off even worse atrocities than those the Russian military had already committed.” [my emphasis]
While ostensibly about European anti-war and anti-NATO activists caught on the horns of a dilemma, the piece goes on to assert that although US/NATO was guilty of wrongful expansion over many years, Russia has been an aggressor in Ukraine and Georgia and is guilty of terrible war crimes, etc.
There is not a word about the U.S. engineered coup in 2014, the CIA and Pentagon backed mercenaries in Ukraine, or its support for the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion and Ukraine’s years of attacks on the Donbass where many thousands have been killed. It is assumed these actions are not criminal or provocative.
And there is this [my emphasis]:
The uncertain response of Europe’s peace activists is both a reflection of a brutal, unprovoked invasion that stunned the world and of an anti-war movement that has grown smaller and more marginalized over the years. The left in both Europe and the U.S. have struggled to respond to a wave of support for Ukraine that is at cross purposes with a decades long effort to untangle Europe from a U.S.-led military alliance.
In other words, the article, couched in anti-war rhetoric, was anti-Russia propaganda. When I told my friend my analysis, she refused to discuss it and got angry with me, as if I therefore were a proponent of war I have found this is a common response.
This got me thinking again about why people so often miss the untruths lying within articles that are in many parts truthful and accurate. I notice this constantly. They are like little seeds slipped in as if no one will notice; they work their magic nearly unconsciously.
Few do notice them, for they are often imperceptible. But they have their effects and are cumulative and are far more powerful over time than blatant statements that will turn people off, especially those who think propaganda doesn’t work on them. This is the power of successful propaganda, whether purposeful or not. It particularly works well on “intellectual” and highly schooled people.
CIA Director, William Casey is reputed to have said to Ronald Reagan ‘We’ll know our disinformation is complete when everything the American public believes is false.’
Fast forward thirty years, and there’s no piece of fiction the masses will not swallow.
From Woke to COVID to the war in Ukraine, people no longer make their own ideological pilgrimages to the truth – the truth is served oven-ready by their political betters.
Nowadays, there’s little distinction between the two hemispheres: reality and illusion. It’s not so much that people have been robbed of their ability to decipher between these two, it’s that facts have been reoriented into fiction and fiction into facts. It’s a degradation of epistemology so momentous, that people don’t even know that they don’t know that they don’t know what’s happening. To quote one former anarchist.
In the grand scheme of things, humanity has perjured themselves and life as we know it has morphed into a sort of science-fiction, soap-opera with few common ancestors to reality. Even right-thinking folks require the equivalent of a cerebral chainsaw to hollow out the slew of implausible narratives into something remotely resembling reality. It goes beyond fiction to predictive programming. They’re not just deceiving you; they’re showing you that they’re deceiving you.
What is neither here nor there to the deceived is the track record of their deceivers. Before the ink dried on the newsprint proclaiming the crisis in-waiting, the falsifications of COVID were buried under the falsehoods of war, Zelensky’s standing ovation at Westminster knocked Pfizer data’s release off the rostrum and those formerly joined at the hip to COVID got hitched to their Ukrainian brides.
This entire fiasco holds water because what people think they know for sure, that just ain’t so, is a consensus. A preponderance of fabrications, falsehoods and false prophets governs the spiritual milieu. People worship the prosaic and glorify artifice. Our moral choices are guided by platitude and not virtue, anecdote and not evidence.
There’s a war raging, alright, but you will find its theatre of operations inside the human psyche. It is a war on consciousness, an atrophy of culture and its stark consequences is the spiritual malaise of humanity.