That’s it. I’m convinced. The Western press is indeed guilty of being almost deliberately “anti-Russian.” Not because of any US-sponsored “information war” but rather the same two factors that have plagued the Western press for decades, laziness and the profit motive. Profit motive has long been the factor driving negative, sensationalist press on Russia. Big scary ex-KGB president gets far more headlines than positive stories about US-Russia visa regime changes or the construction of the Aeroexpress airport-center trains in Moscow. Laziness is what drives reporters to simply repeat what official sources tell them, or to piggy back off other people’s work instead of being original. While this hardly constitutes some kind of “information war”, other, more critically thinking journalists have pointed out that this kind of lazy reporting definitely provides grist for the Kremlin’s propaganda mills, particularly when the claims being asserted in the Western press are blatantly untrue or ridiculously hypocritical.
Recently a journalist friend of mine, who incidentally is not lazy since his work regime seems positively Victorian, said that the press doesn’t report on any other country the way it does on Russia. I objected and suggested that there are a few other countries, typically those who aren’t on friendly terms with the US, which almost always suffer from distorted reporting. However, he then produced a number of links which convinced me that yes, the Western press has crossed the line.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was a positively insane article that condemns Russia for the Circassian Deportations…which happened 150 years ago…carried out by a regime which has not existed since 1917. The 2012 Summer Games were held in London. Did the UK engage in any unethical behavior in the 19th century? Did anyone bring up any of the countless atrocities committed in the name of either the East India Company or the British crown throughout the 19th century and into the 20th? The Summer Games of 1996 were held in Atlanta, Georgia. Did anything unpleasant happen in 19th century Georgia? Something possibly involving owning human beings as property? Please, if anyone reading this can provide evidence of such criticism during the London games or any other Olympic venues, by all means bring it. I am well aware of some similar coverage during the Beijing Summer Games of 2008, but of course China is another favorite punching bag of the Western press.
What we have here is a clear double standard, which we can see in a myriad of examples both in the news and entertainment media. If someone were to bring up the Iraq war during discussion of London’s 2012 games, it would be regarded as a ridiculous red herring, totally off topic. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened had a journalist brought up the state of Georgia’s connections with slavery during the 1996 games. But in any story on Russia, no matter how positive or how seemingly politically neutral the topic may be, you must dredge up something negative about it. If you can’t find a way to connect it to the Soviet period or shoehorn Stalin into it, dig deeper into the depths of Russian Imperial history. Hell, somebody missed the perfect opportunity at last year’s Universiade in Kazan. What a travesty that this celebration of athletics was held in the same city which was the site of a bloody massacre, carried out by Ivan the Terrible and his army when they sacked the city in 1552.
As I have alluded to in a previous entry, I have become somewhat numb to the unfairness shown toward Russia over the past year, mainly because I have been practically marinated in manufactured Russian jingoism. It’s natural to react first against what you deal with every day. I also have a hard time being motivated to take up even just causes on the behalf of Russians, even though I believe in said causes, if only because many Russians don’t do very much to help their own situation or in many cases make it worse. This doesn’t make the cause any less righteous, it only makes finding the motivation to take up the cause much more difficult. Lastly, I have a strong urge not to be seen as another American Russophile, or as I sometimes like to call them, Dancing American Monkey. It’s very easy as an American to publicly take the Russian side on some issue and get publicity in Russia for it. Some Americans have actually made a career out of it. The problem, however, is that the very segment of Russians to which this kind of behavior appeals does not truly respect you. You’re still an American, their worst enemy, but you’re just their American. Perhaps this more than any other factor can explain my reluctance to go to bat for Russia; I oppose the American government on principle, not because I want to ingratiate myself with a bunch of jingoistic, flag-wavers. But now it is clear that the media is indeed engaging in behavior that can be rightfully called “anti-Russian,” and not simply as in “anti-Russian government.” They crossed the line.
In the next few weeks, if there are any more ridiculous Sochi stories containing even so much as a hint of deliberate distortion, ethnic chauvinism/racism, or ethnic fetishization toward Russians or any people of the Russian Federation, expect to see them torn to shreds on this blog.
The “information war” may be a paranoid fantasy, but I’m declaring war on lazy, unoriginal idiots.