The Propaganda War

The frenetic intensity of the western propaganda campaign against Russia has reached and surpassed anything in living memory. Not since the early days of the First World War have western governments and the media been in such perfect harmony in their demonisation of another state as they are now in their treatment of Vladimir Putin and Russia. All the complexities of Ukraine — its woeful human rights record, its endemic political corruption, its atrocious treatment of vulnerable ethnic minorities, and its glorification of its Nazi past — discussed regularly and in-depth in the western media, were entirely expunged from the record the moment Russian forces crossed its border (24 February 2022), and Russia has been subjected to a relentless, uncompromising, and full spectrum campaign of vitriol and hate not witnessed in Europe since Kaisar Wilhelm II marched his forces through ‘litte Belgium.’

Ukraine, like Belgium in 1914, has been instantaneously and thoroughly revised in the imaginations of Europe and North America. Its twentieth century past and its less-than savoury present realities, as a fledgling democracy struggling to overcome the ugliest and most poisonous ideas of recent European history, have been whitewashed so as to set before western media consumers an idealised righteous victim mercilessly assaulted by a powerful and wholly evil neighbouring rogue state. This fictive narrative allows for no subtlety and is engineered to discipline, discredit, and destroy any voice brave enough or foolhardy enough to offer nuance or balance. Anyone in the West who stands up and points to the wider — and factual — causes of this war is immediately attacked by a rabid western commentariat and decried by the mindless mob as ‘pro-Russian’ or a ‘Putin apologist’ — terms which, in the current climate, are synonymous with ‘traitor.’

Scott Ritter, a former United Nations weapons inspector and US Marine Corps intelligence officer — a man eminently qualified to comment on the facts of this conflict, was suspended from the Twitter social media platform for stating verifiable facts that challenged this narrative; that it was impossible to lay the blame for the Bucha massacre on Russia and that the missile that struck the train station in Kramatorsk was a type used only by the Ukrainian military. Only yesterday, Roger Anderson, a Scottish socialist activist, suffered the same fate for using the iconic image of August Landmesser refusing to give the Nazi salute at the Blohm und Voss shipyard in Hamburg in 1936. Anderson used this image — a world famous symbol of anti-Nazism — in response to western governments arming and training openly Nazi elements of the Ukrainian military and their wilful ignorance of the atrocities they have been committing. Twitter chose to interpret this image as hate speech.

War in Ukraine has pulled us all through the looking glass. The informed opinion of experts and the most recognised tools of anti-fascism are to be silenced and removed from the public arena because they undermine a propaganda drive that can have only one end — the almost unanimous public support in the West for a catastrophic horizontal escalation of this conflict; one which will certainly end in a nuclear war. Western democracies are being asked to park their critical faculties to make way for a US foreign policy objective that is aggressively pushing for a war with Russia that will benefit the United States by being fought in Europe — killing tens of millions of people — and so guaranteeing American global supremacy by weakening Russia and obliterating Europe.

It is perfectly reasonable to say that Russia is in the wrong, that it has committed the greatest international crime by invading a sovereign state. There is no doubt the Russian premier Mr Putin is the aggressor. This is a perfectly rational position to take. It is the correct position. But we do not live in a world where wrong has no rights. Putin’s war against Ukraine is unjustifiable — there is no justification for war, but this is not to say that the Russian Federation does not have perfectly valid reasons for invading its neighbour. Remember, the causes of war are not justifications — they are causes, and the causes of this war are many and they do not all lie at the feet of Russia.

Ethinic Russians in Donbass have been on the receiving end of a state-sanctioned terror campaign from the time of the 2014 far-right Maidan coup. Nazi militias freshly intigrated into the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been waging a war against the civilian population of Donetsk and Luhansk in which rape and torture have rutinely been used as weapons. Under the cover of state defence, NATO has been training and working with Ukrainian forces — including Nazis — in this war against Ukrainians whose only crime was to demand greater autonomy in the face of a government in Kyiv that threatened the protection of their culture and language. Various western state intelligence agencies, including the CIA and Britain’s MI6, have been on the ground for decades fomenting Ukrainian nationalist and ultra-nationalist sentiment against Russia, and preparing the most extreme elements of these groups for a dirty war intended to destabilise Russia at the cost of Ukraine. And the United States, in violation of international law, has effectively used Ukraine as a black spot to develop illegal biological and chemical weapons for use against Russia in the war it has been engineering. In sum, Ukraine has been weaponised by the West to provoke Russia to step onto the bear trap.

Rather than accept the factuality of these causes, western governments and media working in unison with the Ukrainian government and media have mounted the largest and most sophisticated disinformation campaign ever operated. Using population control methods developed by the US and British intelligence services in Afghanistan, western state-aligned media have turned the so-called ‘battle for hearts and minds’ on their own people. Anastasiia Lapatina, a journalist for The Kyiv Independent, has taken to Twitter repeatedly from the beginning of the war, warning of the threat of rape from Russian soldiers. Apparently, this is all Russian men do — rape Ukrainian women and girls. On 31 March (2022) her claim was that ‘How to protect yourself from rape’ was a post circulating on Ukrainian social media. Perhaps this was true, but by 12 April her fear mongering had reached new heights in her assertion that Russian women were telling their soldier boyfriends and husbands to rape Ukrainian women and girls. Her source for this: the SBU — the Ukrainian intelligence service that was caught lying about ‘the ghost of Kiev’ and the fate of the Ukrainian servicemen on Snake Island.

Within Ukraine, there is clear evidence of a disinformation mill churning out outrageous anti-Russian propaganda that is repeated by western Ukrainian journalists in English on their social media pages for western consumption. Naturally, this is picked up by western media and treated — uncritically — as news from the war. It is interesting to note that Lapatina also contributes in English to The Guardian and The New York Times. Without question, and as this website has already discussed in-depth, rape happens in war. It is a crime — a war crime even, and it is not only committed by enemy soldiers. Yet, the idea that Russian women are encouraging their partners to rape other women is patently nonsense; that Russian women are essentially psychopaths like Rosemary West. This is nothing but propaganda, and its purpose is to gain greater support from people in the West and to encourage Ukrainian soldiers on the front to treat Russians — soldiers of the Russian Federation and ethnic Russian Ukrainians — with unfettered brutality.

This ugly nationalist theme of the avenging raped Ukrainian Völkisch maiden was turned up a notch with the production of the ‘Bloody Harvest’ video. In this nightmarish clip, a vampiric woman wearing a traditional Ukrainian peasant’s smock beheads a wounded Russian soldier after delivering an ultra-nationalist monologue repeating Banderist myths of Ukrainian racial superiority. By welcoming the Russian invaders ‘to hell,’ this putrid ultra-nationalist propaganda piece evokes the national memory of the 1940s when the Ukrainian Nazis, the followers of Stepan Bandera, worked with the SS to round up Jews and slaughter them at Lviv (where there is a giant monument to Bandera to this day) and Babi Yar near Kyiv. This is exactly the kind of Nazi propaganda that fueled the Ukrainian genocide of Poles in what is known as the Volhynia massacre of 1943. Ukraine is getting radical with its propaganda production; digging deep into its ultra-nationalist and criminal past to inspire the Ukrainian soldier of today to see the Russian as his grandfather saw the Jew and the Pole.

Not a single western politician or journalist called this horror out. In the same way that the worst excesses of the Nazi Azov battalion and other openly Nazi groups in the Ukrainians armed forces are being ignored, so too is this cultural Nazism — which has very much become the mainstream narrative of the war inside Ukraine. Western media simply is not interested in this, turning its attention instead to atrocities being committed by Russians. And these Russian atrocities suffer from the same lack of evidence right across the board. Social media is awash with videos and pictures of Russian prisoners of war being tortured and murdered, but not a single video or picture of Russian soldiers doing the same has emerged. The Russian atrocities are based almost entirely on assertions made by Ukrainian journalists — the Bucha massacre and the Kramatorsk missile attack, atrocities which are already struggling to stand up to forensic scrutiny. Still, nothing of this has stopped the parliamant in Kyiv from declaring the Russian invasion a genocide.

Genocide? Without so much as a scrap of evidence verified by an international inquiry, western governments and media are allowing this language to seep into the discourse — hammered home by suspect images of murdered civilians; allowing it to become a kind of soft fact of the war. This is a genocide — a deliberate targeting of the ethnic Ukrainian population for the sole reason that these people are Ukrainian — on a par with Rwanda, Srebrenica, and indeed the wholesale slaughter of Ukrainian Jews in the Holocaust by Ukrainian Nazis. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has been the only voice of reason, saying in his refusal to call this a genocide that only the international courts can determine what is and is not a genocide.

This soft factuality has created a media worldview in which the facts on the ground in Ukraine have been manufactured to suit the purposes of the United States — and the intention here is absolutely about building the necessary support in the West for a war with Russia. Western governments have learned the lessons of Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and so have set about a full spectrum media, culture, and social assault on every form of dissent. Anti-war movements have been silenced and nothing today stands between the situation now and an escalation to a catastrophic — possibly even nuclear — war with Russia but the common sense of the average person whose senses are being assailed with wall-to-wall warmongering propaganda. But, thanks to the continual background propaganda of western civilisation, the average person stands no chance of seeing through what is happening. The average western media consumer is waving a Ukrainian flag, not in solidarity with the Ukrainian people or for peace, but to support the gathering momentum of a war that will reduce his or her city to the current state of Mariupol.

Jason Michael McCann, M.Phil. (TCD) Conflict Studies
The author holds a postgraduate degree in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, and an academic fellowship in the study of conflict from the University of West Flanders. He has published on the history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the murder of the Hungarian Jews in 1944.


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