Staunton, May 18 –As he has done each week in recent times, Dmitry Bukovsky of Kyiv’s Delovaya Stolitsa provides a useful checklist of the top five “propaganda myths, fakes and stupidities of the Kremlin” about Ukraine. But another commentator, Yevgeny Kuzmenko, notes that Moscow’s activities are making it ever more difficult for Ukrainians to learn the truth.
Bukovsky’s “Top Five” this week include the following:
1. Russian-controlled media in Eastern Ukraine put out the story that already during Yanukovych’s time, the European Union ordered the construction of “filtration camps” to be used to separate out those separatists who should be shot and those who should simply be excluded from public life. What is remarkable about this, the Kyiv journalist says, the projection of myths back into the pre-Maidan period.
2. Russian media reported that a group of Ukrainian “fascists” had beaten a Russian veteran of World War II in Kyiv, but it turns out that there was no Russian veteran in Kyiv and the beating which did took place and was reported occurred in a village in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod Region.
3. Russian media reported this accurately but in a way that undermines their own claims: By a vote of 74 out of 74, the Popular Assembly of the Donetsk Peoples Republic approved a law for preventing terrorism. The new legislation, the deputies said, took into consideration the actions of countries like Russia, Syria, Angola and Venezuela.
4. A Moscow television outlet reported that Ukrainian fans had gone on a rampage and destroyed the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv. The only problems with that report is that there is no longer such a stadium and the fans did not riot but simply expressed their unhappiness with Ukraine’s loss in the European League final.
5. A journalist from Vladimir Putin’s “favorite television channel, Lifenews,” said he had gone to Lviv while wearing a St. George ribbon in order to congratulate veterans of the Great Fatherland War. He may very well have gone – the record is unclear – but his visit was clearly intended as a provocation rather than a way of honoring any veteran.
Bukovsky’s five this week are only a selection of those on view the past week and only a tiny fraction of all such misrepresentations of reality by Russian outlets concerning Ukraine. And that has prompted Kyiv commentator Kuzmenko to offer a guide to the perplexed who would like to get reliable information somehow.
Everyone must begin by recognizing that “not everything that is published on websites about politics is journalism,” he says. Much of it now is pure propaganda and invention, the work of Putin, the FSB, hackers and a variety of others who exploit the web’s desire for the new an unexpected to advance their causes.
The situation has become so serious, he continues, that “quantity has now overwhelmed quality,” especially when stories begin with such phrases as “it is difficult to believe, but” – words that inevitably draw in the unwary.
As a result, Kuzmenko says, those who use the Internet in particular need to follow certain rules: First, they need to apply to reports what they were taught as children “’don’t take candy from strangers.’” Second, they need to compare reports from more than one source and use only those which report variations.
And third, and most important, he suggests, they must not assume there is any site, no matter how trustworthy it may have been, that will always contain only truth. In the new media world, that is too much to hope for; and those who forget that are likely to be victimized by those who wish them ill by destroying any faith that there is such a thing as objective truth.