Sunday, August 14, 2016

More Than Ignorance (July 8)

The public Broadcasting Channel (PBS) is running a series on the war in Ukraine that would make the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk furious if they could see it.  In the first episode we meet government soldiers who claim they are fighting for the country to stay unified.  However, when one of the rebel soldiers (a woman, by the way) says forcefully that she would rather die than live under a fascist government, the narrator claims that she is referring to Russia’s role in World War II, (when it fought nazi (or fascist) Germany). Far from informing the viewer that the 2014 coup in Kiev deposed a democratically elected pro-Russian president for a pro EU-regime imposed via chains and truncheons wielded by descendants and followers of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who fought alongside Hitler against Russians and Jews in World War II.
In the second episode, the narrator acknowledges approvingly that the new uniforms of Kiev’s police are copies of US police blue, complete with the vizor cap, instead of reporting that US military are training Kiev’s army.
The third episode dispenses with the excuse of reporting on Ukraine’s civil war to focus on scare-mongering in Estonia, one of the three tiny Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union for seventy years, becoming independent when that multi-national country collapsed. Pretexting that the presence of large Russian-speaking populations could tempt President Vladimir Putin to try to take over these counties, the way it supposedly did Crimea, the narrator sets up his shot on a desolate looking Russian border, then cuts to massive NATO forces standing ready to counter any Russian incursion.  
The new Cold War that has been playing out since US-backed pro-EU Ukrainians carried out their coup in 2014 is attributed to Russia’s reprehensible ‘behavior’ — a word US foreign policy wonks love to use, as if Russia were a wayward child.  But that coup didn’t materialize out of thin air, among a population rightly fed up with corruption. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, who bragged at a talk to Washington journalists that the US had ‘invested’ five billion dollars in a campaign to ‘bring democracy’ to Ukraine.  This talk is available on-line, as is her conversation with the then US Ambassador to Kiev discussing which Ukrainian politician would make the best Prime Minister.  Nuland referred to her pick as ‘Yats’ (for Yatsenyuk) and when warned he might not suit the EU, famously responded ‘Fuck the EU!’  Nuland had been repeatedly seen on news footage of the Maidan uprising handing out cookies to Ukrainians fighting for ‘democracy’.
Although two and a half years have passed since the February 2014 coup, most Americans, even most college-educated Americans, who read the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Wall St, Journal religiously, are unaware of these details.  Reporting on the Maidan was on the same level of accuracy as the current public television series on ‘Ukraine’.
Having made repeated efforts to enlighten friends and acquaintances about what they don’t know, I’ve come to the conclusion that the US public’s attitude toward Russia is not just due to lack of information. Older generations, especially (those over 45 make up the majority of voters for the first time, and tend to support either Hillary or Donald) don’t want to know what is going on.  Even the thought that crimes are being committed in their name doesn’t make a difference: they cannot bear the idea of contemplating evidence that they have been fooled all their lives: when offered the opportunity to enlarge their news sources, they cannot bring themselves to do so. The refusal of people who are normally open and eager to know about the world to take advantage of non-traditional or foreign news sites, can only be called pathological: they apparently believe that if they do not look at the evidence that everything they have believed about their country was a facade, that truth will eventually go away.
This attitude is strikingly similar to the fear Americans had of the very word ‘communism’ during the Cold War. It was as though learning about communism would contaminate them, a subliminal fear of being brain-washed. This could be understood in the sense that ‘Communism’ is a ‘doctrine, or worse, an ‘ideology’, in a country in which ideologies are rejected in favor of a straightforward ‘one man, one vote’ and may the best man win, as if all candidates were committed to the common good, i.e., the pursuit of happiness via equal opportunity, no strings attached.  (If you “play by the rules and work hard”, you will flourish.)
So the prevention against learning about communism - or even socialism - the two being interchangeable in the minds of most Westerners - is in a way understandable.  What is much less so is the stubborn refusal to consider the possibility that a country that has been tagged as an enemy, might in fact not be one at all in the minds of either its people or their leaders.

I’ve encountered this attitude time and time again - with surprisingly few exceptions - among professional seniors who believe they are abreast of world affairs.  It suggests that after the presidential election, more Americans whose eyes are open will emigrate than during the Vietnam War.

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