Керівник Центру моніторингу та аналітики ГО «Детектор медіа»
Субота, 22 Грудня 2018

Russian Liberal Media? No, Thank You

Sources from Russia to put into quarantine regardless of their position about Putin.
Russian Liberal Media? No, Thank You
Russian Liberal Media? No, Thank You

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Ukraine is full of fascists and Nazi. Seriously. I have heard that neither from Kiseliov nor from Soloviev but from Russian Radio Liberty. Though later they wiped up the post and corrected the text but printscreens are there. The touching story of Dmitri Volchek "about love having conquered fascism" had Nazi in the original.

Last week website of Meduza published material Why Russia and Ukraine had a fight again? Who Stands to Gain? ‘Had a fight’ this is about a case when Russians gave the stem and fired at Ukrainian ships heading from Odesa to Berdiansk and took Ukrainian marines hostages. Just off the Crimea, Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia. ‘Had a fight again’.

The day when Russians attached our ships, the Russian TV-channel Dozhd published a piece of news DPR Residential Areas under Concentrated Fire by Ukraine.  Later they came up with the source: RIA Novosti. Then this fake apparently rolled out by Russian propagandists was defied by the very fighters. Dozhd corrected their news, of course. They happened to hawk another crucified boy but then cleaned up eventually, so what’s the problem?

Each such case (or say it in modern slang – a screwup) is a recurring reminder that the phrase ‘liberal Russian media’ is more about ‘Russian’. So, the so far large Ukrainian audience of these media had better not treat them as a reliable source of information.

There is no need to chew over the reasons why Ukrainians, who do not need to be rooted in the Russian culture, still believe that the Echo of Moscow, Novaya Gazeta, Russian service of Radio Liberty, Meduza and Dozhd are top-level media. Let me confess, I wasn’t totally clean of this complex either: sometimes I found myself unintentionally thinking of Ukrainian media as bronze, Russian as silver, and western as gold. However, since the Kremlin media in their hatred to the external world went downhill to epic trash (you may see how it looks like in our monitoring), this bias was about ‘liberal’ ones only.

Big names in Russian journalism coming to have master classes at the School of Journalism at Ukrainian Catholic University where I worked were brimming with professionalism and self-confidence. It takes them a nice word and a half about Ukraine to be loved. After the Maidan some of them also went downhill to epic trash, started writing about Ukrofascism and palling around with fighters in Donetsk, like Vitaly Leybin of Russki Reporter.

It finally hit me at the session of Valery Panyushkin, a coryphée of Russian social journalism. He advocates a conviction that any journalism is social because it is about people, and people come first. To illustrate this point, he said something like: “How many of you have friends and family killed on Maidan? Yeah… How many of you have those who died of cancer? Yeah! So why do you honor the heavenly hundred but ignore the heavenly million?”

I was startled. A liberal, humanist, icon of young journalists and author of texts that made our hearts cry did not understand at all that Maidan victims is a fresh (it was early 2015) and deep wound for us. And chafing it for such a manipulative analogy is mean.

I thought through it and decided that a Russian is not supposed to feel the Ukrainian pain. And Ukrainians had better not make Russian idols and then expect them to go beyond the Russian way of thinking.

This is not about “Russian liberal ceases at the Ukrainian issue”. There are enough of those who do not cease. But we mean different things when use the same words. Saying ‘Crimea is Ours’ Russian liberals mean the chest-thumping hysteria in their country, the hysteria that consolidates the Putin’s regime. While we mean the Ukrainian land occupied by their state.

The Ukrainian way of thinking about Russia’s actions in Donbas, Crimea and Sea of Azov is based on our rights and international law. Russia violates both of them. Apparently, neither Ukraine’s right nor international law are to be of utmost importance for Russian liberals, they have their own trouble – a president for life Putin with 85% support. So they write “had a fight again”.

The Ukrainian way of thinking defines the Ukrainian way of speaking about the developments where ‘militiamen’ or ‘maritime belt of Crimea’ are out of question, with occupied territories not ‘people’s republics’. And so on. Apparently, Russians got better things to do than these subtleties even if they do not support Putin. That’s why they easily share Kremlin clichés like fascists and Nazi. One may assume that due to the romantic story about Dmytro Riznychenko’s love Russia will have more believers that Ukraine is ruled by fascism.

If one realizes that the current situation is a war between Russia and Ukraine, expecting Russian liberals to be the pro-Ukrainian ‘fifth column’ in their country, wishing their motherland a crisis, decay or collapse, dreaming of tanks to enter Moscow as Arkady Babchenko does, would be unreasonable. This is their country. They love it with Putin as we loved ours with Yanukovych and other scum in office.

They have a right to. We are not to teach them to love their motherland. And they are not to teach us who is fascist and Nazi among us.

One more thing: the Crimea is Ukraine no matter what Venediktov or Navalny think.

Inertial trust to liberal Russian media (no matter what ‘liberal’ in this phrase means, no matter how far they go in their compromise with the power to survive) is a hook that holds the adequate, thinking part of Ukrainian society in a leash of the ‘Russian World’. The situation gets more complicated as people who are used to treat Dozhd and Meduza as the top-quality sources view themselves as media literate enough and able to filter propaganda.

And when they read an interview on Echo of Moscow with another liberal anti-Putin thinker: “… I have strong suspicion that has been confirmed by my friends living in Kyiv that it was Ukraine who provoked Russia. But Russia actually burst into. Instead of driving out the Ukrainian motor boats that were definitely no threat, instead of driving them out from Russian maritime belt, saying Arrivederci, we actually boarded them…”, they think: “No, how could that be the covert Kremlin propaganda? This is dearest Echo. There must be something.” And they get hooked on.

It might be that formula ‘Russian – so fuck off’ suggested by some of the opinion leaders is way too radical for those who still feel connection with the Russian culture and mental space. But at least Russian media, regardless of their pro-government and opposition stand, should not be used as a source of information about what is going on beyond Russia. About the Russian hawthorn tincture poisoning in Syktyvkar, Meduza is fine to check. The rest is to be in quarantine. When their government gives back the Crimea and removes their troops from Donbas, we’ll take it from there.

Photo: svoboda.org


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Andrey U. Chulkov