Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Language of the Ukraine Story

The 'western' press has decided the Ukraine story is about "Pro-Kremlin self appointed eastern separatists" (sometimes 'terrorists') versus a nice Kiev government just trying to get along.

The Guardian etc are unanimous in using certain terms: the east of Ukraine are 'separatists', they are also 'self appointed', in contrast to the west. It would be far more truthful to say that the western Ukraine government, which came to power through violent protests, are the real separatists, since they want separation from Russia which is a close neighbor with historic connections, and that actually Kiev is 'self appointed' in the way they came to power; but this is obviously not the case.

The debate is 'framed' and the terms used are biased already to a particular story.  

E.g. New York Times talking of the east:
"In areas under the separatists' control, there was growing evidence of arbitrary rule by self-appointed local officials, backed up by heavily-armed militias, and of violence being meted out against opponents.
The Guardian:
"but instead a pro-Russian mob took over yet another government building in Horlivka "
"In Kiev, two candidates from a pro-Russian party campaigning for planned May elections were attacked by loyalist crowds."
The BBC:
"In recent weeks, pro-Russian militants have seized administrative buildings in at least a dozen towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.They have occupied public buildings and installed their own officials, in similar tactics to those used to take over the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier in the year."
The 'mob' versus the 'loyalist crowd'. The 'self appointed' with arbitrary rule, and the militia, of the east.

At the same time the violent uprising in Kiev that led to the ousting of the president and a change in the government is rewritten as merely a 'row': -

"The Kiev government, which took power after Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital in a row over whether to strengthen ties with Europe, appeared to have been emboldened by Tuesday's visit of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden. 
The revolt has strangely disappeared. Only the later intervention by Russia in Crimea is remembered.

How is this prearranged story arrived at?

We know that similar happens in Russian media of course, but in the west there is the idea that we have a 'free press' and that it makes its own decisions independent of government.

Has it made these decisions and decided to treat protesting eastern Ukrainians with less credibility than the western ones? Why should it do that? It is not credible that they are all made up of Russian special forces who have entered the country.

Class relations are one answer. The western press is independent but owned, and the owners and those who have influence with its editors direct the product, and they are ruling class, the same class as the government.

On the other hand, the unanimity seems more controlled and precise than can be explained by this alone, even down to the exact same terminology used.  The debates seem scripted.

This 'scripting' happens at a variety of sources, but a major one is the nexus of private contacts via the editors of big news media organizations with the secret government security agencies and various non governmental but affiliated 'think tanks' all of which tend to bypass democracy.

Naturally, it is not in the interests of this murky grey area to have such connections publicized, it would eject the idea that western press is free and 'unbiased' and therefore diminish its effectiveness as a tool for persuasion in circumstances where it has, especially, profit interests.

But also the structural way news is filtered through the specialist agencies used, like Reuters, refines and pre-digests the output. And on another level, the choice of the personnel who are to be journalists and reporters is also a filtering process; it is not a democratic matter, of course, but decided by bosses and leaders, in effect dictatorially, since there is little democracy within private corporations.

Additionally, there is a kind of need for people to join with others and relax into the standard ideology rather than to maintain a rebellious critical posture, which after all can be exhausting. This gives to the whole process inertia of its own. This is coupled with social alienation, the social feelings associated with work in capitalism that are always manipulated expertly by the media.

And the context: economically speaking, the more capitalism becomes monopolized by certain successful corporations, the more the media and government plus the clandestine agencies become an adjunct of this monopoly and the more it functions in its interests, which are identified as the equivalent to national interests.
"Admittedly, Ukraine’s debt burden is nowhere near that of Greece, and its maturity profile is not that bad. Also, the immediate disruptions from a restructuring could be large. Yet, aside from the challenge the international community faces in raising enough cash to cover Ukraine's ever-increasing, multiyear financing gap, there is no easy way to lock in existing creditors. As a result, the West faces the prospect of seeing some of its money transferred directly to others, as Ukraine uses the proceeds of new loans to pay off maturing debts."
By 'others' he presumably also means Russia, who is owed gas debts of about 2bn. But Russia also has debts, and to western companies and investors. So in a roundabout way, which we have become used to, such money will eventually go to pay the biggest investors, i.e. normally western ones but in any case private cosmopolitan and transatlantic ones, east and west. Politically an immediate restructuring of Ukraine's debt obligations would be difficult too, as would immediate austerity policy, which is the normal way for it. 

So, strategic expansion via the EU and its future interests conflicts to an extent with its own immediate financial interests. The EU is the bourgeois investor's vehicle for future profit if it continues to expand eastwards, it is the expansion of the US free trade area; it is a kind of new or at least refreshed frontier for capital to exploit.
"On April 17, top diplomats from the U.S., EU, Ukraine, and Russia signed an agreement in Geneva calling for insurgents in eastern Ukraine to leave occupied buildings and lay down their arms." -- Isaac Webb
This is how the Kiev government 'understands' the (already severely tested) Geneva agreement on peace, as one-sided, only applying to the east. Of course they would. But will its erstwhile new creditors back it up? Well, probably only rhetorically. Which means that it is in the interests of the far right elements that Kiev has in its ranks to escalate the situation further.
"There is an illusory hope for the conference in Geneva. Ukraine will be presented there as a pie which will be divided. Everything ... shows the signs of a grand plot, where big geopolitical players resolved their issues at Ukraine's expense. It will be like that this time around too." - Editorial in Glavkom.

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