Voices from Russia

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Myths about Russia: Can One Believe Western Media “Translations” of Putin?

00 USA Russia flags. Putin quote. 27.09.12


The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, when arguing with Sophists, the PR managers of his time, tried to persuade them that BEING is more important than SEEMING. Why? Because, Socrates believed, the fallacious nature of “seeming wise whilst not being wise” would sooner or later show itself. His opponents, the Sophists, retorted by saying that words were always subject to interpretation, so, someone controlling interpretation would sooner or later control reality. In our times, Sophists would probably find their golden age, as people twist words and images in unimaginable ways. However, two stories do stand out. One is the story of the Western media’s interpretation of Putin’s comments on gays in Russia. The second one is the same media’s interpretation of the events in Kiev (instead of a neo-Nazi pogrom, we get “a government crackdown on peaceful demonstrators”).

Here is the Moscow Times former editor-in-chief Lynn Berry charging on Putin’s answer to the question on the law against gay propaganda among minors. As one may see from this recording of Putin’s speech, President Putin went out of his way to show the most open attitude possible:

We have no prohibition of non-traditional forms of sexual interaction between people, we only prohibit propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia, I’d stress it, among minors. These are two absolutely different things. Absolutely different things… prohibition of certain relationships, and prohibition of propaganda of these relationships. We don’t prohibit anything, we don’t arrest anyone, you can’t be made responsible for these relationships. This makes us different from many countries in the world, including the USA, where some states still list non-traditional sexual orientation formally as a crime. We don’t have anything like that, that’s why everyone can feel himself or herself free and unrestrained, just leave the children in peace, please.

So, what does Berry write for the AP, for lots of newspapers which consider this agency’s information objective? Right, she makes the headline “Russian President Putin Links Gays to Paedophiles“. Then, just two lines down the text, Berry heaps one more lie on top of the first one… “He defended Russia’s anti-gay law by equating gays with paedophiles and said Russia needs to ‘cleanse’ itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate”. This is a classical case of sophistical manipulation, even if a very crude one. The two verbs “to link” and “to equate”… are they synonyms? No. If you link one thing to another one, that doesn’t mean you equate these two things. If some twisted mind could still see a “linkage” between paedophilia and homosexuality in what Putin said, then, that same twisted mind shouldn’t see an “equation” here, unless that mind is completely dishonest… even with itself. Of course, seeing an “anti-gay law” in a law that speaks about a fine for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”… this is a manipulation, a dishonest and arbitrary interpretation of a text. However, this manipulation is already so “mainstream”, so ingrained in the reader’s conscience, that Berry doesn’t even bother to give any proof for it, besides citing some “international outcry”, obviously provoked by articles with an equally neoliberal attitude to their subject.

Of course, Putin never suggested “cleansing” the country of homosexuality… but hey, this is Russia; you can say whatever you want about it with complete impunity. Berry seized the opportunity, writing that Putin suggested that gays were more likely to abuse children (there are no quotation marks… for the simple reason that Putin never made such a suggestion). This isn’t the first case when the Western media get the wrong end of the stick on Putin’s words (or those of Slobodan Milošević or Vladimír Mečiar, for instance), for it ascribes to itself the right to be the “translator” of things the leaders of other countries say. These “translators” follow a principle… if reality doesn’t correspond to Western stereotypes (which we, the media, formed)… then, so much worse for the reality.

From dishonest media handling there is just one small step to crude political mistakes. Everyone must have forgotten how columnists from the Washington Post or the New York Times were discussing the amounts of weapons of mass destruction at Saddam Hussein’s disposal before the USA invaded Iraq in 2003. Similarly respected publications were counting the months (if not days) which were left to Assad’s power just before the Syrian Civil War started in 2011. Now, the war has been on for almost three years; none of these so-called “experts” resigned or got the boot for these miscalculations.

A reader can look at video of Ukrainian policemen being burnt alive by people the Western media calls “peaceful protesters”, who happened to have a strange peaceful taste for Molotov cocktails. However, in the mainstream Western media, you’ll only read about the “draconian laws” of the Ukrainian government, which doesn’t allow arsonists and other “protesters” to wear masks at their rallies. Worse, the Washington Post calls these pogrom-makers “opposition militants bolstered by government-sponsored provocateurs” and bemoaned the fact that these over-emotional youngsters “tarnished the previously peaceful character of the protest movement” (for those interested in the “previously peaceful” beatings of policemen and destruction of statues, it’s enough to watch video of the Euromaidan activities in December 2013… especially, the shots of the storming of the presidential administration).

Hence, the US State Department’s grotesque reaction to events in Kiev, blaming the violence on the government’s failure to “acknowledge legitimate grievances of the people” and praising the opposition. Of course, the Washington Post knows everything about other countries; it describes Belarus as “an autocratic Kremlin colony” (the problem with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko is that he seems to be no one’s viceroy). The WP is never too shy to draw conclusions from its omniscience; calling for sanctions against Yanukovich if he “uses violence against the protesters” (I wonder if people burning policemen in Washington DC would get bouquets of flowers) {BTW… Molotov cocktails are ILLEGAL in the USA, which makes the Kiev rioters mere CRIMINALS… just sayin’: editor}. A long time ago, the Founding Fathers called on America to lead other countries by example. It’s a pity that this example is getting more and more “lost in translation”… translation that we get from the likes of Lynn Berry. This translation of reality looks more and more like manipulation.

23 January 2014

Dmitri Babich

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

What more need I add? Both sides of the American political spectrum engage in the same sort of lies… both the Washington Post and Washington Examiner lie about the Ukrainian situation, as do Fox News and MSNBC/CNN. You’d think that the country’s in flames. The rioting remains limited, it’s in a small area in central Kiev and in certain perpetually gnarly areas in the Western Ukraine. The only area to have unrest outside of the Far West was something in Sumy, and that’s all. That is, most of the country (and Kiev) is going about its normal business. The Supreme Soviet of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea resolved:

We propose halting government outlays in regions that waive the rule of law, until we restore constitutional order there. The very basis of a constitutional state and the system of state power is under threat. The rioters claim that they’re “taking power into their own hands”. They obey the decisions of a self-proclaimed “People’s Rada”; they’ve already started forming illegitimate bodies of public authority.

This is truth. The rioters are criminal elements intent on overthrowing the legitimate government. That is, the USA WANTS chaos and bloodshed, if it results in more profits for American crapitalists. When you tune into the Fox News/CNN duopoly, when you listen to the rubbish spouted by ignorant, ridiculous, and self-serving ranters such as Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin (“Rush stuck in his thumb, pulled out 400 million plums, ‘Gee, what a good boy am I'”), that’s what you advocate, too. There’s no getting away from it. The sheer stupidity and evil of it all reeks to high heaven (do note that it doesn’t deter the American Hard Right from embracing it though… it speaks volumes as to their intelligence and character, doesn’t it?).

What’s sad is that’s no real spectrum amongst the media in the USA. It’s all either Hard Right neoliberalism (“conservatism”) or Centrist neoliberalism (“liberalism”). There’s no Conservatism (in the legitimist Burkean/Bismarckian sense); there’s no Leftism (in the socialist Marxist/Fabian sense). That is, neither the “Right” or the “Left” of this supposed dichotomy are really in opposition… both are in favour of a neoliberal society, the only disagreement is over how much of a role Multinational Corporations will play in decision-making. That’s why “Progressivism” fails on all counts… it’s a non-answer to made-up “problems”. For instance, look at the inane proposals for “income redistribution” from upper-middle class “Progressives”… all they do is to take from the middle to give to the lower. They don’t touch the rich or upper-middles… “Why, that’d be unfair! We EARNED it”. Of course, most decent folk reject such nonsense (as do I and most Leftists). We need a REAL Left solution… which would target the REAL exploiters, not poor sods making a living. However, with the media the way it is, it leaves people uninformed, ergo, they’re unarmed and helpless.

Much the same is occurring with the Seraphim Storheim  affair. The OCA apparat lies by omission and by lawyerly parsing. Indeed, notice what the judge said about Storheim:

I don’t believe the testimony of the accused. The accused wasn’t credible about his behaviour. He … provided nonsensical answers and wasn’t consistent in his version of events. … He loves to parse words and concepts. Other times, he’d provide nonsensical answers. I reject his evidence entirely.

This wasn’t a journalist writing an article. This was a judge, in a court of law, speaking on the record. In short, Mr Justice Mainella called Seraphim Storheim a liar… and by extension, he also implied that it meant those who supported him in the OCA apparat. We all know how the First Families denied many the Mysteries under suspicious circumstances (quite often, the pious explanation is that the person involved wasn’t “repentant”, they wouldn’t “take responsibility” for their actions). Do note how that’s flipped on its head for the First Families and those they favour. “Ignore the court! Ignore the judge! Ignore the verdict! You must love the sinner, forgive them, and accept the fact that they’ll suffer no consequence at all for their actions”. I’ll be frank… such a construct is evil and beyond the pale… I’m NOT alone in thinking that way. There’ll be “interesting times” ahead…


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