With the newly created “NewsGuard” in mind, there’s a tendency in some circles to inaccurately color a given situation with broad unsubstantiated and bias driven claims, as has been true with the coverage of Russian related issues. Shortly after my initial draft of this article, University of Ottawa Professor Paul Robinson posted a piece on this very subject.
Robinson is someone who doesn’t so readily accept the anti-Russian biases evident in North American mass media and body politic. It’s therefore no surprise to see that the anti-Russian and Ukrainian nationalist leaning Taras Kuzio speak negatively of him. (Kuzio has quite a hit list of Western based academics, who he depicts as fiendishly undermining the interests of Ukraine and the West.) Among some pro-Russian elements, Robinson has received criticism for being what I’ll call (for lack of a better term) a moderate extremist – something worthwhile to further delve into, seeing how it has been brought up.
In a certain sense, the claim of being fair can have an unfair attribute. Two or more parties to a dispute aren’t always so evenly right and/or wrong. The referee calling the same amount of penalties on the competing teams isn’t being fair when one side is actually committing more infractions.
In a recent YouTube aired exchange, Robinson (among other things) gave credence to the possibility of Russian government involvement in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Skripals. An appropriate counter-establishment reply notes that Litvinenko’s Italian acquaintance Mario Scaramella, had also been infected with polonium, in addition to having been arrested in Italy on a defamation charge and the matter of arms smuggling. Litvinenko was known to be sympathetic to the cause of the Chechen separatism. Along with that stance, his association with the shady likes of Scaramella and the late Boris Berezovsky, leads to the reasonable belief that Litvinenko’s death was likely not caused by a Russian government hit.
As has been noted, there’re easier, less expensive and less riskier ways for the Russian government to eliminate a perceived threat. There’s good reason to believe that Litvinenko was a minor nuisance for the Russian government, as opposed to an important asset to kill. As for the Skripals, the considerable lack of UK investigatory transparency leaves considerable doubt on how they were actually afflicted.
Robinson goes on to present a neutral overview of the recent Kerch Strait incident, involving Ukrainian naval vessels and Russian authorities. He suggests that there’s perhaps not enough information to conclusively finger point in any one direction, to an occurrence where both sides might be at fault, inclusive of some excessive manner.
With Ukrainian Security Service counter-intelligence officers on board, several Ukrainian vessels failed to answer Russian calls to halt upon approaching a relatively shallow and narrow waterway, accustomed to advance notice (by the given authority there) for safety sake. Some of the since detained (by Russia) Ukrainian naval personnel acknowledge not answering Russian calls to stop. The Russians say that these vessels approached without giving the customary prior notice that concerns a Russian built bridge which has been threatened with terror attacks from inside and outside Ukraine. Did Russia stand to benefit from provoking this incident more than Kiev regime controlled Ukraine? As for excessiveness, there were no casualties in the detaining of the Ukrainian naval and counter-intelligence personnel.
In his his blog post of this past November 28, Robinson astutely questions the need for having Ukrainian security service counter-intelligence officers aboard naval vessels – a matter that IMO puts into further question the image of doing nothing suspect. Premised on an already existing pattern of anti-Russian biases, the Kiev regime and some others could sense the hypocritical outrage in some influential circles over what was to happen – Russia put in the position to engage in the way it did, out of not knowing for sure what the Ukrainian vessels had in mind, as they approached a strategically important asset. By acting in the way that it did, Russia has underscored the necessity of having a reasonable set of guidelines for travelling thru a relatively busy waterway with size limits.
In the aforementioned YouTube discussion, Robinson describes Stephen Cohen’s use of the “new Cold War” term as being “a little bit too alarmist”. Post-Soviet Russia isn’t as geopolitically powerful as the Soviet Union. When compared to the Soviet era, there’s a greater overall one to one contact in the freer travel between people from the former Soviet bloc (Russia included) and the West.
These realities led me to second guess the “new Cold War” term in 2013. The developments since that time are discouraging from the advocacy for improved Russia-West (especially US-Russian) relations.
Shortly after Robinson’s comment, a February 12 Counterpunch article, highlighted Cohen’s observation of the coverage of Russia in the US. Cohen correctly notes that towards the end of the Soviet era, there were fairly frequent efforts to get Soviet perspectives aired in American mass media. In recent years, the effort to have such exchanges with mainstream thinking Russian views has very much dried up. Instead, the likes of CNN will typically have one of their reporters and/or in house commentators provide spin to mainstream Russian positions.
In the YouTube talk, Robinson acknowledges this aspect. Therein lies the danger of a US body politic, mass media and public, being greatly ignorant of Russia’s legitimate concerns. A situation that can lead to the potential for a greater and unnecessary confrontation. With all this in mind, Cohen has a reasonably valid enough point in utilizing the “new Cold War” term. That description isn’t saying that the present situation is exactly the same as the Soviet era Cold War.
The lack of mainstream Russian perspectives in Anglo-American mass media serves to nurture the anti-Russian bigotry which has been evident. Some recent examples have been brought up. Rachel Maddow’s ongoing obsession with Russia doing evil has been mocked by Jim Dore. Likewise, a New York Times (NYT) op-ed characterizing Russian deceit with DNA has come under criticism at The Duran and some other non-establishment venues.
I’m reminded yet again of NYT sports writer Juliet Macur distinguishing between “clean athletes” and “Russians”, around the time of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), continues to deny Russians from formally representing their country at track and field meets, where they compete as neutrals. The premise for this grossly unfair IAAF stance is centered around Russia not accepting the flimsy, factually challenged report of Richard McLaren.
American mass media is especially two faced when it comes to outing intolerance. A good deal was made over over Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments on the influence of AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee). The anti-Russian establishment hack journalist Julia Ioffe tweeted her belief that Omar’s comments are “anti-Semitic” (anti-Jewish). I’m not too familiar with what Omar has said about Jews over the course of time. I doubt that it[‘s more repugnant than what Ioffe has stated about Russians.
There has been no letting up with Ioffe. In one recent mass media TV appearance, she said (in a joking tone) that a relaxation of Russian gun laws isn’t a good idea because Russians drink too much. In another prominent TV segment, Ioffe stated that when the Russians call someone corrupt, that person must be pretty bad.
Some generalizations are hypocritically more acceptable than others. A good number of Western reared Russians see thru this gross hypocrisy. On the subject of Russia, these individuals regularly get limited coverage in Western mass media.
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