2014: The year Russia-bashing got ugly - and dangerous
The Sochi Games we somehow survived
In the weeks and months prior to the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Western mainstream media shifted into hysterical gear, spooking the public with every possible thing that could go wrong in Sochi (but didn’t) scenario.
A non-stop, mass-produced litany of tales of wild dogs, strange toilets, and the looming threat of terrorism had the rather predictable effect of prompting many spectators and even athletes to take a pass on one of the most successful Games of modern times.
Although every city that plays host to the Olympics is expected to endure some level of hostile media coverage - invariably over the sheer cost of hosting the international event - the type of criticism aimed at the organizers of the Sochi Games was exceptional for the political edge of the attack, including Russia’s decision to ban gay propaganda in the months prior to the event.
There was a deliberate effort to conflate Russian legislation to protect minors from being exposed to inappropriate sexual messages with some sort of government-sponsored attack on homosexuals. Even Human Rights Watch painted a hugely inaccurate picture of the law, turning it into some sort of state-sanctioned hit parade.
“Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people,” said Tanya Copper, a researcher with HRW.
President Vladimir Putin explained in an interview to the BBC that everybody “can feel free” in their relationships, that Russia has only banned the promotion of “homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.”
“We don't have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations," he said. "We have a ban on promoting homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.”
"You can feel free in your relationships but leave children in peace.”
That seems like pretty sound advice for children, who will have plenty of time later in life to consider such issues.
Despite the West’s best efforts to portray Russia as the perennial villain on the global stage, it actually remains one of the last bastions of family-oriented values in a world that is being swept away by a tidal wave of godless liberalism.
Indeed, the Sochi Olympic Games, judging by its opening and closing ceremonies, was exceptional for the quality of the presentation, much of it aimed at the promotion of families and children. By comparison, such a concept has become totally foreign at many US events, including the 2014 Grammy Awards, which left many critics wondering if the event actually promoted Satanism.
Yet the Western media latched on to Russia’s supposed “gay ban,” turning it into an anti-Russian hammer to bash the Games.
So what was the real reason behind this assault on Sochi? Putin said such efforts were part of an ongoing attempt to hinder positive developments inside of Russia.
"Whenever Russia demonstrates any positive development, the appearance of a new strong player, of competition, is bound to cause concern in the economy, in politics and in the security sphere. We see attempts to deter Russia here and there. Unfortunately, this had to do with the Olympic project" as well, he told members of the Public Council for the Preparation of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Fortunately, in a sign that not everybody in the Western media writes about Russia with blinders on, there was this rare gem courtesy of Esquire magazine: “These Olympics were supposed to be many things. They were supposed to be a giant soft target for terrorists. They were supposed to be an anti-gay goosestep. They were supposed to be shoddy, unfinished, poor, and corrupt, with zero customer service, and rabid dogs chewing on baby arms. And they are not. They are fun, and they are beautiful.”
The Sochi Games would prove to be just the first episode of disastrous reporting on Russia in a very tumultuous year.
MH17 Malaysia Airlines crash over Ukraine
Not only was the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 a tragedy of human dimensions, it was also a tragedy of epic proportions as far as journalism is concerned. One day after the Malaysia-bound aircraft went down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew, Western media was already convinced it knew the identity of the perpetrator.
Yet every aircraft catastrophe requires painstaking investigation before any conclusions can be made: The black box must be found and examined; the pieces of the aircraft must be collected and fitted together to understand how and what damaged the aircraft; witness testimony is heard; satellite imagery is reviewed. In the case of Malaysia Airlines MH17, however, which should have received even more scrutiny given that it went down in a war zone, none of these details seemd to be of consequence for the Western media. Instead, like cheap propagandists, the Western mainstream media committed the cardinal sin of pointing the finger of blame without performing a single thread of investigative research.
Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun, with over 2 million readers, screamed in large-font print from its front page: “Putin’s missile,” while the UK’s most popular tabloid, The Daily Mail, said America warned there’d be “hell to pay” if Russia (i.e. Putin) was involved in the downing of the aircraft. In the best case scenarios, Russia remained conspicuously between the lines in the sloppily crafted narrative.
Once again, a little ingredient known as basic facts was glaringly overlooked simply because the subject at hand was Russia. Usually such an oversight does nothing more bothersome than elicit a few chuckles at Russia’s expense. This time, however, the stakes were far greater, happening as it did in the middle of a Ukrainian civil war, the outcome of which had no small bearing on international relations and the geopolitical chessboard - which, we should add, is littered with nuclear weapons.
There were numerous questions posed by the Russian side that were blatantly ignored in the Western media, including: Why did the MH17 plane leave the international corridor; why did Kiev deploy BUK missile systems on the edge of militia-controlled zones directly before the tragedy (especially considering the rebels have no planes); what was a Ukrainian fighter jet, detected by Russian radar, doing on the route intended for civilian flights; why haven’t European investigators released transcripts from the black box, or provided the public with a full report on the crash?
These are questions that not only Russia is asking, but also Malaysia, which was actually excluded from the criminal investigation team. Was that because it was prepared to view the details of the crash with an objective, open mind, not obsessed with blaming Russia?
"When the crash happened, we did not blame any parties, neither Russia nor Ukraine, as we would like to take a look at the concrete evidence," Dr. Mohamed Harridon, associate professor in research and aviation at Kuala Lumpur University, told RT. He noted that unlike "western counterparts," Malaysia has taken a “neutral role," and not "pointed fingers at Russia," which could be the reason for the country's exclusion from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that is permitted to apportion blame.
Once again, the Western world has been led astray by a media that is not remotely interested in engaging in any sort of investigative journalism – even when the stakes involve nothing less than global security. Instead, as the pathetic reporting of Sochi underscored, the Western media would rather throw out misleading stories on Russia in order to achieve some kind of warped agenda.
Finally, as far as US-Russia relations go, the only time in recent history that Washington has actually leveled with Moscow and told the truth was due to a wrongly translated word that turned out to be surprisingly accurate judging by the “overloaded” realities.
In March 2009, during the early moments of the Obama administration, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a symbolic "reset" button, which the two diplomats jokingly pressed for the photographers, signaling their intention of renewing bilateral relations between their respective countries.
The State Department, however, as Lavrov himself explained, wrongly fixed on the button the Russian word for "overload" instead of "reset," thereby providing Moscow – albeit thanks to a technical glitch - a much clearer picture of Washington and the West’s true intentions regarding its relationship with Russia than anything else to date.
Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, which examines the dangerous consequences of extreme corporate power in the United States.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.