Why West paints Putin as villain & Russian media his evil servants

Dmitry Babich
Dmitry Babich was born in Moscow, in 1970. He has worked for various media outlets for 25 years, including The Moscow News and RIA Novosti news agency. He is currently working as a political analyst at Sputnik International, and is a frequent guest on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN commenting on international affairs and history.
Russian President Vladimir Putin © Maxim Zmeyev
Minutes after Russia began strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, Western media began reporting that Russian jets were hitting the ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition. Sputnik International’s political observer Dmitry Babich explains why anti-Russian rhetoric has taken over Western media.

On the morning after the first Russian airstrikes, I appeared on the BBC for a discussion. I asked former head of the British Foreign Office Malcolm Rifkind why British television and the press were convinced that Russian jets weren’t targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

I also wondered why Russian reports were not taken into account.

The answer was: “Russian airstrikes on Hama and Homs, where there are no terrorists, are an undisputable fact, because it is reported by the free British press, while all Russian media are controlled by the Kremlin, therefore they will not deliver such information.”

You are you, thus you are guilty

So we are right, because it’s us, and you are wrong, because it’s you. You are in Moscow and therefore the Kremlin controls you. The Western media pondered the ‘Maybe Russia is right?’ question for a very short period of time – a few hours. (During the first hours of the airstrikes some Western media welcomed the new development, calling the Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict as war on IS). But soon enough, the usual anti-Russian narrative began to dominate in all Western sources.

Later, during a press conference by Foreign Minister Lavrov, journalists reiterated Rifkind’s references to the ‘civilian casualties’ reportedly caused by Russia's newly opened military campaign in Syria.

The journalists presented them as facts, because apparently ‘they’d been widely reported’. Lavrov refused to accept the charges as ‘facts,’ reminding the audience that during the ‘hot phase’ of the Ukrainian conflict, Western media were forced to apologize for similar reports about ‘Russian strikes’ on Ukrainian targets, which later proved to have been faked.

We can also recall breaking news stories in the New York Times about Russian troops launching a Ukraine offensive from Crimea (they stated the Ukrainian authorities as the source, putting the reference in tiny print at the end). There were also narratives about the Odessa fire victims on May 2, 2014, who apparently committed ‘mass suicide,’ and some reports even claimed these people had attacked their killers first.

Western media has never issued an apology for these lies. Just as they never apologized for reporting about the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein allegedly had in his possession, which became the pretext for the American-British invasion in 2003.

Nor did they apologize for describing the Maidan rebels as ‘peaceful protesters,’ even after those peaceful protesters began to kill the police. In 2014, the Western media even included Svoboda (formerly Social-National Party of Ukraine) activists in the list of ‘peaceful protesters,’ and top European diplomat Catherine Ashton shook hands with the party’s leader Oleg Tyagnybok.

Now after the Poroshenko-Tyagnybok fallout, Western media paint the same party activists as dangerous criminals, who killed four law enforcement officers during the clashes in central Kiev on August 31, 2015.

No apologies and no punishment for delivering false, sometimes even immoral information. So the Western media are playing out The Society of the Spectacle [a book by Guy Debord, released in 1967], when they cover international events. They race to put on the hottest news, peddling very catchy (although untrue and almost certainly vulgar) headlines to the audience. Traditionally the villain, whose intentions the reader is supposed to figure out, is President Vladimir Putin.

Putin as a character

The Daily Telegraph (Australia) teases: ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin launches airstrikes in Syria, but what’s he really up to?’ Reuters, supposed to simply deliver news, advertises ‘its’ Putin as some villain from a county fair show – ‘Syria is the next arena on Vladimir Putin’s comeback tour’. Media business analyst William Dunkerley, author of Ukraine in the Crosshairs, notes Western media always search for some ‘hidden agenda’ in everything Putin does. They never take him at face value. Hence, the endless comparisons between Syria and Ukraine.

‘By announcing a new role in Syria, Putin hopes to pull his country out of the Ukraine swamp’ – an Associated Press contributor headlines his article. The Society of the Spectacle judges politicians by the spectacle’s rules. Apparently, Moscow doesn’t care about millions of its people who now have to live under the new Kiev regime, or the thousands dying in Donbass; it is only concerned with a new role for Putin. Western society, the society of the spectacle, sees no problem with this logic. Because all people in this society are actors, looking for a better paying gig.

Yet some authors appear to be out of touch with reality. They don’t even try to hide the fact that all they care about is the ‘information war’, in their calling to combat ‘Russian propaganda’. And as you know, all’s fair in love and war.

War according to Halya Coynash

The legendary Newsweek published an Atlantic Council article by one Halya Coynash – a Maidan activist. Although the title was so ‘information war’ (“Western media must fight Russia's lethal propaganda more aggressively”) that Newsweek didn’t feel comfortable leaving it at that. Their headline doesn’t sound so imperative, but it was a strange mix of boorish and poetic: “It is not easy to counter Putin’s barrage of lies”.

Naturally, Galya Coynash compares Putin to Hitler. This has become a cliché, as many have gone down this dirty road, including British PM David Cameron and Zbigniew Brzezinski - labeled a ‘cold analyst with a big Polish heart’ by Gazeta Wyborcza - as well as aging Prince Charles. However, Coynash goes even further and puts Russia’s president in the same category as the organizers of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. And why? Because Russian media reported on the Odessa fire and spoke about its victims.

Here is the exact quote from her article: “A major global propaganda effort to label the tragic May 2, 2014 fire in Odessa as a "massacre" by pro-Ukrainian radicals is known to have prompted young men to go to fight in the Donbass. Such lies were used before to provoke pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe and, twenty years ago, by the ruling tribe in Rwanda, to justify genocide.”

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According to Galya Coynash’s logic, people in eastern Ukraine had no issues with the new Kiev regime: apparently, the regional language policy was never cancelled (it basically targeted Russian), the new ruling parties never wrote thousands of articles about the ‘Donbass alcoholics’, ‘Soviet rudiments, stopping us from joining Europe’, or even ‘half-people’… Turns out, Svoboda members and Maidan activists never attacked MPs from the East inside the parliament building. Local authorities in southern and eastern Ukraine were not replaced in a flash, after the regime change, without elections or referendums. Yet these are all registered facts, reported even by the Western media.

Nevertheless, Coynash blames Russian 'propaganda' for the civil war, forgetting about the 25 years of domestic propaganda in Donbass, and ignoring the fact that people would only risk their lives to protect their actual interests, not some fake reality created by headlines.

Who ‘smoked out’ the people?

So what happened in Odessa on May 2, 2014, according to Galya Coynash? If it was not mass murder, then it must’ve been mass suicide.

Pro-Russian activists killed themselves? Then how would Coynash explain the mean headline that appeared in pro-Maidan Ukraniska Pravda at the same time as people were tragically dying: "Separatists are being smoked out of the Trade Unions Building"?

Who was smoking the people out of the building? Putin? No, it was the young nationalistic activists who ‘smoked separatists’ out of the building. And yes, there is video proof.

READ MORE: Kiev bars Ukrainian-born RT journalist at border, bans her entry for 3 yrs

In many of her articles, Coynash attacks British pacifist Jeremy Corbyn, who was recently elected leader of the UK Labor Party, a source of utter disappointment to the US. She didn’t fail to attack him in the Newsweek article as well. It seems his opponents criticize him for having talked too much to RT in 2014. Also, in his interview, Corbyn called the new Ukrainian government fascist, and the UK and the US will never forgive him for that.

In reality, Corbyn did not say there was a fascist government in Ukraine. He is a pacifist, and he abides by the principles of British political correctness.

Censorship is not a new thing, but today’s situation is unique, as it is not the government that is calling for RT’s articles to be censored, but the concerned public represented by Galya Coynash. And governments (both in the US, the UK and elsewhere) approve.

Therefore, they are not trying to protect the Western viewer from propaganda. They are slowly weaning them off any sort of information that goes against the dominating view, which usually expresses the government’s position.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.