Western Media Blackout: When News is not News

The collective Western media blackout of events which are detrimental to the official narrative put out by their (read US) Government(s), just confirm the rapid decline of the worth of these outlets and the equally rapid increase in value in alternative voices.

March 20, 2015

The Story

An eight-year old girl walking on the sidewalk of a non-descript industrial town on a clear crisp winter’s day was mowed down by an armored vehicle driven by apparently drunken army personnel and killed instantly.  A mother pushing her baby in a carriage was also severely injured and taken to hospital.  Four servicemen in the armored vehicle apparently fled in a taxi.

The immediate aftermath, with the blood of the girl fresh on the ground next to a mangled baby carriage was captured on video. Her sheeted body was videoed being taken away in an ambulance.

Mangled Baby Carriage

The reaction to this event (video) was swift, with a citizen mob forming to march onto the military barracks where those commanding the armored vehicle were thought to be staying and demanded they be handed over and arrested.   Tires were set on fire, the windows in the buildings smashed and shots fired from the military who rushed in reinforcements from neighboring cities to control the situation.  In addition, unverified social media reports that about 150 troops from a paramilitary far-right “volunteer” organization flooded in to put down the potential unrest from spreading.

Shoot to kill orders were put in place and harsh restrictions imposed on any further displays of violence.  The town was cut off from mobile and Internet connections for a while at least. 

The next day, a scared, upset woman led a funeral procession holding the photograph of the child, the body carried behind on a bier, her ashen face visible among the flowers (video).

There was a rally in the main square against the constant presence of the military in the town and their often drunk behavior and worse, acting with impunity.

Meanwhile the Government in the capital announced that two soldiers were arrested and promised to hold them accountable while warning against any further incitement in a town whose residents have been hostile to the government in power in the capital.  They accused agents of a neighboring nation with whom a tense situation already exists, for provoking the situation.

The Government of this neighboring nation meanwhile, whose ethnic compatriots are a majority in the town and surrounding regions, called for a through investigation of the tragedy.

The town remains tense with arrest warrants issued for 26 citizens for incitement to riot. Allegedly there is a door to door search by the far-right volunteers to identify others.  And a journalist who filmed the initial events was apparently taken away by unknown men in army uniform with his family and friends getting no answer from the police or security agencies.

How Certain Victims Makes For Newsworthiness 

It’s long been acknowledged that missing / dead women/children in Western societies who are white, especially if attractive, get more media coverage than if not.  Indeed there is a name to this: Missing White Woman Syndrome

Visual attractiveness / emotional appeal of a victim and the readers identification with this has been debated in academic circles and it’s not my intention to rehash this.

In this case, the victim, was a child and heartbreakingly cute.  Here she is on the left,  along side a montage of a different, photogenic mother and child (top right), and another beautiful young woman (bottom right).

Polina (left), Kristina and Kira (top right), Neda (bottom right)

All four were tragically killed in situations of political unrest that were of topical global geopolitics: Polina, the eight year girl described above, was killed by a hit-and-run by her Government’s army vehicle; Kristina and Kira, the mother and baby killed in a park by a shell fired by their national government’s forces; and Neda, a young woman was shot dead amidst demonstrations against the recent election victory by the incumbent Government candidate.

Tragic, but is this News?

One of these apparently was: it generated international (read Western media led) headlines and cries of outrage against the Government that was held ultimately responsible.  Her face was reprinted in t-shirts, posters and became a symbol of protest against the Government that was held responsible for creating the conditions of her death.  She has her own Wiki page.  Googling her name will result in hundreds of news stories.

This was the Saturday, 20 June, 2009 death of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young urban Iranian woman who was a bystander to a demonstration against the alleged vote rigging in the 2009 Iranian Presidential Elections won by a figure hated and demonized by the West and some Iranian urban intelligentsia, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who dispassionate observers say would have won even without the alleged vote rigging given the backing of his vast rural constituency).

Kristina and Kira were killed by shrapnel on Sunday, July 27, 2014 by a Ukrainian army Grad attack fired into a residential neighborhood in the separatist held Gorlovka.  They were photographed dead in images too graphic to be posted here, lying in a park, the mother still clutching her baby close to her.  While this news was widely reported in the Russian media, there was dead silence in the Western one.  Kristina’s mother’s moving story about her daughter and grand-daughter is the only reminder to the world at large that this young, urban mother with a months-old baby excitedly taking selfies (as in the montage above) and wearing chic clothes, ever existed. 

Natalia with her daughter Kristina and her grand-daughter Kira


And Now?

The original story above was in the town of Konstantinovka in the Kiev Government controlled region of Donbass.   It was part of the region that held a referendum in May 2014 voting for self-rule.  It was retaken in July 2014.   Polina was killed on Monday, March 16, 2015.

Everything that was written above, the pictures and video, came from Russian conventional and social media (via some Ukrainian media) sources.

Apart from a brief bulletin matter-of-factly reporting the death of a 8 year old girl in a hit-and-run in a military vehicle, in a couple of Western outlets, there has been a total media blackout of the events and reactions to the death in the Western press as of date.

Search “Konstantinovka” on Google or Twitter and see what sources are returned.

Key Western correspondents are clearly aware of it.  Dozens of tweets, including a couple of mine, have alerted them to it. 

But apparently it’s not important enough to cover for the Western media. 

Yeah, But is this Really News?

If an identical story happened in (say) Crimea, with a Tartar child getting run over by a Russian military vehicle, and the corresponding Tartar community reaction, don’t you think this wouldn’t be News?  Don’t you think the child’s innocent, photogenic face wouldn’t be plastered all over the Western media and the reaction of authorities to quell the disturbance described as brutal and horrifying, with reports of unknown men going door-to-door chilling and a “reign of terror”?

We don’t have to guess the answer.  Below is a cross section of headlines in Western media about the “suppression” of Crimean Tartars the same week as the events in Konstatinovka happened.

 

Sample of recent Western oulet stories about Crimean Tartars

 

The Konstantinovka backstory of drunken soldiers speeding around town in their armored vehicles with impunity also ties into tales of the Ukranian army going berserk in Artemivsk after retreating in a rout in Debaltseve. This is a brief period of glasnost in the Western media when their correspondents having voiced Kiev’s line against all reality on the ground right up till the end, vented their humiliation against Poroshenko.

The story also involves the use of the Right Sector – the party whose members allegedly are the muscle quelling the unrest – whose key presence in Ukraine along with other far-right, neo-Nazi groups has sporadically been covered in the Western press (if only in an attempt to humanize them).

But apparently the media has regrouped and is back on track not to cover anything which can embarass the Kiev Government and its ultimate US government sponsor.

What Western Media Doesn’t Get

Western media prides itself on its objectivity and covering things from all angles.  A typical attitude is the one from Reuters just today in response to its site apparently being cut off in China.

Reuters comment

Glenn Greenwald has many times railed against this pretence of objectivity (by anyone), most famously in his must read on-line exchange with Bill Keller from the New York Times.

Indeed, as I have written, Reuters as an example of typical Western media coverage, far from being “fair and accurate”,  has degenerated into a complete pro-Kiev outlet taking statements straight from the defense ministry and shoving it into its headlines and the bulk of the report.

In Donbass, in Konstantinovka, a majority of people seemingly don’t want to be ruled by Kiev’s Western Ukrainian backers.  They voted not just in 2014 but in virtually every Ukrainian election (2010, 2004, 1994) for very different candidates from West Ukraine.   The ethnic division of Ukraine is real and when it looked like Yanukovich elected in 2010 (essentially by East Ukraine with the West overwhelmingly against) might remain in power and it would be West Ukraine who may secede, the Washington Post in December 2013 clearly acknowledged the severe division.  Indeed The Guardian, literally a day before Yanukovich fled wrote about how Western Ukraine may break away and had this useful map. 

From the Guardian Feb 21, 2014 article “Ukraine’s western pro-European cities warn they could break away”

Yet now, these divisions are whitewashed, and the only story that will make headlines is that which is against Russia.  Even in Crimea where every independent poll (see GFK, Levada) taken since the much pooh-poohed (in the West) 2014 referendum to secede and (re)join Russia has validated the overall numbers as well as previous polls pre-2014, the focus of the Western media is in all that ails Crimea and their Tartar minority.

Meanwhile stories, for example, of how (the majority) ethnic/pro-Russians are doing in Ukrainian Government held South-Eastern Ukrainian territories are few if at all (the astounding break from silence of the US government funded Voice of America story about Mariupol being a rare exception). 

But Western media doesn’t get it.  They don’t understand that even if they dominate the global news through hundreds of different outlets, all promoting the interests of the Western elite and ignoring the others, the majority of the world realizes their stories, their tragedies, their dreams are simply being whitewashed from history and will look for alternatives to make themselves heard. 

Conclusion

Western media, by acting like a collective pack – instead of allegedly different competing outlets – by all hyping rumors like Putin’s “disappearance” into hysterical news stories more akin to tabloid Journalism with zero actual research, while collectively ignoring real events are rushing into full irrelevance.

There is little or no difference in coverage in any one of the many dozens of Western outlets, “experts” saturating the Web and news waves when it comes to Russia or indeed any goverment, entity, person the US government now declares a threat. Conversely allies are treated with kid gloves.

For example, neo-Nazis in Ukraine, being a necessary force against the Russians are tolerated both by the U.S./EU governments and thus by the Western media.  The day these entities turn west, that’s when the drumbeat against them in Western goverments and thus the media will start in earnest. 

All this is why alternative media outlets are thriving.  Stories like Polina’s or Kristina or Kira’s or various other “unworthy victims” would never be heard otherwise.  Perspectives and views of different cultures and histories would be otherwise buried.

This is the reality in Ukraine: the abject failure of the Kiev government, its US Government backers and most of all the allegedly “fair and objective” Western media to acknowledge the deep ethnic differences and cultures of the majority of the people’s in the south east being ruled by Kiev or in armed conflict with them; the lack of any concession to the single theme that Russia has been consistently saying from the beginning: “Talk to them”; the refusal to recognize this as at least one of the root causes of this crisis, has needlessly led to deaths like Polina’s.

Which is why of course her death like hundreds of others must be airbrushed from the Western narrative.

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