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31 August, 2012

A Big Silence

A journalist exposed a conman: the latter had stolen USD 150mn on a single shady oil rig deal. His first reaction: “a journalist can be bought – someone paid him for the publication”. For the most part, the internal world of crime is unknown to me, but all of a sudden, my interest is piqued: does he really believe this? He does indeed

A rational person from the world of material relations that has formed in Ukraine, does not assume  that the press is capable of being guided by its own logic and not fulfill someone else’s order –those of competitive politicians or hostile business. The worst is the fact that not even a typical consumer of the printed word believes this: he/she is convinced in advance that all newspapers, magazines and internet resources exist exclusively in order to milk clients and deceive readers. No other functions are expected of them in the eyes of the contemporary Ukrainian.

So what are these functions, in reality? Not to entertain the average person – there are shows such as Holos Krayiny (“Voice of the Country”) and Rozsmishy Komika (“Make the Comic Laugh”) for this. And even, however strange it may seem, not to give information on an earthquake in Italy, or to be more precise, this is not of primary importance, in spite of the formal determination of “Mass Media”. The press is a body, with the aid of which a nation comprehends itself; finds and determines its own problems. No, there are also other means of articulation, for example gatherings, meetings, artistic practices, Ukrainian folklore and ultimately – the Maidan. But art operates with coded messages, which not everyone will want to decode, and it’s too noisy on the Maidan, so for the most part, voices sound like falsetto. The mass media expresses that, which cannot be expressed in a different manner.

Have you ever had a nightmare: something frightful is moving towards you, but you are simply frozen? And the main thing – you are unable to utter a single word – your throat is paralyzed … This is how society feels – deprived of the possibility to express itself. Not shout or swear, but find the necessary words. If a problem is not pointed out, it is impossible to be aware of it, and without this awareness, the problem cannot be eliminated. The press – is the voice of Ukraine. They say that in the East, this takes place in a different manner: the market, the mosque… What do you think of the results? Impressed? Western civilization developed a relevant body of the social organism by evolutionary means. It works. Right now, nothing can take its place: neither anecdotes, nor get-togethers at the kitchen table or in a bar, nor a rock ballad, rap-patter, nor a bard’s song.

But what about the blogosphere? People still express their views, in different formats of internet-journals, social networks, etc, on urgent issues, discuss sore points, coordinate public opinion and even agree on common actions, even more strongly. And even so, the mass practice of the several years of the existence of this phenomenon demonstrates that in an amateurish regime, such mechanism works on the level of a substitute, sorry, crutches. A hundred amateur healers will not take the place of one qualified doctor. In the media, even a qualified specialist in a specific sphere will lose to a journalist, simply because the latter is executing (to be more accurate, should execute) the role of an independent, neutral medium, in other words, a mediator. He – is a filter, he – is the guarantor of verification, he – is the trust factor (if only!) This machine operates in this manner and no other: communication does not take place without a mediator, thus, the people are becoming mute.

Wait, a vicious circle is forming: without a free press there is no fully-fledged civil society, and without a civil society, there can be no question of a free press! Why is it that in countries enjoying a stable democracy, the pressrun of even the most renowned newspapers reach seven figures, while in Ukraine, a pressrun of 50,000 (by the way, this figure is not confirmed by anything other than the words of the editorial office) – is the max? Surely not simply because post-totalitarian nations are sated with official newspapers such as Völkis­cher Beobachter and “Pravda”? Not true, during perestroika, starved Ukrainians consumed the printed word by the million. And then? And then we became convinced that newspapers and magazines, TV channels and sites – are nothing more than a derivative of a business empire, while the journalists themselves are merely sergeants in this hierarchy, moreover they are not overly conscientious. For a bribe, they will even sell a tank … pardon me, a column.

Where is the way out? This subject of discussion is not for a short column, however there can only be one very general answer: start with yourself, otherwise, the “chicken or the egg” dilemma will ultimately confuse you. If this has already happened, the mass media has to demonstrate to society that it has the ability to be, if not objective (to a large extent this is conventionality and fiction), then at least unbribable. Consider this wish to be on the fine line between idealism and idiocy, but this is the very end of the string, that has to be tugged at, in order to untie the huge knot of the main problem. The problem called “Ukraine”.


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