On April 10, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Poland to mark one year since the tragic death of President Lech Kaczyński and 95 Poles who were with him on board the aircraft which crashed near Smolensk, Russia. Demonstrators in Warsaw filled the square in front of the presidential palace and KrakowskiеPrzedmieście, the street that stretches from Plac Zamkowy to Nowy Świat, holding banners and chanting slogans against the current Polish government and its pro-Kremlin policy.
However, both the leading Polish and international mass media, despite their numerous assertions of unbiased and impartial coverage, failed to offer an objective assessment of the scale of this rally.
Why? Why in the world did the free mass media of the world suddenly begin to act almost in the style of the Soviets? What threat did the truth about this event in Warsaw pose to Europe and America and to certain forces in Poland itself? To many people, the death of President Kaczyński and his supporters in the catastrophe was a relief, regardless of their insincere emotions. You can put in this group Poland with its Western partners, official Warsaw and Moscow (there are no obstacles in Russian-Polish relations now), and the entire European Union in its relation to the Kremlin. In a word, President Kaczyński, or rather the Kaczyński brothers, and their “patriotic-archaic” political force stood in the way of too many people. The worst possible reputation was shaped for them, in particular through the Polish mass media. Thus, patent lies or omissions in the mass media regarding the Warsaw event on April 10 echo this general attitude. It would suggest that there could not possibly be so many Poles wishing to exchange financial benefits from friendship with Moscow/Gazprom for something like national honor, pride, self-esteem or other old rubbish, as some Polish post-modernists like to call it-away with this psychologically unsound old-time anti-communism and anachronistic nationalism and glory to the future in which we will live joyfully and peacefully without being shackled by such concepts as nation, historical truth, totalitarian crimes, patriotism, etc. All of these things are being published in Poland by those who wished the April 10 demonstration of the “politically marginal” had not taken place at all.
Unfortunately, in defiance of the foundations on which the contemporary world emerged and is standing now, there is still room for an entire system of lies with regard to things that are undesirable, inconvenient or hard to understand. If this approach works even in Poland – a member of NATO and the six largest economies in the EU and an active participant in integration processes and the bulwark of the freedom of speech in Central and Eastern Europe – it is even more true of other countries. This pertains, above all, to Ukraine, which is being consistently pushed away from Europe, and this process is being accompanied by growing indifference to Ukrainians as an inarticulate and, in effect, defective nation.
Systems that operate contrary to the general logic of historical progress do not emerge on their own, spontaneously. They are products of a particular person's or group of people's absolutely rational efforts, even though they build on a certain objective foundation, primarily that of ignorance, excessive ambitions and mental laziness on a national scale.
Nevertheless, where there is action, there is the possibility of counteraction. First, however, we need to identify what this action aims destroy.
There is nothing original about it. After all, the Russian secret services are not all that powerful intellectually – they are using well-tested patterns. Their strategy is to present Ukrainian democratic and patriotic forces – in fact, the entire opposition except that part of it which has been sanctioned by the government – as neo-Nazis, butchers, anti-Semites and the enemies of progress. The accusations are standard – their foundation was laid back and the 1920s with some novelties added during the Second World War. Similar cards were played against the late President Kaczyński and the current Polish opposition. At the same time, provocations are being staged in order to cause the opposition in Ukraine to react sharply and possibly without due restraint; certain regions and layers of the population are being brainwashed; while other loud, European-scale events are being organized.
For example, Paris recently hosted a roundtable on “The growth of the rightwing nationalist threat in Ukraine as a trend in European politics.” Delegates from Ukraine were joined by representatives of as many as 28 European countries. The participants came to the conclusion that entire Europe is experiencing a surge of rightwing extremist ideology, but the situation in Ukraine is most alarming.
Why? It turns out that, according to Kharkiv Oblast Administration Chief Mykhailo Dobkin, it is precisely in Ukraine that “radical nationalist organizations are openly supporting making heroes out of Nazi henchmen and calling for a revision of the results of the Second World War.” MP Vadym Kolesnichenko says that the Svoboda (Freedom) party and other nationalist organizations openly incite the expulsion of all non-Ukrainians from the country. Another Party of Regions MP, Oleksandr Feldman, called on his colleagues in Europe to support the efforts of Ukrainian parliamentarians to increase punishment for the propaganda of neo-Nazi views in Ukraine. MP Oleh Tsariov presented the brochure Tsytatnyk ukrainskoho natsionalista (Quotations for a Ukrainian Nationalist) published by the Antifascist Forum of Ukraine. It contains, according to Mr. Tsariov, extremist statements made by Roman Shukhevych, Stepan Bandera, Oleh Tiahnybok, Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko. The brochure is being sent to the embassies of EU member countries.
Shortly before the roundtable was held, the Jewish European Forum took place, again, in Paris and awarded a distinction to Viktor Yanukovych for his persistent struggle against the making heroes out of those involved in fascism. Six months before that, Oleksandr Feldman, who participated in both events, said that the current Ukrainian president has the support of Jewish organizations in America.
Add to this the recent statement made by the accordion-playing MP Yan Tabachnyk who said that 85% of journalists are lackeys and included in his “I am honored to invite you” TV show a political video which identifies nationalism with Nazism in the style of 2004 videos. To achieve this effect, a special video montage was used: a torchlight procession to honor Bandera suddenly turns into a march of Nazi soldiers, while Hitler begins to speak Ukrainian and calls on them to cross the Dnieper River and fill the streets of Donetsk.
The list of such provocations can go on and on, including, among other things, the activities of Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk. But the design of the masterminds behind this effort is quite clear. The protest movement in Ukraine, or rather the second phase of the Orange Revolution, is bound to have an anti-oligarchic bent, and so the oligarchs want to protect themselves ahead of time by implanting in the minds of Ukrainians and Europeans an incorrect view and understanding of what is happening before their eyes. The oligarchs need to be presented as civilized, big businessmen, philanthropists and patrons. The democrats, on the contrary, must appear to be radicals, nationalists to be neo-Nazis, and fighters against all things anti-Ukrainian as anti-Semites. Mr. Yanukovych is to be hailed as the number one champion of antifascism in Ukraine and the supporter of multiparty democracy and freedom of the press and, in general, a good and honest, albeit imperfect, politician whose thoughts are turned to Europe.
Europe has always had many “useful idiots” who were aptly manipulated by Lenin and Stalin, Brezhnev and Putin. Add to them mercenary politicians and journalists, especially in the past 25 years dominated by “post-modernism,” or rather the absence of moral reference points. In view of this, the above task no longer looks as fantastic as it might have. Add to the mix ignorance about Ukraine among the absolute majority of even relatively well-educated Western Europeans, and the task will look still easier to accomplish. If Poland has bought this kind of baloney, why not try to demonize Ukraine? Not the entire society but that part of it which considers itself freedom-loving and Ukrainian. The identification criterion is, naturally, not nationality but ethnicity, because we have had no shortage of champions of a “foreign motherland” among our “compatriots” at any time.
Apart from Europe’s “useful idiots” and purchased journalists and politicians, who else would believe the roundtable speakers, some of whom are mouthpieces for Russian national socialist ideas and others of whom are simply talking through their hats? For example, a revision of the results of the Second World War was done out 20 years ago by history itself – where is the “great and mighty the Soviet Union” on the map of the world now? Where is the division of Germany into occupied zones as foreseen by the victor states? Where are Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia which were forged contrary to the aspirations of their constituent nations? This is of no concern to those who want to make a preemptive strike at any cost. The main thing for them is to generate as much verbiage and spew as many vulgarities as possible. They would be even happier to see some Ukrainians react to these numerous provocations – both Tabachnyks would then pronounce them, en bloc, anti-Semites and blow the topic out of proportion all across Europe.
Thus, I come to a simple and, at the same time, complicated conclusion. It is simple in that there is time, intellectual resources and objective reasons to prove that those concocting modern black myths about the Ukrainian opposition are fools. It is complicated, because it is very unlikely that the current divided and feeble opposition will prove up to the task of taking constructive, purposeful and rational steps to stop these attempts which are aimed at discrediting the opposition itself and all things Ukrainian. If these steps are not taken, then we should not be surprised to see hundreds of thousands or even millions of people rally in squares in Ukraine as the world mass media tell their audiences that a handful of marginalized elements and radicals are trying to derail the reforms carried out by a pragmatic President Yanukovych and the two Tabachnyks.
The Ukrainian Week talked with French cybersecurity expert Christine Dugoin-Clément about mechanisms for fighting fake news, the prospects for certifying true information, and the likelihood of separating propaganda from journalism once and for all.