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‘Slam dunk journalism’ or propaganda warfare?

Published time: July 25, 2014 14:18
A photo taken on July 23, 2014 shows the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in a field near the village of Grabove, in the Donetsk region. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

​For those who have not heard the name, David Johnson is one of America’s most respected journalists.

Since 1996 he has been sending his daily newsletter, Johnson’s Russia List, to thousands of subscribers – foreign policy experts, diplomats, businessmen, and scholars around the world who use his materials as their main source of information on foreign and specifically US – Russia affairs.

This is what David had to say about US media coverage of the tragic events in Ukraine:

“We have already reached impressive slam dunk levels of confidence and outrage... Life would be simpler for Johnson’s Russia List and its readers if one could also follow the example of the Washington Post editors and provide commentary only from Anne Applebaum ("Look at what Russia has done"). Of course, what the Post is doing is little different from most other media. Such are the wonders of slam dunk journalism. Exposes of absurd Russian materials don’t absolve one from responsibility for one's own work.”

Ordinary logic suggests that with scant evidence available so far about 298 innocent people losing their lives in the MH17 disaster, it is far too early to make any reasonable assessment about who is truly responsible for this tragedy. Moreover, even US Intelligence service with their huge multi-billion dollar budgets cannot do it either. Logic, however, does not bother Western media unduly; they jump, with amazing alacrity, to completely unwarranted conclusions, bending facts for all they are worth in a specious attempt to pin the blame for the atrocity on Russia, and personally on Vladimir Putin.
Still, even assuming that everything is possible in this man’s world, wouldn’t it be better for all concerned to await the findings of independent, reliable investigators before passing judgment? In the much simpler Lockerby case (there was, after all, no military conflict on the ground there) it took three years for the final verdict to be reached. In this last case, though, everything was decided immediately by pointing the finger at Russia and “Russia sponsored separatists and terrorists” when not a single expert or representative had seen either the wreckage or the bodies of the victims.

Even worse, this media cry – an obvious move in propaganda warfare – was taken up by many American and European politicos, which raises serious doubts about their credibility if one takes into account that the same people have never said a word yet in protest against the atrocities of indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets with increasingly lethal weaponry – using bombers, tanks, heavy artillery including multiple rocket launchers that destroy whole city blocks with a single salvo.

The interior of an apartment in a residential building destroyed in an artillery attack by the Ukrainian army in the village of Peski in the Donetsk region. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

The numbers of innocent civilians killed and wounded run into thousands already, while hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to Russia for safety from areas that become not just dangerous but simply impossible to live in due to the destruction of housing and essential infrastructure, like food and water supply, electricity, medical services, and so on. The situation in many areas is tantamount to a humanitarian catastrophe – which the West simply refuses to notice.

We also never hear any Western criticism of the principal perpetrators of this madness, such as the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and his Swedish colleague Carl Bildt who, with the full support of the EU and US, came up with the scheme for breaking up the ties between Russia and Ukraine that had taken centuries to build. That was the scheme which eventually led to the coup d’état in Kiev. The downing of the airliner last week was the culmination of this coup.

Incidentally, it was the same Radek Sikorski who used vulgar and racial slurs to describe US – Polish relations. For this, his wife, WP columnist Anne Applebaum blamed – guess who? Without denying a single word from her husband’s outrageous outburst, she blamed Putin who ordered this conversation to be recorded and passed on to the media.

Now, no one is saying that the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are angels in disguise. War is war, and humanity has not yet learned to wage war in kid gloves. However, the demands of the people in these for greater autonomy are not much different from those of Irish or Basque nationalists. We see, though, that neither Britain nor Spain are waging full-scale war against such regions. Instead, they conduct continuous negotiations with them, seeking a civilized resolution of the conflict.

Meanwhile, Europe’s political leaders are caught in a quandary. The European public is properly outraged at the murder, in cold blood, of nearly three hundred people, many of them EU citizens. However, neither Brussels nor Washington are likely to ever accept responsibility for the grievous consequences of their reckless policies in Ukraine.

In the old days it was the Soviet media, led by the Communist daily “Pravda” that blamed America and the West for every misfortune or tragic event in the world. Ironically, the Soviet virus of “slam dunk journalism,” which we all assumed had died a natural death with the downfall of communism, has been mysteriously resurrected on the Potomac, on the Hudson and elsewhere across the Western world.

Edward Lozansky for RT

Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow.

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