My Russia-Ukraine war essays published on my website and reposted on many alternative news portals in Europe and the United States express personal observations of the author. They are “primary sources” and are not represented as academic works. Hence, no footnotes and only very rare critiques of what others are writing or saying. Their added value to the reader comes from the fact that the author is watching with equal concentration both what is being reported in mainstream Western media and what is being reported on Russian print and electronic media produced for the domestic Russian audience. What I see daily might be best described as parallel worlds or parabolic mirror images, meaning freakish distortions of similar events occurring on this or that side of the line of demarcation in Ukraine.
I offer here several examples from the past few days.
On the morning of 13 March, all Western news agencies reported on the devastating Russian attack on facilities at two locations west of the Ukrainian city of Lviv and in close proximity to the Polish border. We were told that 35 people died and many more were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Who were these people? It appears to me that Western media said not a word. “People” could mean civilians or soldiers or something still different. What was the sense of the attack? Major Western media noted that this attack seemed to follow the warning a day earlier from Major General Igor Konashenkov of the Russian military command that flows of armaments into Ukraine would henceforth be considered ‘legitimate targets’ by the Russian forces.
Meanwhile, Russian media reported that one of the bases was a training facility used by NATO in its work with the Ukrainian military and also used to receive Western ‘mercenaries’ arriving in Ukraine. The other facility was used as a logistical center to receive and pass along incoming military equipment and supplies from the West. Konashenkov later said that the whereabouts of all inbound Western volunteer fighters was known and they would be shown no mercy. Russian sources also gave a much higher number of deaths, namely 100 more. We are left to conclude that the fatalities were such fighters and possibly their NATO handlers.
The U.S. response to this event de facto was an urgent warning coming from the White House that Russia was about to implement a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine. The Ukrainian response came yesterday when a powerful (Tochka-U) * missile packed with a hundred ‘cartridges’ of explosives was fired at the city center of Donetsk. The missile was partly destroyed by Donetsk air defenses, but one cartridge landed in a downtown street where it instantly killed 20 civilians including children and pensioners waiting outside an ATM to withdraw funds; dozens more were injured. Had all 100 cartridges exploded over Donetsk as had been planned from Kiev, the fatalities would have been 100 times greater. The Russians denounced this missile firing as a war crime.
Since approval for such a missile strike could only have come from the highest levels of the professional Ukrainian army, not by or from the irregular militias, Russia is now reevaluating how it should deal with the Ukrainian forces, in the sense of no longer distinguishing between regulars and militias and “neutralizing” both with equal measure of devastation.
Did you read or see anything about this missile attack on Donetsk yesterday in your daily newspaper or television news? I believe not.
Let us take a look at one other set of recent linked events, action and reaction, that captured the news headlines on both sides mainly with one hand clapping. I have in mind the alleged Russian artillery attack on a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol on 9 March. At least 17 people were said to be injured and headlines in the West spoke of ‘global horror, outrage.’ In particular, there were videos provided by Ukrainian sources showing a wounded heavily pregnant woman who was yesterday reported to have died.
The official Russian response to these allegations of a war crime were total denial and counter-accusation that the entire incident was a ‘false flag’ operation stage directed by Kiev authorities. They said the hospital in question had been taken over by nationalist militiamen and the patients were sent elsewhere so that the facility could be used as a military center. The ‘wounded’ pregnant woman was an actress and all pictures of her were fake. We do not know if her reported death has any substance to it.
The mirror image attack occurred two days ago when the Ukrainian army and irregulars evacuated the Donbas town of Volnovakhi, which they had occupied for the past eight years, destroying all civilian infrastructure and much residential housing as they departed. As part of the devastation, their tanks fired on a functioning hospital filled with patients. Fortunately no one was killed, though video coverage on Russian state television showed a gaping blackened hole a couple of meters wide on the third floor and extensive damage elsewhere to the building. Have you read about this atrocity in your morning newspaper in New York or London? Of course, not.
Finally, yesterday afternoon Russian news agencies reported on and Russian television later showed video coverage of the evacuation of hundreds of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, where some 400,000 residents have been held hostage by the neo-Nazi Azov battalion and by regular Ukrainian army units that have moved their weaponry into residential buildings and infrastructure and have not allowed anyone to avail themselves of the escape corridors to the East opened by Russian forces encircling the city. The same reportage spoke of 450 tons of humanitarian aid, mainly foodstuffs, which were delivered to the city by a Russian convoy. All of this was made possible by the Russians’ precision missile attack on most, but not all of the artillery placements held by the Ukrainian nationalist forces. Russian press briefings are silent about how their soldiers entered Mariupol, where they are and what resistance they still have to overcome on the ground. Did you hear about any of this yesterday on your news sources?
Today’s Western newspapers and television are carrying uncritically the story put out by Zelensky’s office that several hundred civilians left Mariupol and humanitarian aid arrived thanks to his Ukrainian forces! One look at the map makes clear that this is a bare-faced lie. The whole issue of stalled evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was about the direction they should take, East to Russia or West to Ukraine. Opening corridors to the West would have meant breaking the siege which the Russians imposed precisely to crush the radical forces within the city. The Russians had indeed not allowed this.
Let us be perfectly frank: the Russians have lost the Information War over their ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine in Western media, meaning especially in the United States and Europe. The situation globally is, of course, more nuanced, with nearly half of humanity, meaning India and China, on the sidelines or predisposed to side with Russia.
Let us remember that the Russians never did well in the Information War in the West. They lacked the skills, and the ‘market’ was virtually closed to them by tight U.S. government control over all major media and patriotic self-censorship in editorial and production offices. The shutdown of RT and Sputnik has been an insignificant factor working against dissemination of the Russian narrative.
Let us also be clear-eyed: the loss of the Information War in the lands of their enemies changes absolutely nothing for Russia. They never were liked. The ongoing war, and the greater threat of its escalation to a more generalized Third World War that quickly becomes nuclear has put into the equation an element of fear, which may sway some minds in the West towards greater realism. Or perhaps it won’t. But all of this changes nothing as regards the outcome if the Russians can complete their mission in the coming weeks and not face growing domestic discontent that compels them to change their negotiating terms at the end. If completed quickly, the Russian military operation will be decided by two things only: Blut und Eisen, or ‘blood and iron,’ as Bismarck would have observed.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022
*The Tochka-U is known in NATO parlance as the SS-21. Their deployment by the USSR within the Warsaw Pact in the late 1970s-early 1980s led the United States to threaten introduction of its Pershings in Europe and ended in the conclusion of the INF Treaty. The missile is nuclear capable and has a range of up to 180 km. This was the missile which Vladimir Putin mentioned in his remarks denouncing the Ukrainian nuclear program discovered at the Zaporozhye atomic stations.
For visuals of the destruciton in Donetsk city from the missile strike, see https://ria.ru/20220314/donetsk-1778051454.html
19 thoughts on “Parallel Worlds or Parabolic Mirror Images: Media Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War”
“The West” wins the info wars because a large portion of it’s citizens are gullible rubes.
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Very helpful comparisons. Thank you.
Bismarck is aptly quoted. The Franco-Prussian war as I have noted before. Zelenski will now speak before a Joint Session of The United States Congress to request that the US deliver Migs to Ukraine, i.e. start WWII. He will be given a foot-stamping standing ovation, and the Migs will be delivered, unless…
Unless the largest group of pusillanimous, grasping, moral neuters on earth, the US military leadership successfully opposé it.
Now, what will that take? If Zelenski’s acolyte Biden orders it? A military coup.
Here in Italy the launch of the Tochka-U missile on Donetsk was covered by the press… by giving the same weight to the Russian and Ukrainian versions. Yes, the Italian press had the guts and the temerity to actually report that there was an exchange of accusations between the Russian and Ukrainian sides on the issue of who had fired the missile.
Like it would make any sense for the Russians to launch a missile from a platform that their army doesn’t use on a civilian city target on the outskirts of the frontline in the Donbass (that is an area of the front that is not part of the main effort of the Russian Army and whose purpose is basically to fix the Ukrainian Units in place to allow for their envelopment).
All news reporting in my Country follows along the same line: every Ukrainian-sourced news is taken at face value and reported as fact, no matter how implausible, while every Russian-sourced news is presented as propaganda, fake news or, when it can’t be denied, mitigated by contrasting it with the “ukrainian version” of the events.
Just a few days ago, an article in an Italian newspaper talking about the aproaches to Mariupol being mined was arguing about who had mined those ways that could be used to evacuate civilians. Once again, like mines are a weapon that an advancing force would make use of.
The level of shamelessness of the western press is appalling. And the level of gullibility of their most affectionate readers is disheartening.
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Just back from a long weekend in Warsaw. Included dinner and an evening’s of chat as part of a group of 4 couples I have know slightly for 16 years, but seen little of in 6.
What surprised me how sceptical they were of the media. They were anti-Russian, very sympathetic to the refugees but didn’t believe a word of their own media. That is partly the result of the PiS ruling party grabbing control of almost all Polish media in a blatant way. But they were not surprised when I said the same of the BBC.
As one said – we still don’t know what has already happened.
Interestingly one of them had been watching the Solovyov show on youtube and was surprised how balanced and informative it had been.
Out of interest there are a lot of Ukrainians with cars in hotels in Warsaw. Many of the emigrants seem simply to be taking the opportunity to go to Europe (and join the several million friends and family who did the same 2014-21).
There is a minority who need help and I drove a friend to Warsaw central station where she delivered her package of goods to the organisers. There are probably a couple of thousand sleeping at the station. That includes a fair amount of men who presumably exit Ukraine secretly and not at official borders.
One oddity – the Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) has actually gone up in value since the invasion/punishment exercise began. That is seriously weird.
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I believe that referring to the media component of this conflict as an “Information War” within the western sphere, and particularly in the US (and probably UK), is misguided.
It is tantamount to a basketball game in which the opposing team is not even allowed to enter the home team’s gym — can you really call that a game when only one team takes the court?
I am reminded of Jean Baudrilliard’s series of essays regarding the Gulf I adventure:
It’s not that people are gullible. With the size of the military/defense budget, there are a lot more people personally vested in the outcome of wars and what it means for them financially.
I truly feel great sorrow and compassion for the civilian dead and wounded caught in these strikes. I can’t help but wonder though, had the West shown the same for those Donbass civilians from 2014 on subjected to Ukrainian strikes on the Donbass and beyond or even a passing acknowledgment, certainly not a full acknowledgement of war crimes which would be far too much to ask of the Western conscience, would we be where we are today?
How much of this is born of the harvesting of what was sown 8 years ago, I suppose we’ll never know.
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If winning the media war means being able to cancel all voices expressing views contrary to the official narrative, then, yes, perhaps the West is winning. Unfortunately for the guardians of the narrative, the MSM has lost almost all credibility since many years, starting with the preposterous idea of Russia interference” in the 2016 election. So, although it may appear that the West is winning the media/information war, it is not necessary so. For starters, western press is so overwhelmingly one sided that it makes people wonder why. What are they hiding? Some pundits have compared this to Trump Derangement. Reading the WaPo, for example, it is hard not to think of the White Helmets, the civil defense group in rebel areas of Syria created by British intelligence to literally create mock-up of the tragedy. And one must ask, when the MSM cites “Ukrainian sources”, which Ukrainian sources are they talking about? Everyone knows Ukraine is a divided country. Invariably they are citing western Ukrainian sources only. Western sources means the Team Maidan, with its snipers the “killed both sides”, as Estonian FM said at the time. The invasion may have united Ukraine, but only time will tell how deep this unity proves to be. The real test will be on the ground (Blood and Iron) and so far one can only imagine the ferocious battles in eastern Ukraine against the multiple iterations of the Azov Battalion. These battles are mentioned only in passing, with most news concentrated on Kiev, especially on the bridge that was blown up by Ukrainians and now serves as a movie set to show people fleeing under terrible conditions. Loud and hysterical attention is given to the “punishment” to be meted out to Russia with sanctions, but scant attention is given to any counter sanctions. And the media war, while canceling so many voices, obliges readers to turn to new sources, such as found on the internet and in Asia, including official read-outs from both the USA and China. Real news is like water: it seeps through the cracks and shows up in unexpected places. Damming up the news channels has never worked for long. What is probably true is that from now on “The West” has achieved a “Pearl Harbor Moment” by provoking Russia to lash out. Not shown are the recruiting stations of volunteers that followed the real Pearl Harbor. In eastern EU there are signs along the roads openly asking NATO to leave. There are also counter signs, of course, but the point is there is no unity on the issue of NATO. It seems however that the sanctions will take along time to lift as the EU ogles the huge natural resources of the Russian Federation. There is a real danger of the press war being used by NATO to escalate, which is what may be happening.
“Between 6 and 11 March, engineering works were carried out on the territory of the old city cemetery in Mariupol to construct a trench more than two meters deep and more than 100 meters long. It was envisaged to bury the remains of Ukrainian servicemen and nationalists who had died in the fighting as evidence of mass civilian deaths.
According to the scenario, servicemen of the 72nd Center for Information and Psychological Operations of the AFU Special Operations Forces carried out staged photo and video shooting of the “Brotherhood Tomb” with a total of up to 1,300 victims.”
If true, then sounds like another Racak moment in the works fro the media to revel in.
We all remember Racak, do we not? Never underestimate the William Walkers of the world.
Why stop at Racak, when the bigger lie still persists: http://resistir.info/livros/srebrenica_massacre_rev_3.pdf and the convenient suppressing of the real war crimes by the Muslims side.
And then there is this from the foreword by Phillip Corwin, highest-ranking United Nations civilian official
in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a man who should have an inkling of the truth.
“Today, one can only imagine what might have happened in the
Balkans if diplomacy had been given a better chance, if NATO had not
had the ambition it had to push eastward, up to the borders of the former
Soviet Union, to annex what was then being called the “new Europe.”
But look at the hysteria, the complete denial that there are any valid questions to be asked as to the now accepted narrative. As in Yugoslavia, so in Ukraine.
“Diplomacy comes from the barrel of a gun.” Who said that?
1) Mao Tse-tung
2) William Jefferson Clinton
3) George W. Bush
4) Tony Blair
5) Vladimir Putin
Could be all five far as I know, and from other candidates far too numerous to name.
Could also be that number five was the only one who actually tried diplomacy in the classic sense first.
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On the supposedly dead pregnant woman:
The doctor telling media that she died because her hip was dislocated and her pelvis was crushed.
Now, there where several pictures published of her standing in different sites among the rubble. As a physiotherapist msc I will tell you: if your hip is dislocated and your pelvis is crushed you don’t stand. Not because you won’t but because you can’t.
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