By Monica Chen
In Western media’s gaslighting, exploitative coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the worst coverage so far has been the battles in Mariupol.
Mariupol is a port city in the Donetsk region, which has fought for independence from Ukraine since 2014. It is a pro-Russian city. Mariupol in reality is a city that is under siege from Ukraine. The destruction in the city is well-documented. In this OSCE report in 2015, shelling from Ukrainian forces resulted in 30 civilians dead and 150 injured. Western media has got it backwards.
Here is the most recent example of Western media’s semi-delusional coverage of Mariupol and the Russia-Ukraine conflict in general:
The picture that CNN paints is that Russia decided against storming the steel plant because of, well, a loss of guts.
But in Russian media outlet TASS, the country was celebrating securing Mariupol with the exception of the one steel plant.
Mariupol had been won. This is what Russian President Vladimir Putin said:
“In this case, we need to think about – I mean, we always need to think about it, but particularly in this case – we need to think about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers. There’s no reason to penetrate through these subterranean pathways and beneath these industrial facilities,” the head of state explained.
He ordered that Azovstal be blocked “so that even a fly can’t get in or out” and everyone be offered to lay down their arms.”
Putin decided against storming the plant in order to protect Russian soldiers. There was no need for that when the rest of the city was already under Russian control.
To Western media, what Putin and Russia say and do are never reported at face value, as facts.
Any news out of Russia is dismissed as “Russian propaganda” or “Russian disinformation.” And Putin himself is painted as an unhinged despot, no matter what he actually says.
If anyone is still confused by the reaction to Russia, this is exactly what objectification and bigotry stemming from racism looks like: The real person, the real subject never gets to assert their identity and be judged on their actions, by the content of their character — in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They are perpetually viewed and judged through the racist lens of those who are oppressing and exploiting them.
This is an impossible situation deliberately set up by the Western media, which is siding with people who are ignorant, bigoted and racist. These are people who desperately want to believe Russia is “corrupt and backward,” and Western countries are superior and infallible. Their incompetence and corruption depend on that delusion.
Of course, this was never true, even during the Cold War, except in the imagination of racist people.
Even more than that, since the “Russian collusion” scandal in 2017, the media has been engaged in a years-long, international gaslighting with the goal of preventing U.S.-Russia relations from improving. That would bring about changes to the industries of both countries that would make it obvious those same racist people are incompetent, and have been all along.
So the media has been abusing Putin, Russia, and a significant part of the American workforce at the same time. The point is to keep all parties exhausted, objectified, and very importantly, separate.
The media has not simply been selling war propaganda. It has been actively on the side of authoritarians, even valuing Neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian army above Putin and Russia, and attacking other countries and people at home. This has all happened with the full backing of incompetent and corrupt governments headed by Joe Biden in the United States, Boris Johnson in Great Britain, Emmanuel Macron in France, and others in Germany and elsewhere.
“Putin.” “Russia.” “Ukrainians.”
What the media has done is make a psychological trick so overwhelming that the meaning of “Putin,” “Russia,” and “Ukrainians” have become completely projections and unidentifiable from who they really are.
The real Putin has handled this war and the economic and cultural sanctions of his country with a steady hand. The real Russia is a solid people who have consistently shown more concern for the Ukrainian people and other global affairs than even their own leaders and international organizations. The real Ukrainians is a people who stood by for eight years while their government shelled their own countrymen.
By contrast, these are the shorthands for Putin, Russia and Ukrainians used by Western media:
Putin = unhinged despot
Russia = coldness, authoritarianism
Ukrainians = oppressed working people
This way, Putin and his country have been used to bully and control a significant part of the American workforce for years now.
The game with the media and the Biden administration has been to time an “invasion,” i.e. an event possibly orchestrated by the real life Ukraine, with an “invasion,” when certain authoritarian people, corporate executives, government officials (“Putin,” “Russians”) would bring the hammer down on a vulnerable, hard-working part of their workforce (“Ukraine”).
This way, the chaos of both a fake Russian invasion in real life will coincide with a destruction of a part of the American workforce. And somehow, the politics and industries of Ukraine and corporate management of workers in this country have become such that structural changes in industries would occur, and American workers would never recover.
When the real Russian war in Ukraine began, the media signaled and helped authoritarians in Western countries duplicate the “Russian invasion” exactly upon workers back home. Any Russian military offense in reality was matched by an attack back home. This way, both Russia and American workers would be kept abused.
What has been going on is an attack on basic human dignity, on the simple right to have our actions count where we are.
The most terrifying week
Early March was the most terrifying time in this conflict, when the media was on the verge of being able to direct the Russia-Ukraine war — the tail wagging the dog, with the most destructive consequences imaginable.
Real information about the war was not allowed, dismissed as “Russian propaganda” and conspiracy theories. The American public did not even have a transcript of Putin’s speech. We weren’t allowed to listen to him and judge his words for ourselves. Celebrities like Stephen King horrifyingly seized the opportunity to bully American workers, making sure they knew he sided with the Ukrainians over “Ukrainians.” Meanwhile, other celebrities like Kirstie Alley who raised common-sense questions about the media’s coverage were bullied into silence.
During the first weeks of this war, the Russian military offensive in Ukraine had been used successfully for a duplicate “Russian war on Ukraine” in America.
So when lawmakers in the U.S. in both parties called for weapons to Ukraine, many really meant for workers to empower themselves against Fascists, but ended up sending weapons to the Neo-Nazi military in Ukraine instead, harming the very workers they wanted to help.
The psychological trick employed by the media, the corrupt governments of Ukraine and Western countries was so thorough, it had cornered political leaders into an intellectual vacuum.
Most horrifyingly, Ukrainians amid the chaos demanded a “no-fly zone,” duplicating the psyches of workers who were left suddenly exposed to authoritarians. If lawmakers and political pundits had not been more careful, World War III would have been underway because of this psychological trick.
In the end, like a knot that tightens the more you try to break free, there was no way out of this psychological bind but to stop feeding into it and wait.
The problem with the Donetsk region
Why it has been difficult if not impossible for the public to get out from under this vicious game the media is playing is because of the Donetsk region.
The Donbass is two regions, Donetsk, and Luhansk which is closer to Russia, geographically and culturally.
Luhansk and its leader are genuinely interested in independence. The Donetsk’s leader Denis Pushilin, unfortunately, is not. Pushilin is a double-crossing element in this conflict and his actions should be seen as an extension of the Ukrainian military.
When Pushilin talks about Russia, he means the media shorthand, “Russia” as a projection of coldness and authoritarianism. When Pushilin planted a flag on top of a government building, he was asserting a win in the media game and his loyalty to global authoritarianism. He was able to time it so that that message was clear.
Why is Pushilin silent about Mariupol, which is the second biggest city in Donetsk?
Why is Pushilin going out of his way to award a fighter with Neo-Nazi symbols on his uniform? So that Putin and the Russian military would snap him back into place — in which case, Pushilin can again raise a flag for “Russia,” for authoritarianism?
The media game is never-ending.
Pushilin’s behavior raises other questions about what has been going on in the Donbass. Putin and Russian officials have said what’s going on is a genocide of Russian-speaking people. Is there more?
Is what’s been going on a kind of forced homogenization by Zelenskyy’s government?
The leader of Luhansk has emphasized their connection to their land. Is the Ukrainian government’s shelling of the region specifically meant to disrupt that connection?
The independent journalists who have been in the region and having to report on Donetsk and Luhansk together would have experienced this firsthand. Maybe someday soon, they can tell us what they really saw.