War, the Media and the West

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The Russian-Ukrainian conflict reemerged as “the war of this century” after the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But this one differs from all previous wars. The recent crisis has multiple parallel perspectives from different schools of thought, which collide to explain the current situation. The question is: how did Europe become the focus of a deadly war after so long – the end of World War II? The answer is this: Western media have opted for a predominant Eurocentric bias in covering the Russian-Ukrainian war.

While the invasion of any “sovereign” state on the basis of political, economic or strategic interests is not justifiable, the portrayal policy of Western media against Russia and in favor of Ukraine shows a hypocritical Eurocentric bias which favors the persistence of hegemonic ideas disseminated by the West. For example, while discussing the Kremlin’s growing mistrust of the United States, The Washington Post ran the following lines in 2010:

“With former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in charge, Russia has become increasingly closed in many ways. The historical archive which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, hosted scholars from all nations have shut down again. Television has fallen back under government control. International organizations have been driven out of Russia, and independent non-profit groups in Russia have been squeezed, harassed and threatened. Russia is essentially a party state. unique, as it was 20 years ago.

“The United States, on the other hand, is wide open. Unlike American organizations in Russia, the Russian government is welcome to hire public relations firms here, air Russian programs on cable television, and spread its message as it sees fit. Its diplomats are welcome to attend think tank seminars in Washington, and the concessions of US policy are an open book for them.

The representation attached to Russia provides an authoritarian characterization of Russia using references such as “closed”, “government control”, “hurried, harassed and threatened” and “one-party state”. On March 27, 2022, the Washington Post reported on President Vladimir Putin: “For years, Putin has stifled dissent, muzzled independent media, and bolstered a security state to prevent protests, which means he is faced with far fewer national constraints to wage such a war than would the leader of a democratic nation.

Western media manipulate information to produce and reproduce the hegemonic principles of the state. It occupies a precious place in the political and cultural life of the nation, especially in the United States. Gitlin identified that people rely on media for their realities, their symbols, and their heroes. As all modes of communication and text are open to the media, it is an ideal platform for reality and consent to be created and implemented according to the interests of the ruling class; in simple terms, powerful people have control over the means of communication.

Furthermore, critical thinking and ideas against Western hypocrisy and these double standards have been pushed to the margins by hegemonic Western views and approaches to international relations. All of this is because the centers of knowledge and power reside, by and large, in the West.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, many academics, researchers and critical journalists have pointed to the Western double standards that characterize invasions and conflict as something that only happens in poor countries, not in the West. .

For example, according to a CBS correspondent, Kyiv is a “relatively civilized” city; a British ITV reporter said that Ukraine is not a “developing third world nation”, and according to an Al Jazeera presenter, the refugees are “prosperous middle-class people”, not “people who are trying to get away from the regions of North Africa”. NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella was more blunt in her distinction between the so-called “civilized” and uncivilized worlds: “To put it bluntly, [Ukrainian refugees] are not refugees from Syria; they are refugees from neighboring Ukraine. They’re Christians, they’re white, they’re remarkably alike [to Westerners].”

In a BBC interview, Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, lamented: “It’s very emotional for me because I see Europeans with blue eyes and blond hair being killed. The problem is not that he can express such a racist position while creating a binary division, but the fact that he was not challenged during the entire interview. A correspondent for ITV News said similar words that summed up Western media’s perception of human lives abroad: “The unthinkable has happened…this is not a third world developing nation ; this is Europe!” According to this logic, “unthinkable” things only happen in the Third World, not in the West.

However, this hypocrisy has not gone unchallenged without criticism from dissidents and leftist thinkers. For example, the Arab and Middle East Journalists Association said in a statement that such inaccurate framing portrays conflicts outside of Europe and North America as “normal and expected”, humiliating people who suffer the consequences.

The claim that Europe is too civilized for war is not only based on racial prejudice, but also ill-considered, given that the West has been responsible for many wars around the world since the end of World War II, especially in the Middle East. A State cannot claim to be the champion of human lives and world peace while being responsible for the destruction of countless lives in other parts of the world.

The demonization of Russia, a country that remains critical to US national security, in Western media has been ongoing for several years. If the continued depiction of Russia, Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin is any sign, this practice of (false) media portrayal of conflict is ubiquitous and has become the norm. Whether it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the September 11 attacks and the American invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraqi invasion, the disputed 2009 elections in Iran, the destabilization of Libya facilitated by the West in 2011 or the Syria crisis from 2011, the Western media hegemony as it legitimizes false or misleading pretexts for US imperial wars and ultimately normalizes Western-centric discourse obviously serves the strategic interests of the Western elite.

The media is therefore the most important market for ideas. Thus, the notion of objectivity attached to it gives it the legitimacy to perpetuate ideologies and perceptions deliberately or unconsciously in line with the interests of the ruling class, that is to say the state.

The ideas in which the politically uninformed are socialized regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict benefit the military-industrial complex and the political elite to maintain support for US foreign policy toward Russia. As Stephen Cohen argued in his article published in “The Nation”, “the media has followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with American policy, which devalues ​​multi-faceted analysis for relentless demonization of Putin”, since the 2000s.

Therefore, this type of portrayal by Western media legitimizes the political logic of the West in the face of its adversaries, which leads to the normalization of Western-centric discourse across the world because, as mentioned earlier, the centers of knowledge production reside In Occident.

In this context, the media, being a hegemonic actor, controls what event is newsworthy and how it should be portrayed. Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci argues that ruling-class hegemony is perpetuated and sustained by middle-class intellectuals like the media who are in charge of disseminating the ideas of the ruling elite to preserve their dominance and political interests. By Gramsci’s logic, the West is collectively aligned, once again, to demonize Russia using its hegemonic media. In doing so, he exposed the sectarian and discriminatory binaries that still linger in the consciousness of the West.

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