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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Yellow journalism serves no one well

What is it about the mass murder of Ukrainians in the 1930s Holodomor that inspires yellow journalism even 75 years later?

First there was the infamous New York Times reporter who received a Pulitzer Prize for his yellow journalism back in the 1930s ... and principled journalists who reported the true facts were either ridiculed and fired from their jobs (like Malcolm Muggeridge) or ended up dying mysteriously at an early age (like Gareth Jones).

By the 1980s, as more information became available, unabashed deniers came out of the woodwork (and, incidentally, got a lot more press than new evidence implicating the Soviet govt in the Holodomor). It didn't take very long to discredit them however ... reputable scholars quickly exposed them for the crackpots they are.

Then just yesterday, Canada's self-styled "national" newspaper took up where the NYT left off. The Globe and Mail, for some reason decided to reprint an article by the Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He says that the Holodomor was not a genocide but a fairytale.

... [I]t did not occur to anyone to suggest to the zealous activists of the Communist Party and Young Communist League that what was happening was the planned annihilation of precisely the Ukrainians. The provocative outcry about "genocide" only began to take shape decades later - at first quietly, inside spiteful, anti-Russian, chauvinistic minds - and now it has spun off into the government circles of modern-day Ukraine, who have thus outdone even the wild inventions of Bolshevik agitprop.

To the parliaments of the world: This vicious defamation is easy to insinuate into Western minds. They have never understood our history: You can sell them any old fairy tale, even one as mindless as this.

I have no argument with newspapers publishing op-eds critical of the government's actions. Its keeps politicians on their toes (and also sells papers). But in this case, there is the little matter of timing vis-a-vis the topic.

Solzhenitsyn's op-ed was printed in the Boston Globe on April 5. So why reprint it nearly 2 months later, and right on the heels of the Canadian government's official declaration of the Holodomor as a genocide? And couldn't they find a Canadian writer/historian to do the job to their satisfaction?

(Full article here.)

This letter to the editor from a Boston Globe reader (and Harvard University history professor) reminded me that Solzhenitsyn has long been at the top of the MSM's list of approved anti-communists, and perhaps sheds some light on why.

... Solzhenitsyn's assertion that the treatment of the famine of 1932-33 as a genocide is the product of "spiteful, anti-Russian, chauvinistic minds" can be understood only if one equates the Communist government and the Russian people. Solzhenitsyn spent a good part of his life arguing that Communism and Russia were incompatible. His op-ed raises the question of whether he still believes in this.

To me, it raises the question of whether he ever did.

But the issue here isn't so much Solzhenitsyn's commitment (or not) to anti-communism as the yellow journalism employed by mainstream newspapers to discredit Ukrainian aspirations to sovereignty.

Could this reprint be a swipe at Yushchenko and his diaspora supporters?

Could it be an attempt to influence public opinion in order to weaken the democratic movement in Ukraine by driving a wedge between its supporters here in Canada?

You decide.

But if some interpret this curiously-timed genocide-denying article reprint as anti-Ukrainian yellow journalism, could you blame them?

And can you blame readers for abandoning traditional newspapers peddling propaganda and turning to the internet to find the news, and the truth, for themselves?


Taras said...

Solzhenitsyn may have been an anti-Communist while in exile, but the post-Soviet era saw him morph into a Russian neo-imperialist.

Here comes the knowledge lag: In the West, many readers recognize him as “that anti-Communist lionheart,” while equally many people still view Yushchenko as “that Orange superhero.”

If the West cares, the West should know better. As a Ukrainian, I’m here to help, and I’m impatient.

Otherwise, we will have decades and decades and decades of corruption and poverty and depopulation in Ukraine. We will also have a Western media that relies on Russian neo-imperialists as an authority on (the) Ukraine.

Can’t we do better than this?

Ukemonde said...

As mentioned in my other comment Paulette, here we go with the propaganada machine going full force ahead. I will linlk your post to my post created Saturday.
As well Roman Serbyn has great comments on InfoUkes bulletin list under Politics:
Time to start a new campaign to counter the new attacks taking place, ie Holodomer not being a genocide?


Pawlina said...

Taras, I really have to wonder if Solzhenitsyn was a Russian neo-imperialist all along.

Regarding the West. Understand this, Taras. The West doesn't care. The West is too in love with the idea of a Marxist utopia to care about a country whose very existence proves there is no such thing.

Some of us living in the West, particularly the Ukrainian diaspora, do care. But we have to fight an uncaring, often inhospitable and sometimes downright hostile society to make them understand that oppressing Ukraine and Ukrainians is not in their best interests!

It has not been, and is still not, an easy job.

So if you're impatient over there, we're no less so here.

As I said to someone else on this blog, and to mangle a few more metaphors, the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but there are brown spots and bald patches on either side when viewed from up close.

In the end, all you can do is try and fill the glass you've been handed. It would be wise to note that even completely full, it will never hold enough to keep the lawn on both sides of the fence well watered.

We're doing our best on this side, Taras. Instead of being impatient with each other, we would do better to figure out how to join forces and share resources. Since on the big battlefield, we're on the same side... I hope?

Pawlina said...

Roman, thanks so much for your support and your hard work in this as well.

It never fails to astound me how many people are so loathe to let go of their Marxist utopian delusions long enough to look reality in the face.

We can at least take comfort in the reality that you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

It it just too bad for those who do get fooled that they don't realize how counter-productive and in fact self-destructive their self-delusions actually are.

Taras said...

We’re on the same side if you agree that there is no utopia in seeking better governance, demanding social justice, and aspiring to a living standard that educated and hard-working people deserve.

Speaking of the ubiquitous Moscowcentric Western media bias, here’s a good case in point.

Feel free to scroll the article to where it reads “Special thanks to two Taras’”:)

Pawlina said...

We’re on the same side if you agree that there is no utopia in seeking better governance, demanding social justice, and aspiring to a living standard that educated and hard-working people deserve.

Ah my friend... this is exactly what I mean by "utopia." The point that utopians the world over don't seem to want to get is that there is a natural disconnect between "deserve" and "have."

The freedom to make demands of fairly-elected leaders is the essence of democracy. Expecting them to actually provide those things, rather than simply create the conditions that enable us all to acquire them ourselves, is utopian.

Marxists (for lack of a better label, as they're older than God let alone Marx) would "give you a fish." True democrats would teach you to fish. Would you rather be controlled by the former, or work with the latter? If you're in a democracy, you get to choose. (Just remember that the former often disguise themselves as the latter.)

As for the "Moscowcentric media bias," I've been living under its shadow all my life, as have all of us in the diaspora. It seduced the west into silence, thus allowing so many millions of Ukrainians to be slaughtered in the 20th century.

Good work you did re the nazi-doll crap. It's great to have reinforcements... a perfect example of "razom nas bahato" in action!

Anonymous said...

I've sent my comments to G&M on the article of Mr. Solzhenitsyn. He is well known Russian nationalist, imperialist and does not recognise Ukrainian independent state at all. I remember his appearances on Russian TV... It was not easy to watch, too outdated, even rude comments, anti-Western... Who can take him seriously on Ukrainian subjects? Of course, for the World he known as a famous critic of Stalin's regime. But not on Ukrainian subject, he hates us.

Pawlina said...

Good for you, Stan! Thanks for doing your part.

And thanks for confirming what I had suspected all along ...

Taras said...

You don't need to give me that fish.

All I need is a fair price for the fish I catch. I don't want to be someone else's fish all the time, and neither do you, I'm sure.

Pawlina said...

Sorry if I came across as patronizing, Taras. That was not my intention.

I would only give you a fish if you were very hungry, provided you asked ... and even then only on condition that you learn how to catch your own fish. ;-)

If you already can, tho, and are having trouble selling your catch, you'll need to do what the rest of us do... find the customers willing and able to pay a fair and/or mutually agreed upon price for what you're selling. Or, change tactics and sell whatever it is they want to buy.

That is, unfortunately, the only way it works. It may not be what you want to hear, and I admit it took me a long time to accept.

But I've learned over the years that anyone who tells you differently is lying to you.

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