In Feature Articles, Media critique, Roger Annis, Ukraine

By Roger Annis, New Cold, Aug 23, 2017

Something terribly significant happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11 and 12, 2017. It’s been reverberating around the world ever since.

Anti-racist protesters challenge the extreme right in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug 12, 2017 (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, AFP-Getty Images)

A movement of civil rights advocates and activists came together on those two days to challenge the hateful and racist groupings in the U.S. that had descended on the city to voice neo-Nazi ideology and reverence for monuments to the slave-based Confederacy of the 18th and 19th century United States. Saying ‘never again’, the anti-racist protests in Charlottesville stopped the racists and neo-Nazis in their tracks. It was another step towards a world of social justice in which racism is ended once and for all.

The message of the Charlottesville protests was so powerful and compelling that capitalist politicians across the political spectrum in the West have been obliged to join the voices condemning racism and neo-Nazism. Editorialists also joined the chorus.

It is certainly welcome to see near-universal condemnation of racism and neo-Nazism stemming from Charlottesville. But there is a danger if we fail to acknowledge and act upon the dark side of the messaging of Western leaders and ideologues. That’s because their motto can fairly be described as ‘Neo-Nazism in Charlottesville and the U.S., bad; neo-Nazism in Ukraine and elsewhere in eastern Europe, good.’

Supporting neo-Nazism

For the past three and a half years, the governments of the NATO military alliance and their media outlets have been waging a new cold war against Russia. This began in earnest with the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kyiv, Ukraine in late 2013/early 2014 that culminated in the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president and Parliament in February 2014. The shock troops of that overthrow were extreme-right and neo-Nazi paramilitaries, voicing hatred against all things Russian.

More recently, North Korea and the entire Korean peninsula have come under ever-more deadly threats from the United States, this time closely aligned with Japan and Australia. A nuclear weapons threat has always loomed over U.S. threats against Korea. Behind all this lies an additional threat–against China, which happens to be a brother/sister nation to the nation and people of Korea. The China-Korea bonds were forged in resistance to the genocidal war which the U.S. and its allies (including Canada) waged on the Korean peninsula from 1950 to 1953.

Anti-Russia propaganda has dominated mainstream news since 2013. The government of president Vladimir Putin is accused of political and military intervention into Ukraine and “annexation” of the historically Russian peninsula of Crimea. An accompanying military buildup has been staged by NATO along Russia’s border in eastern Europe.

Political and economic sanctions have been levied against Russia, directed especially harshly against the people of Crimea, while NATO soldiers have been training and equipping the armed forces of Ukraine. The extreme-right paramilitaries of Ukraine have by now been fully integrated into the command structure of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Corporate media in the West has fully joined the anti-Russia effort. With nary any dissension, it has willingly played the role of echo chamber of the policies of the U.S. and other NATO-member governments.

The 2014 coup in Ukraine

Four key moments marked the Ukraine coup and its aftermath.

The first was the sniper shootings by rightists of dozens of police and protesters on Maidan Square on February 20, 2014. Western media immediately said the shootings were conducted by the police of the government of President Victor Yanukovych being targeted for overthrow. Since then, the same media has blacked out news from the half-hearted trials and investigations in Ukraine that have dragged out ever since. These have added to the evidence already assembled by researchers such as Ivan Katchanovski (and here) at the University of Ottawa showing that the shootings were provocative actions staged by rightists. (No criminal charges have been laid in consequence.)

The second was the referendum vote of the people of Crimea on March 16, 2014 to secede from Ukraine. They re-joined the Russian Federation, thereby restoring the historic ties to Russia that were interrupted by the unconstitutional decision of the Soviet Union in 1954 to attach the peninsula to Soviet Ukraine. To its everlasting credit, the Russian government opted to respect the democratic will of the Crimean people as voiced in the referendum. For this, it has earned relentless condemnation from the West.

The third moment was the civil war launched in April 2014 in eastern Ukraine (Donbass) by the new, right-wing coup government in Kyiv and its NATO backers. The aim of that war was and remains to demoralize and crush the ongoing protest movement in Donbass and throughout Ukraine against the 2014 Maidan coup. The people of Donbass responded to the civil war with legitimate self-defense, including founding the sovereign people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Western media presents this self-defense as further proof of Russian malevolence and military intervention against Ukraine. But among other things, Donbass serves as an ongoing reminder to the world of the violent fate that Crimea dodged when it voted to secede from the new, right-wing and anti-Russia Ukraine.

The fourth key event was the arson massacre in the Black Sea city of Odessa on May 1, 2014. There, some 50 anti-coup protesters who had taken refuge in the city’s large and historic trade union building were burned or clubbed to death by a rightist mob that set the building on fire while police stood by and watched. There too, an official investigation drags on years later.

All this violence and more by the coup regime in Kyiv delivers a very calculated message: that protesting against the 2014 coup and protesting against the austerity and pro-U.S. policies of the coup government will be violently suppressed. The violence has been totally supported by the Western governments, while Western media has played a role of enabler by its biased and self-censoring news reporting.

But thanks to the protesters in Charlottesville and thanks to writers with the courage to point out the holes in the prevailing Western narrative, the wheels are visibly coming off the deadly dangerous anti-Russia bandwagon that holds sway in Western capitals.

Julian Assange’s searing message on Twitter

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange posted a searing message on Twitter on August 15. His tweet consisted of two images side by side: one showing the violent, armed protests in the streets of Kyiv in early 2014 that ultimately overthrew the elected president and government of Ukraine; the other showing the racist rampage in the streets of Charlottesville on August 12.

The unknowing viewer would be hard pressed to know which of the rightists shown in the two images are in Charlottesville and which are in Kyiv. Both images display men conducting torchlight parades at night. They conjure up memories of the night-time, torchlight parades and political rallies that marked the Nazi era in 1930s Germany. Assange’s Twitter message reads: “The new face of America is eerily familiar.”

Yes, three and a half years ago, Charlottesville-type right-wing protests rocked Kyiv and western Ukraine. Western governments, media and ‘human rights’ organizations largely succeeded in obscuring and covering up the story of the ‘Maidan’ movement. They presented it as a peaceful movement for change, but whatever it origins in 2013 (and this is hotly debated by observers and participants alike), it became a bloody and violent right-wing coup d’etat that was spearheaded by neo-Nazi paramilitary brigades.

The coup was hailed by the same Western governments and media that are today condemning neo-Nazis in the streets of U.S. cities.

‘The story of Charlottesville was written in blood in Ukraine’

The columnists and editors of Black Agenda Report have contributed their own searing indictments of U.S. policy in Ukraine.

Black Agenda Report is published online each week. On August 16, editor Ajamu Baraka penned a column titled ‘The story of Charlottesville was written in blood in Ukraine’. He explains:

More than two years ago, I wrote: “The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet. Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.”

The impetus of that article was to critique the inherent danger of the Obama Administration’s cynical manipulation of right-wing elements in Ukraine to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych [in February 2014]. Not only was it dangerous and predictably disastrous for the Ukrainian people, but because U.S. support for a neo-fascist movement in Ukraine took place within a context in which the political right was gaining legitimacy and strength across Europe. The political impact of the right gaining power in Ukraine could not be isolated from the growing power of the right elsewhere. Which meant that the Obama Admiration’s selfish, short-term objective to undermine Russia in Ukraine had the effect of empowering the right and shifting the balance of forces toward the right throughout Europe.

Baraka continues:

But because Obama was incorrectly seen as a liberal, he was able to avoid most criticism of his policies in Ukraine, in Europe and domestically. In fact, liberals and the left both in the U.S. and in Europe generally supported his Ukraine policies.

However, playing footsie with right-wing elements in the Ukraine and underestimating the growing power of the right has resulted in powerful and dangerous right-wing movements on both sides of the Atlantic who have effectively exploited endemic white racism and the contradictions of neoliberal capitalist globalization. The ascendancy of Donald Trump cannot be decontextualized from the racial, class and gender politics of this moment here and abroad.

The alt-right that showed up in Charlottesville this past weekend was mimicking the tactics of the frontline neo-fascist soldiers who orchestrated the coup in the Ukraine, yet everyone is saying this is a result of Trump. The objective fact is that the U.S. has become a dangerous right-wing society as a result of a steady shift to the right over the past four decades. The idea that Trump’s election somehow “created” the right cannot be taken seriously and cannot be reduced to the crude expressions of the alt-right.

Black Democrats ride on the anti-Russia bandwagon

Also on August 16, Black Agenda Report columnist Margaret Kimberley wrote an indictment of leading Black figures in the Democratic Party who have joined the anti-Russia bandwagon. She opens her commentary:

The scoundrels and misleaders in the Democratic Party are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to escape responsibility for their ignominious defeats. There is no evidence of the Russian government “hacking” the election. Instead evidence points to a leak at the Democratic National Committee which revealed the gory details of their corruption and incompetence.

The lies have fallen apart one by one…

The target of her column is the online publication The Root, which purports to represent the interests of Black Americans. Kimberley explains:

The Root takes Russia bashing to a new low, claiming that racist white Americans voted for Donald Trump in part because the Russians tricked them into it.

This media outlet which purports to present news of interest to black readers has chosen fealty to the Democratic Party over all else. If Trump’s victory is to be analyzed, it must be through the lens of willful white racism.

Her column analyses the anti-Russia publishing project that The Root has launched:

Black Guide to Russia is nothing more than ‘Propaganda or Not’ warmed over with a dark face. Propornot was a blatant if clumsy effort on the part of the Washington Post and the Democratic Party to keep the media within the confines of manufactured consent on the issue of United States foreign policy. The Black Agenda Report team was on the list of outlets condemned [by Propornot] for doing what journalists ought to do, print what powerful people would like to see disappear.

The fraudulent ‘Russian hacking’ story

Coincidental to the events in Charlottesville is the implosion of the ‘Russian hacking’ story that has consumed political attention in the Western political capitals and editorial offices for the past year.

According to the story, the release by Wikileaks one year ago of emails and documents of the Democratic Party National Committee was enabled by sources loyal to the Russian government if not by Russia’s national security establishment directly. Wikileaks explained from the get-go that the information it published was leaked to it, that it did not come from hackers. But officials in both the Democratic Party and Republican Party have whipped the story into an anti-Russia frenzy that has consumed news reporting. In particular, Democrats and liberal media loyal to them have sought revenge for their disastrous electoral loss in November 2016.

No evidence of ‘Russian hacking’ was ever presented by accusers in the U.S. government and its spy establishments. Now comes the findings of forensic investigations–that the ‘hacking’ allegation is outright false. The files of the Democratic National Committee were leaked, not hacked.

The story was first reported by Patrick Lawrence in The Nation on August 9. He reports on the investigative work of the 30 or so members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). Their work drew also on several independent, forensic investigators. The findings of Lawrence’s article are nicely summarized, in turn, by an article by Danielle Ryan in on August 15. She writes:

… the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians in July 2016. Instead, the [VIPS] report alleges, the DNC suffered an insider leak, conducted in the Eastern time zone of the United States by someone with physical access to a DNC computer.

Ryan explains an additional side of the concocted hacking story:

This report also claims there is no apparent evidence that the hacker known as ‘Guccifer 2.0’ — supposedly based in Romania — hacked the DNC on behalf of the Russian government. There is also no evidence, the report’s authors say, that ‘Guccifer’ handed documents over to WikiLeaks. Instead, the report says that the evidence and timeline of events suggests that Guccifer may have been conjured up in an attempt to deflect from the embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that was released just before the Democratic National Convention. The investigators found that some of the “Guccifer” files had been deliberately altered by copying and pasting the text into a “Russianified” word-processing document with Russian-language settings.

If all this is true, these findings would constitute a massive embarrassment for not only the DNC itself but the media, which has breathlessly pushed the Russian hacking narrative for an entire year, almost without question but with little solid evidence to back it up.

You could easily be forgiven for not having heard about this latest development — because, perhaps to avoid potential embarrassment, the media has completely ignored it. Instead, to this point only a few right-wing sites have seen fit to publish follow-ups.

In other words, not only has Western media peddled false reports and allegations, it has self-censored any acknowledgement of its misdeeds. Indeed, self-censorship by corporate media and also by the anti-Russia left-wing media is a hallmark of the new cold war. (See Robert Parry’s August 18 article in Consortium News: ‘Russia-gate’s evidentiary void’.)

Hypocrisy of Canada’s corporate media

The corporate media in Canada, including the news service of the state-run Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), has published reams of material voicing condemnation of the racist rampage in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12. Ringing editorials have denounced the racists and named Donald Trump as an enabler of the racists.

The Globe and Mail daily editorialized on August 15:

The question Americans, and the world, need to ask is: What is Mr. Trump’s game? Why is the leader of the country that led the fight against fascism and racism in the Second World War now so reluctant to denounce those same enemies?

The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily, editorialized, on the same date, with:

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., it’s clear the United States has reached a uniquely dangerous moment for its democracy.

Not because neo-Nazis and white supremacists paraded openly in the streets, proudly proclaiming their gospel of hate, and a young woman was killed while resisting them… The threat comes because the country is led by a man who has profited from the rise of these dark forces, and who had to be prodded and shamed into finally condemning them.

This is rich coming from the two, leading dailies. The two papers not only supported the coup in Ukraine, they backed the neo-Nazi paramilitaries in Ukraine, which they euphemistically term “volunteer brigades”. In 2015, both newspapers were publicizing the fundraising activities of the paramilitaries.

Over at the CBC, an editorialist wrote on August 14:

Informed America was incensed that President Donald Trump, in the immediate aftermath, failed to perform what should be one of the easiest, most uncontroversial duties of any presidency: to immediately call out white supremacists and neo-Nazis (which I will mostly use interchangeably, as I’d argue there isn’t much of a difference) as traitors to country, as antithetical to the values that the U.S. holds dear.

Newspaper, television and online columnists of the mainstream outlets are also full of condemnation. Writing in the National Post on August 16, veteran columnist Andrew Coyne said:

Of all the ways in which a president might respond to the horror of Charlottesville, refusing to unambiguously denounce neo-Nazis would seem the worst possible, exceeded only by actually defending them.

Way back in September 2014, Coyne penned a column outlining his recommended steps to prepare for war with Russia. He opined ominously:

… The rapid response force to which [NATO] committed this week is a good start: by deploying it at the first sign of trouble, for example in the event of any “spontaneous” uprisings in ethnic-Russian areas [of countries bordering Russia in eastern Europe], we would draw the line anew: with our own troops in harm’s way, the trip-wires would be made visible again. But this, too, will require a long-term commitment, against a patient foe. We should be under no illusions.

The Globe‘s Tabatha Southey wrote on August 18:

It’s long been assumed that denouncing white supremacists or at least literal swastika-waving Nazis was a pretty easy task, that not liking Nazis was something that most post-Second World War people just knew how to do. Sure, it has not always been that way, but a general distaste for at least openly genocidal white supremacists was one of the good things to come out of the Second World War, that and the defeat of literal Nazis.

Yet in a column ten months ago, Southey listed a bogus litany of crimes supposedly committed by Russia, the country (along with Ukraine and Belarus) that suffered the most and made, by far, the most sacrifices in defeating the “literal Nazis”. She wrote:

[Trump] has repeatedly refused to denounce anything Mr. Putin has done, from invading Ukraine, to murdering journalists, to hacking into the DNC’s servers and leaking information stored on them with the intent of interfering with the American democratic process. A number of government and civilian experts with knowledge of the leaks have stated that they are confident that the Russian government is behind the hacks.

Without doubt, many mainstream columnists are sincere in their revulsion against racists and neo-Nazis marching in the streets of the U.S. But at what point does silence or acquiescence become complicity as concerns the role of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and outright media-talk of preparations for future war with Russia?

What about the simultaneously blocking by media of alternative narratives to the story of Ukraine and Crimea? This is widespread in Canada and in other Western countries. In Western press, there are few examples of alternative viewpoints passing through gatekeepers. How can such media outlets speak with any credibility about neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or anywhere else in the world?

How can official Canada speak with moral authority about Nazism considering its history and its current policy in Ukraine? The record shows that Canada refused entry to Jews being persecuted and killed in Nazi Germany. Then, following World War Two, Canada welcomed with open arms thousands of Nazi war criminals fleeing the scene of those very crimes, including Ukraine. They were deemed valuable allies as the Cold War began.

Canada’s political parties fully on board

The hypocrisy over Charlottesville extends to the parties in Parliament. Conservatives and Liberals alike have led the charge against Russia, in support of the extreme right in Ukraine. There is not a whisker of difference between the approach of the Stephen Harper Conservatives in 2014 and 2015 and the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals elected in October 2015.

Liberal eminence gris Bob Rae, a former cabinet minister and interim party leader (May 2011-April 2013), wrote with a straight face about Donald Trump and Charlottesville in a Toronto Star op-ed on August 16:

A man who does not care to see the difference between a Nazi and those resisting hatred should be speaking to empty halls, shouting at his television set by himself, with no support, no air, no resonance.

Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale told journalists on August 22 that Canada will henceforth press its  allies in the ‘Five Eyes’ spying alliance to devote resources to monitoring their domestic far-right groups. The Globe and Mail reports, “Mr. Goodale said he is optimistic that Canadians will overwhelmingly reject “white supremacists, neo-Nazis, hard-right attitudes.” Where has Mr. Goodale been hiding these past three and a half years on the Ukraine file?

The same article in the Globe reported, “Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who recently held a meeting with black parliamentarians in Ottawa, said it was “shocking” to watch the recent events unfold in Charlottesville. “I never expected to see in this day and age such baldly held views on anti-Semitism or on racism,” he told reporters on Tuesday.”

Canada has settled into a comfortable alliance with the Trump presidency, notwithstanding uncomfortable moments. Canadians were reminded of how far this extends in an article in the New Yorker magazine on August 15. It reported on the political relationship developed by top Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts with the departed, for now, extremist advisor to Trump, Steve Bannon. Butts and Bannon are friends who talk regularly, the New Yorker reported. Bannon sees Butts as a “left-wing version of himself”.

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair, still leading the party 16 months after a membership convention voted for him to step aside, has distinguished himself by his silence over Ukraine; oh, except during the 2015 election campaign when he criticized the Harper regime from the right, saying that not enough sanctions were being imposed against Russia.

In the current, tepid race for a new leader of the NDP, there is not a word by any of the four candidates about the NATO rush to confrontation with Russia and not a peep of disagreement with the Liberal government’s support to the extreme-right, pro-austerity governing regime in Kyiv.

What is the record of Canada’s left-wing groups and publications compared to the hypocrisy of the mainstream political parties and media? That will be the subject of a forthcoming article.

Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC. He publishes his articles as well as recommended articles by other writers on his website ‘A Socialist In Canada’, where this article originally appeared. He is also an editor of ‘The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond’. That website project has recently reduced its scope and frequency.

For the story of Ukraine and the NATO threats against Russia, see the extensive news and analysis compiled since 2014 on New Cold, including:

Russophobia and the logic of imperialism, by Ava Lipatti, published by The Hampton Institute, June 8, 2017

How anti-Russia prejudice in the West, including among left-wing voices, echoes the racist ‘orientalism’ that has dominated Western discourse over the Middle East for more than a century



EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

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