Sunday, February 14, 2016

German 2016 Munich Security Conference coverage like early 80s Soviet papers

If you speak Russian and have time, you may want to trundle over to a good library and and read lots of early 1980s Russian papers to see if you agree with the claim that the wall to wall headline coverage of the 2016 Munich Security Conference in the German (plus some other European countries) comes eerily close to the fare in Soviet papers at the time.

Before you cry foul or Kremlin troll, let us differentiate a bit. The claim only applies to the "big picture security", i.e. the relationship between the NATO West plus its allies and Russia. This alleged uniformity in the articles and OpEds does generally not apply to most other domestic reporting other than, again, "security".

You can find ample decent thinking in the areas of economic developments and policies, social issues, culture, and what have you, although the increasing inter connectedness of societies does lead to more international coverage in these areas, too.

The main thrust of putting all the blame for the Syrian crisis on Russia is illustrated by one headline in Zeit Online, "Syria: a complete failure". While the headline might give hope for a nuanced discussion, the content is all but.

We get the annoying repetitive theme that "the West has failed to intervene", when nothing could be further from the truth. The West has intervened at the latest since 2013 when the US began shipping arms to "moderate" rebels, almost none of them moderate, but either straight up Al Qaeda or close in aims and ideology. Turkey, of course, intervened even earlier. No word on how ISIS developed and what the West did and did not do.

The same talking points are in Frankfurter Allgemeine articles, such as this one which quotes Senator McCain as saying Putin uses refugees as weapon.

Instead, the focus was on blaming Russia for saving Assad, and for "weaponizing refugees", hailed as "the Munich Consensus".

It does not seem to take any effort at all to ignore the extent of the Syrian refugee crisis as it existed and unfolded before Russia intervened in late 2015.

Crucially, none this mattered in the coverage on Saturday and Sunday across the board, including supposedly more liberal Der Spiegel or Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Both Franfurter Allgemeine and Die Welt presented the Western talking points with the same dedication that Pravda did in Soviet times. Tabloid Bild Zeitung, of course, went beyond that - but the blogster feels that weaponized idiocy has no place in this post. **

Putting Germany's two main conservative papers on the same level as Pravda is certain to rile up some folks. But this is not about ideology, it is about supporting the power structure in the respective country. And it is a simple fact that this support takes a very similar form - there are not that many ways to bolster a one sided narrative. Whether you consult Chomsky or my favorite author on the media in socialist East Germany, you can identify the mechanisms with ease.

There were, in fact, two incidents during the conference that had the potential to pierce the "blame the Russians" narrative.

The first one, directly related to the conference, was the boycott by the US delegation of the state dinner hosted by conservative Bavarian prime minister Seehofer. Mr. Seehofer, a stalwart supporter of transatlantic policies and NATO, had just recently traveled to Russia to meet Mr. Putin, and Seehofer had voiced criticism of the sanctions imposed by the West in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
This punishment of Mr. Seehofer for not being fully in line with the current Western politics toward Russia was mentioned in a short article in Der Spiegel, ignored in most other papers.

The second, potentially dangerous incident, was Turkey's shelling of Kurdish and Syrian Army positions in Northern Syria. It took German papers several hours to report, and then only fire on the Kurdish forces was mentioned.

Again, worthy of Pravda writing, Frankfurter Allgemeine went with "alleged shelling", despite news agencies having reported with accuracy, and it used the Turkish government line of having "responded to attacks".

On Monday, FAZ decided to continue with the Syrian opposition attacking Putin, pretty much dropping the fact that Turkey was in its second day of attacking Kurds on Syrian soil. Not the kind of response you'd get if Russian artillery were caught in the act of shelling Ukraine.

Just for the fun of it, let's put Zeit Online - remember, on Russia only - next to Soviet Izvestia, and Der Spiegel, well, make it Literaturnaya Gazeta, although that's too much credit for the Spiegel literary team.

[Update 2/15/2016] Today, a Frankfurter Allgemeine OpEd says "Europe is surrounded by a ring of fire".

** The blogster changed its (gender neutral) mind and decided to share an instance of weaponized idiocy from BILD Zeitung. When Turkey shot down the Russian plane in November 2015, the BILD headline was "Putin attacks Turkey". Needless to say, they changed it later, and not a single one of the big German outlets bothered to point it out.
This is the screenshot.
[Fixed a couple of typos, too]
[End Update]

[Update 2/16/2016]
The denunciation of the Syrian government as one where torture is prevalent has resonated with the blogster for a long time. Yet, at the Munich conference, some who decried the Syrian government have had no problems to use that very government in previous years to "render" people in the war on terror. Since the conference took place in Germany, this post may be a good place to point out that no German government since 9/11 has protected German citizens abducted and rendered to Syria as part of the war on terror.
[End Update]

For those readers weary of a pro Russia propaganda piece, the blogster offered a brief Q&A.

Q: Have you actually read 1980s Soviet papers?

A: Yes, lots.

Q: Are you a Kremlin troll?

A: I am an "Honorary Lifetime Member of the 3rd of the 36th (US) Infantry". Whether that's enough to prevent me from turning Kremlin troll is up to you to decide.

No comments:

Post a Comment