Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ukrainians Parroting Moscow’s Line More Dangerous than Russians who Do, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 6 – The Kremlin understands that most Ukrainians distrust Russian media outlets and so has made a major effort to find Ukrainians who will parrot the Moscow line, Vitaly Portnikov says, helping Vladimir Putin to destabilize Ukraine and making it far more difficult for Kyiv to counter what he is doing in this area.

            Indeed, the Ukrainian commentator continues, Moscow is “winning” the propaganda war not via its out outlets but via Ukrainian ones who echo them. Ukrainians “don’t trust foreign propagandists but on the other hand, they do trust their own. That makes their own more dangerous than the outsiders (

            Portnikov’s point is important not only in the case of Ukraine but in other countries as well. All too often those who seek to counter Russian propaganda focus only on Russian outlets even though these typically have small audiences and often alienate those by the crudeness of their arguments.

            The real threat, as the Ukrainian writer notes, is elsewhere: from those domestic individuals and outlets that repeat what Moscow wants said but that are not viewed by the population the Russians have targeted as outsiders who can easily and quickly be dismissed as promoting the views of a foreign power.

             Ukrainians who repeat “the very same theses of Russian propaganda” typically say they are making arguments out of “concern for the country, freedom of opinion, pluralism and democracy.” But what they do is sow a lack of faith in the future of the country and encourage the most negative views about present-day Ukrainian life.

            Their actions are nothing “accidental,” Portnikov says.  Instead, this kind of activity arose only “after the Maidan like mushrooms after a rain,” and it in fact has been and remains “part of one and the same special operation of people who count on blowing up the country from the inside. And such people have achieved a great deal.”

            They have done so “not only because the provocateurs who have organized this special operation are so smart” but also because “Ukrainian journalists, many of whom, [Portnikov says he does] not doubt, consider themselves patriots of their country, are actively helping them” in their destructive work.

            Such Ukrainian journalists have various motives. Some simply understand their work as being inevitably critical. Others want to show their independence of everyone. “But the majority just want to get paid” so that they can survive. “In this sense, Ukrainian journalism is in no way different from other professions in our country.”

            But there is one difference between journalism and these other professions, Portnikov says.  If one thinks one’s doctor is not good enough, he or she can go to another. If one is unhappy with his or her child’s school, he or she can change schools or hire a tutor.  But dealing with “a dishonest journalist manipulator and his media is much more difficult.”

            Such a journalist, Portnikov points out, comes into Ukrainian homes unbidden, even though it often seems that he is acting on “instructions from [Vladislav] Surkov.”

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