Letters to the editor: March 20 to 27 2014

Western propaganda mill grinds in Crimea

The article from the Guardian about the response to the Ukrainian situation among Russia's immediate neighbours ("Satellite states toe Russian line") was extremely informative. It did not, however, inform us about the response to the Ukrainian situation among Russia's immediate neighbours. Rather, it told us about the piteous state of the Western propaganda agencies.

The headline's "satellite states" framed the article in Cold War terms: "satellite" was the term used by Western partisans to refer to the Eastern European countries that became communist after World War II. In reality, some of the countries discussed, such as the Baltic states and Georgia, are military and economic satellites of the West. So, the headline already contained a lie, one obviously intended to further the interests of propaganda by appealing to deep-seated prejudices created in a different historical era.

Each country got a cursory paragraph. The authors selected an individual, sometimes named, together with the institution providing that individual with credentials, to speak on behalf of the state of the nation.

Every one of these individuals unquestioningly accepted Western propaganda to do with the Crimea, and most of them were violently hostile to Russia. Some said vaguely sensible things, some blurted out mad paranoid rants, but all followed the same script. Anyone would think that they had been selected on that basis.

The organisations for which they worked were mostly funded by Western governments. Hence, we were reading about Western propagandists hiring Western propagandists to deliver Western propaganda. One expects a slightly better sleight of hand from the Guardian.

The individuals concerned shared a common distress: the people around them were not buying the Western propaganda story. In some cases, they were hopeful that there was enough anti-Russian sentiment to keep the propaganda alive, but in most cases, there was not.

Many were also deeply unhappy with their elected governments, which were almost invariably moving closer to Russia (like the elected Ukrainian government, of course, but unlike the current Ukrainian government installed by armed force). Boo hoo, they said, it's all because of this Russian propaganda.

But the Russians are simply and unkindly focusing their attention on the lack of legitimacy of the Ukrainian government, on the thuggish American behaviour in the Ukraine, on Nato's hostile expansion, on the European Union's plutocratic manipulation, and on the Crimea's historic and ethnic connection with Russia. In other words, the Russians are cruelly focusing on the facts.

Western propaganda has far more platforms than the Russians possess. It broadcasts over the borders and via satellite, and Western propaganda is universal. In South Africa, I have seen just one article during the entire Crimean crisis that has not followed the Western propaganda line.

Most of these articles, although supposedly news articles produced by purportedly independent bodies such as Agènce France Presse, are riddled with obvious lies intended to promote the propaganda.

That's very convenient if your audience is ignorant and primed to accept the propaganda. These conditions are met in the United States, but almost nowhere else, and once you recognise that you're being lied to in support of one side of a question, you're much more likely to accept the other side. That's why Western propaganda so often doesn't work, and why Western governments tend to shy away from polls, referendums, even elections as much as they possibly can.

It would be interesting to find out what the general public in various countries thinks about the Crimean situation. It's especially interesting that nobody has tried to find out. It usually means that people are afraid that the answer would not favour the regimes in power. It would be embarrassing if it turned out that a majority in Britain, France and Germany think that Putin has a point, and that Cameron, Hollande and Merkel are pitiful puppets of the evil Obama regime. (It would also be heartening, since this is the gospel truth.)

One can't blame the Guardian, still less the Mail & Guardian. Newspapers are organs of entertainment and advertising, not information. But it would be nice to read something from the Moscow Times or a transcript from Press TV occasionally. It might do wonders for your circulation. – Mathew Blatchford, Fort Hare

Truth, too, is thrown to the wolves

In the article "Oscar Pistorius witnesses thrown to the wolves", Philip de Wet is correct in the assessment that ordinary people who offer themselves as witnesses in court cases often end up feeling like the accused.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of a criminal trial is that the truth will emerge. Reeva Steenkamp's mother, June, has been on TV asserting that she only wants "the truth". But it is not the defence team's goal to find out the truth, whatever it is. Barry Roux was hired to get Oscar Pistorius off. This is Roux's job. The truth can sometimes be "thrown to the wolves" at the same time as the witnesses.

Hence Pistorius's retention of Roux, a very expensive advocate who is far too costly for 99% of the population. Roux's job is to pick holes in the state's case. If this means tearing into witnesses who offered themselves to testify, then so be it. The more they succumb to Roux's aggression the better for the Pistorius team. If they burst into tears, if they lose their concentration, this is what Roux wants. He's looking to undermine their credibility.

The truth may be the last thing to come out of the Pistorius trial. June Steenkamp cannot pick and choose her team – she has to accept the state as her partner in this trial.

She may never find out the truth because her opponents in court have money, and this buys the sort of aggression, obfuscation and badgering that is Roux's stock in trade. G Walker, Pretoria

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