Sep 21 2022 5:39 p.m
By Gert Ewen Ungar
The press in Germany is proving once again that it has been brought into line. The German press landscape stands united as one man on the home front, because the reports on partial mobilization in Russia are almost identical and all evaluate in the same way. The wording and framing are identical, as is the spin.
Even the structure of the messages is identical. Reference is made not only to the partial mobilization, but also to the announced referendums in the Donbass People’s Republics, in Cherson and Zaporozhye, which are referred to across the media as “sham referendums”.
Even when the referendums were officially announced, the genesis of the headlines in the German media could be followed live. The date had just been announced when the German gazettes all introduced the term “sham referendum” at the same time. All editors of the republic came up with the same creative neologism at the same moment and completely independently of each other, which classifies the planned referendums as fake for the readership. That’s pretty amazing. However, the somewhat more likely explanation for this miracle of inspiration is that it is once again proof of the German media’s coming into line.
Even today, all editors of the republic think of the same text, with which they not only inform their readers about the partial mobilization in Russia, but also classify it for them right away. This requires a lot of quotation marks, because the quality German journalist uses them to signal that the Russian view of things is completely wrong. It is about “referendums” and not referenda, about the defense of “Russian territories” and not about the defense of Russian territories, about the “liberation” of the Donbass “people’s republics” and not about the liberation of the Donbass people’s republics. You can also make propaganda with punctuation marks.
The partial mobilization undoubtedly represents an escalation in the conflict, just as the massive arms deliveries from the West in connection with a complete refusal to engage in dialogue represented an escalation. The Russian invasion, in turn, was an escalation that followed the West’s refusal to respond to Russia’s demands for security guarantees. As far as the Ukraine crisis is concerned, there is a spiral of escalation going back at least to 2008, when NATO invited Ukraine to join.
German media have always followed this process of escalation in a one-sided and partisan way. They did not do justice to their task of reporting comprehensively and in a balanced manner. In doing so, they encouraged the escalation, because the one-sided black-and-white journalism suggested to the German audience that the situation was very simple: here the free West, there authoritarian Russia that wants to expand its sphere of influence. As simple and catchy as the story told by German journalism is, it is just as wrong.
If the German media are now talking about “sham referendums”, please look back to the year 2014. There was one back then too Referendum in eastern Ukraine. An overwhelming majority spoke out in favor of – here it comes – more autonomy from Kyiv. At that time, neither complete independence nor integration into the Russian Federation was wanted.
Eight years later, we are several steps further. Now it’s no longer about more autonomy from Kyiv, but about separation from Ukraine and joining Russia. Something must have gone terribly wrong over the past eight years. And somehow the big German media didn’t report about it in such a way that media users today understand the connection between the referendum then and the referendums today.
Even then it was said that the referendum would not be recognized by the EU and the USA. On the contrary, sanctions were imposed on Russia. The Minsk agreements, especially Minsk 2, were intended to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the east by granting Donbass more autonomy. The Ukraine never implemented this, Germany as the guarantor power released the Ukraine from its obligation and thus made a contribution to further escalation. The German media was not worth commenting on.
Eastern Ukraine is being bombarded with western weapons in the name of the government in Kyiv. There are deaths every day. For the people living in the Donbass, the Russian army is not a “liberator” but a liberator – at least for the vast majority.
Since Western media do not report on the shelling of Donbass and the Donetsk republics with the consequences for the civilian population, it is now easy for the German media to discredit the referendums. After eight years of constant propaganda in the German media, hardly any German newspaper reader can imagine that a referendum in the said regions could prove an overwhelming approval of joining the Russian Federation. However, that says more about the state of the German media than about the real conditions in Donbass.
Today’s press review on the subject of “partial mobilization in Russia” shows the German press landscape in all its sadness. It also shows the willingness of the major German media to continue actively helping to turn the escalation screw.
These are not sham referendums, nor is the longing for peace and independence from Ukraine in the areas liberated from Russia incomprehensible. If the German media were to report in a balanced manner, they would not be able to avoid writing about the human rights violations committed by the Ukrainian army during the reconquest of liberated areas, as well as about the bombing with Western weapons. Today, Zelensky made taking part in the referendum a punishable offense.
Instead of rating the previous mission as a failure, they could have passed on the messages of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Addressing Ukraine, he speaks of a change in strategy. Partial mobilization must also be seen in this context. In any case, it is far too early for a final assessment.
But this ditch that has been dug through Ukraine cannot simply be closed again. The wounds are deep, as is the distrust. Only split remains. The rapprochement with the EU and the West is unimaginable for the people in eastern Ukraine. They associate suffering, injustice and death with the EU, because the EU is a war party on the side of the Kiev regime. The German media fail to enlighten their readers about this view.
If the German media were actually concerned with democracy and Western values, they would not deny the people in eastern Ukraine the right to self-determination and would admonish politicians to engage in dialogue, negotiations and diplomacy. The step of recognizing the Donbass republics by Russia is understandable in the historical context. With a description of the processes of the past eight years, the desire for a spin-off would be understandable. German media do nothing to explain this wish to German media consumers. On the other hand, they are doing everything they can to push the escalation further. With today’s press review, German journalism has shown once again how urgently it needs competition and a broader diversity of opinion. The fact that it is journalism itself that fights against diversity of opinion and pluralism and welcomes censorship shows how dysfunctional the German mainstream has become for the functioning of a democracy. The press review today shows that there is a lack of journalism in Germany – there is only propaganda.
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