The information war in Europe and USA continues and includes a variety of ways, forcing people to believe in the "correct" interpretation of the Ukrainian crisis. But sometimes it is enough to dig just a little deeper to see that published materials do not correspond to reality. More detailed study of this subject was made by the American media expert and head of the consulting company “William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants” - William DUNKERLEY. The results of his research were published in the book titled "Ukraine in the Crosshairs", released at the end of the last year. RuBaltic.Ru talked with the author of the book about the situation in the American media.
- Mr. Dunkerley, since we can’t read the book now, my first question will be the one from your first chapter. In whose Crosshairs is Ukraine now?
- It’s in the crosshairs of multiple parties. It’s in the crosshairs of Russia, it’s in the crosshairs of America, and it’s in the crosshairs of various parties within Ukraine.
- How do you estimate the role of Russia and the USA in the Ukrainian crisis?
- I think, in many respects the crisis in Ukraine has been more of a battle between the USA and Russia, using Ukraine as an intermediary. The focus of my book has been to analyze the information that Westerners have received by the media and from the American government. One thing that I found is that many of the allegations that were made, many of the stories that had been told, have been without a factual basis.
- What sources did you use in your investigation?
- What I have done is to examine the news coverage that is publically available. I’ve also looked at the official statements from the US government and try to compare them with the verifiable facts.
For instance, one major theme at the beginning of the year was that Yanukovich was impeached. When I looked into it more carefully, I found out that the facts don’t support that allegation.
The Constitution, which was at that time, was not followed in replacing Yanukovich and he wasn’t impeached. I contacted the Ukrainian delegation to the United Nations and asked them about it. They agreed that he wasn’t impeached. The Ukrainian ambassador to the USA separately had admitted that Yanukovich was not impeached. Yet both American media and American government have been regularly referring to the change of leadership as result from the impeachment of Yanukovich.
- Does that mean that they fabricated all news?
- For some reason, they are avoiding the actual circumstances. In a fact, Yanukovich was forced out of office and out of the country by revolutionaries, who took over. They didn’t assume power through the constitutional means, and in fact one of their first acts when they took over in Kiev was to throw up the Constitution. That was aimed to restore a Constitution from earlier, and the Constitution they were reverted to is the one that the Ukrainian Constitutional Court had previously declared as being unconstitutional.
- What are the reasons of this fabrication?
- I think that it must be more than a mistake, because the facts are rarely available. Moreover, an American source, perhaps, was the first published the information that indicated that Yanukovich wasn’t impeached. I think it was “Radio Free Europe” or “Voice of America”, one of those organizations, who published an article. They both supported by the American government, but they published an article, indicating that the parliament failed to have the sufficient number of votes to impeach Yanukovich. However, later the official position, taken by our government, was to claim that he was impeached.
The impeachment is not the only issue of fabrication. At one point, there were photographs, distributed by the Department of State in Washington and showing a man in a beard and military camouflage outfit. It claimed that there is one picture that showed him acting as Russian military operator during the war in Georgia. Then it showed the same person in Eastern Ukraine and offered as a proof of Russian forces being in Eastern Ukraine.
I don’t know myself, whether Russian forces are in Eastern Ukraine or not. But the important thing is that people, who are trying to convince that they are there, are doing that with the base on fabrications.
When I saw those pictures, they were very blurry, hard to see clearly. However, I was able to find high-resolution versions of the pictures on the internet. By looking at the high-resolution versions and comparing the two photos, one taking in Eastern Ukraine and one from Georgia, it’s very clear that it’s not even the same man.
- Is it possible to estimate what part of the whole informational complex takes fabricated news and stories in USA?
- I think that there has been a lot of fabrication about what is going on in Ukraine. I don’t have any evidence to say whether these fabrications correspond facts or not, but I do know that the people, offering these stories, offered no facts to back them up. In some cases, like with the impeachment and photos, that was obvious it wasn’t the same man, and evidences they presented didn’t support the allegation they were making.
- In the annotation to the book it was said, that fabricated news stories have served as means of manipulation. Could you explain what kind of manipulation it is?
- It gives the Americans and other Westerners who have been exposed to the American reporting on the crisis false impression on what was going on. I don’t know what have been people’s motives of doing that, of making the distortions, but it takes place.
- Recently American journalist Robert Parry published an article about so called “perception management” in USA media. The main idea is that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war. Do you agree that this policy is taking place now?
- I don’t think that the American media has a unified point of view or unified mission in terms of how report on Russia. Many of these outlets are competitors, so they compete with each other. If one of them sees a competitor producing a fault story, they would have an incentive to expose that.
I don’t think this is a conspiracy among American media companies, but one thing it is important to understand is that Americans are not especially interested in foreign news. Americans are preoccupied in what’s happening in America. The interest in foreign news is actually been vanishing over time. That’s why many of the American based news organizations have over the years been closing foreign bureaus that they used to maintain in other countries around the world. As a result of that, they don’t really have underground sources for a lot of coverage that we see in our media. It opens an opportunity for people who want to present a certain story to be able to send it to media organizations, and if it looks like a good story, they’ll use it. I think that the year 2006, The Alexander Litvinenko poisoning case, is a good example of that. The origin of the story wasn’t in the USA, it was actually in London, and almost every aspect of the story that we heard here was a fabrication done by or at the behest of Boris Berezovsky. American media companies took the story. Berezovsky hired a large London public relations firm, and they arranged interviews and helped to shape the stories, so that it would be believable.
The résumé was people’s preconceptions about Russia and its leader. The entire story that we saw here had very little correspondence with the reality of what’s happening.
- Do you think that it is the same with the Ukrainian crisis, and the reason of fabrication is that people are not interested so much in it?
- The lack of interest explains why American media companies don’t have a lot of journalists spread around the world. That makes them vulnerable to being exploited by people who put out fabricated stories that sound believable. American media companies don’t have a capability of doing adequate fact checking and making sure what they are reporting is not fabrication.
- What could be the results?
- The result is that most Americans have an impression of what is happening in Ukraine that doesn’t correspond with the facts. All of the allegations about Russia invading Ukraine – I think, if you look through all that news you’ll find that Russia invaded Ukraine about seven different times. But when it’s comes down to providing evidence, it’s hard to find.
Media provided some photos; they were to show Russian artillery battery that was set up in Eastern Ukraine. The story was spread around here widely, “The New York Times” made a big feature on it. But when I examined the pictures, I could see first of all that they didn’t prove the ownership of the weapon. It could be Ukrainian weapon as well. Someone suggested that the artillery batteries on the photos were actually grain harvesters. They both have a long boom emanating from a base. So, I asked a couple of experts.
I asked a military expert, if this is an artillery gun or grain harvester, and he said it is an artillery gun. But then I asked an agriculture expert, and he thought it looked like a grain harvester. So, I have expert opinions on both sides.
The pictures had a logo on them from a commercial company that produces and sells satellite imagery. I contacted that company and asked them if these are their images. They refused to confirm that. It’s odd that media distributed images that had the logo of a commercial company, but this company refuses to acknowledge that they are their images.
- What could be possibly done to avoid these situations?
- That’s a good question, because the whole population of Russia, Putin and Russian role in Ukrainian crisis fit into a pattern of fabricated news stories that goes back to the beginning of Putin’s terms. I mentioned Litvinenko story, but there were the whole series of them, perhaps starting with the apartment bombings where it was alleged that Putin was behind it. All that created the image of what could be expected of Russian president. Most of the understanding that we have here is based on stories that were fabricated. In addition, initially the fabricators were political enemies of Putin, principally those who were living in London. Obviously, they were not involved in the Ukrainian crisis, but they were involved in other stories, like Pussy Riot case.
- In this case, do you agree with the opinion that now we are in the middle of the “second cold war”?
- At some point, it is, but overall it’s hard to make a comparison, because in the original “cold war” our countries were heavily engaged in “arms race”, creating new weapons. I don’t think that we are close to that stage in the current situation. Nonetheless, I think that USA and Russia are engaged in a non-military war right now. Each country is trying to do reputational damage and present inconveniences to other countries. I think, it’s a dangerous situation.
- American politics insist on increasing funding media in the countries with Russian-speaking population. Why do USA need to provide this policy in Baltic region? What is the aim, Russia or Russian-speaking population in Baltic region that could sympathize with Russia?
- Very few Americans have any understanding of the predicament of the Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic countries. There is practically no knowledge of the situation after Soviet Union. During the Ukrainian crisis part of the fabricated story that was coming from the USA was that Russia’s move from the Ukraine could be just the first step, going forward to other countries, such as Baltic countries and Poland. I think it was done to create fears on the part of the leaders and populations of that region. The result is to create sympathy for the position that has been taken by the US government.
Why is the US government play such an adversarial role with Russia? The thing that I emphasized in the book and made reference to the speech made by Dwight D. Eisenhower – when he left office he warned Americans about the development of what he called military industrial complex. It is very powerful and could be very problematic in the future of American society with its role. I think that this factor works today. Many American politicians are beneficiaries of political money contributions from manufactures in the military industry. And like any industry, they want to maintain themselves and grow. They can’t do that if there isn’t the certain level of tension in the world. That gives an incentive for them to support politicians who will support foreign policy that maintains a certain level of tension in the world.
- Will Ukraine drag America into war with Russia?
- I wouldn’t want to predict it now, but I think that it’s possible if things continue to escalate. The escalation seems to have slowed in recent months. Maybe in part because of the problem with ISIS, Syria and Iraq. Perhaps that is generating sufficient level of tension in the world.
There is a lot of distance right now between our leaders and they would have to overcome many negative things that were said about each other in order to enter into relationship that is more cooperative.