UKRAINE-RUSSIA WAR

On propaganda, US should come down from its moral high horse

No one in their right senses would encourage escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war.

In Summary

•Attempting to mobilise the rest of the world to demonize Russia without a full and proper hearing is an injustice.

•Beijing has become a convenient scapegoat where the US feels a sense of loss in the fast-changing geopolitical matrix.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (second left) welcomes US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before their meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 30, 2022.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (second left) welcomes US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before their meeting, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 30, 2022.
Image: REUTERS

In a case of throwing stones in a glass house, the United States on Tuesday accused China of engaging in disinformation and cover up campaign on the Russia-Ukraine war. The US castigated its geopolitical nemesis of supporting Kremlin using both its State and media organs in a statement entitled, "People's Republic of China Efforts to Amplify the Kremlin's Voice on Ukraine."

The allegations are not out of Washington’s character. Beijing has become a convenient scapegoat where the US feels a sense of loss in the fast-changing geopolitical matrix. The latest move is part of the US’s attempt at drawing a wedge between the two largest communist countries in the world. But it is foolhardy to expect a parting of ways between the two close-knit allies, I guess, like it would be to expect a forced division between the US and the United Kingdom.

The tone of the US statement was rather condescending – talking down to Beijing for “rationalizing Russia's military operation in Ukraine and undermining trust in the United States and its allies.” It is akin to issuing a gag order barring China media from offering the world alternative views. This is an affront to the freedom of expression to which the superpower asserts to uphold at all times.

Attempting to mobilise the rest of the world to demonize Russia without a full and proper hearing is an injustice. The US is trying to herd the international community to accept its one-sided narratives on both the war and other global developments, which is an insult to the intelligence of those who know it is usually the common denominator in many of these conflicts.

It is reverse psychology. By dissuading objectivity and accusing China of pro-Kremlin propaganda, the US is trying to conceal its meddling by covert military intelligence and arms support to Ukraine, which is actually escalating the war. It is a case of seeing a splinter in another person’s eye and leaving the log in yours intact.

A journalist runs for cover after heavy shelling as Russian troops advance towards the capital, in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine 6 March 2022. Propaganda to one person is an undeniable truth or inalienable fact to another.
WHOSE VOICE? A journalist runs for cover after heavy shelling as Russian troops advance towards the capital, in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine 6 March 2022. Propaganda to one person is an undeniable truth or inalienable fact to another.
Image: REUTERS

No one in their right senses would encourage escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war. Its ramifications are being felt the world over as commodity prices spiral due to disruption of supply chains. Consumer prices have also increased tremendously, obviously affecting the poor. Coming hot on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war will make global economic recovery daunting.

Now, does the US, in fact the West in general, have the moral authority to lecture anyone on the diabolical use of propaganda? According to a paper published by Samuel Smith of Tennessee University in May, 2011 titled, "Examining Cultural Stereotypes Through Russian and American Voices", the scholar states that the US is actually the master of this game.

Samuel cites the creation of “Russophobia”, which is the toxic anti-Russian sentiment through prejudice, fear or hatred against Russia, the Russians, and Russian culture. It is observed that this is the legacy of the Second World War when Russophobia was at its peak, when state-sponsored mistreatment and propaganda against Russians by some European countries was witnessed.

Going by past experience, the US cannot really fool anyone anymore. Iraq is a classic example of how the hegemonic power has used, nay, misused propaganda to give a dog a bad name and then proceed to kill it. Allegations of harboring weapons of mass destruction were debunked and exposed as an excuse to attack the country and kill its leader Saddam Hussein. It was an act motivated purely by avarice and vengeance.

WHAT IS RUSSOPHOBIA?

The toxic anti-Russian sentiment through prejudice, fear or hatred against Russia, the Russians, and Russian culture.

There is the 2020 misinformation campaign surrounding the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic with wild allegations by former President Donald Trump that China was responsible for spreading the virus. Subsequent scientific inquiries even by the World Health Organization independent team of experts did not come up with evidence pointing to such a scenario.

The latest incident actually concerns the Russia-Ukraine war. The US threw the first salvo by claiming China is complicit in what is happening since it was privy to Russia’s plan to wage the war. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. China has been steadfast in its appeal for peaceful and diplomatic negotiations between the two warring parties.

Propaganda to one person is an undeniable truth or inalienable fact to another. What the US brands as disinformation is actually verifiable information, read, unpalatable truth. We have different backgrounds and world views depending on our political ideologies and philosophy of life. Therefore, let the US empathise with the feelings of others and respect their beliefs.

The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.