Imagine you are a young woman walking down a street in the US when a group of young men starts hooting and whistling at you. It’s probably annoying, even infuriating, but you keep walking and ignore them. Now imagine the same thing happening on a street in Kiev or Odessa. You should probably run for your life because you may have just become a target to be kidnapped and sold as a sex slave in a distant land.
That is the reality faced every day in Ukraine, where a repudiation of the descent into a mafia state is likely the main issue at the heart of the recent rebellion and interference by neighboring Russia. But you’d never know that reading the mainstream media here in the US. This important story has been largely ignored because everything, everywhere in the world is reported as if it is about the US somehow – no matter how ridiculous this perspective is.
Our inability to simply get over ourselves is the main reason our press is so terrible, not some liberal/conservative bias. It is well demonstrated by the complete miss on this important story shaping the world today.
There is little doubt that the rebellion in Ukraine started when President Yanokovych reneged on a pledge to sign a treaty with the European Union (EU) on 21 November. Subsequent reporting in the US has largely failed to look at the genesis of the entire conflict, usually referring to the treaty as a trade agreement. But the story has an obvious flaw at the heart of it. Since when has anyone, anywhere, been willing to die for free trade with the EU?
The depiction in the mainstream media has focused on an emotional explanation revolving around ethnic identity. Somehow, the situation can be explained by the easy and unthinking label of “ethnic tension” between the divisions in Ukraine. The implication is that those wacky foreigners just can’t get along. While this does sometimes happen in other nations it’s not an excuse for missing a critical, if more difficult economic and criminal story that obviously explains the situation much better.
Worse yet, the story that this is ethnic in origin plays into Russia’s hands so well it is practically propaganda.
There is considerable evidence that the influence of organized crime, run out of Russia, has become utterly intolerable in Ukraine – and that this has driven the people to risk their lives to change it. As the center for an international trade in sex slaves, Ukrainian women are indeed disappearing off the streets to be sold into a fate worse than death. A recent survey showed that 9% of Ukrainians have been directly affected by this problem, or nearly 1 in 10. The anger that must reasonably result from the inability to protect a generation of women has to be an incredible force for change.
But that isn’t the story the US. The simple narrative of “ethnic tension” is handy largely because it has allowed the story to shamefully be played for local politics. The implication is that the Russian occupation of Crimea is about our particular weakness, blamed on Obama, utterly ignores the fact that Putin did the same thing in 2008 and clearly got away with it. Why would he not think he could do it again? Insistence that this is about the US has gone as far as to try to link it to weakness showed in Benghazi, a point so utterly laughable that no credible news outlet would have ever given it any airtime.
But US outlets did give it airtime. And this demonstrates they are simply not credible.
Meanwhile, Putin continues to play his hand with great impunity. He does so not as much because of weakness on the part of the EU or US but because this is his primary role. He is a bully, yes. But he has to act like a bully because he himself is not the great force in the world that he portrays. He exists to the extent that he is useful to the Bratva, aka “Russian Mafia”, which operates with great impunity in the burgeoning kleptocracy that his nation clearly has become. Putin’s assignment is to be their enforcer, not their Don, and that is what he does.
But to describe Putin as nothing more than the cheap hoodlum he really is would destroy the narrative he is given by the US media. We are used to the Cold War, where Russia is staring us down and ready to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness. That story has a place for the US, one that is central to defending freedom and justice around the planet – not as much as a global cop but something more like Superman.
The real story doesn’t have a central role for us, so it is easily ignored.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is struggling to cast aside the Bratva and become a modern nation based on the rule of law. In order to do so, they have to look to the West and turn away from Russia. With the arrival of Russian troops presence of organized crime is no longer a matter of corruption but a matter of Russian foreign and military policy.
If we want to be effective in the world we have to start in reality, and the obvious truth is that not every story in the world is about us. We have to get over ourselves. The first step is to demand much better from our mainstream media which is utterly incapable of seeing the world from anything other than the stupidly narrow perspective of conventional US politics.
This story relies heavily on a piece I recently did for Mint Press News that I believe is well documented. Please read and consider it. Thank you.