November 20, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)
THE EMPIRE OF LIE. Part 1. STOLEN IMAGES
Forgery of various national histories has got the same handwriting
A STAKE AT POOR MEMORY
Deletion of truth is as typical for informational wars as casualties for physical warfare. Information designated for various target audiences is commonly adapted and sieved, some details being zoomed in while others left out of eyeshot.
Still, the rules of the genre, as well as standards of morality, suggest that a professional author is reluctant to spread blatant lies. After all, as it is well known from lessons of history, political lies are sooner or later exposed and tend to return to the falsifier as a boomerang. By the end of World War II, information, spread by Josef Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda, was doubted even when it was true.
Still, if revivified today, Goebbels would be fascinated with the multitude of successors in the skills of political lie. Following his experience, they rely upon short memory of the international audience, and the mental clichés of a Philistine, supposed to take lies for granted, especially when they concern a priori unpopular states, institutions, or persons. Brevity of an "ordinary" human memory supposedly guarantees that after fulfilling its immediate objective, even a most disgusting libel would dissolve in the informational flow, leaving no traces behind. Three recent examples, broadly debated in international mass media, are most illustrative.
Mastering the TV coverage of the Russian military operation in Georgia, undertaken as an effort to coerce the aggressive side to peace, CNN tasked its personnel to present a picture of the city of Gori, supposedly utterly demolished with the fire of Russian bombers. The problem was that Gori was almost wholly intact and did not remind a new Guernica. How to find the required smoking ruins, mutilated corpses and bereaved families weeping above them? CNN's approach was not very sophisticated: they just displayed the ruins of Tskhinval, the central city of South Ossetia, ruined days before by the Georgian army. The required horrific material was at hand in abundance. Shortly later, Russia Today channel's reporter discovered the forgery: "Our team was working in Tskhinval, preparing a TV report about the destruction of public facilities, including the city university. Imagine our amazement when we saw this building in CNN's report in the scene of what was presented as Gori. We possess the original material and can prove its authenticity. CNN's produce is nothing else but gross ad shameless falsification", says Russia Today's cameraman Nikolai Baranov.
A movie entitled "No One's Land", staged by Bosnian TV director Denis Tanovic, was decorated with the Oscar award as the best documentary of atrocities against Bosnian Moslems, committed by Serbian nationalists. The scene of physical extermination of civilians on the order of a Serbian officer was most impressive. Last year, it was found out that the scene, as well as other episodes, was grossly forged: the material, used in the movie, was made by a UN official in 1992, and in fact depicted an attack of Moslem fighters on a column of Serbian refugees, victimizing thirty persons, among them women and kids. This falsification was exposed by the Serbian Association of Internees whose spokesmen believe that Mr. Tanovic was perfectly aware of the real situation.
Last week, Ukrainian authorities broadly marked the 75th anniversary of famine of 1933, determined by the official Kiev as "Holodomor", i.e. deliberate extermination through famishing. Photo documentation used to illustrate the tragedy featured exhausted persons, hardly able to move from hungry fatigue; kids, resembling tiny skeletons, and heaps of dead bodies on the ground. Experts found out that the photo evidence belonged to an earlier period of the civil war in Soviet Russia. The photos were identical to samples from the collection of Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen who used them at that time for organizing rescue of the starving people of the Volga region.
This particular forgery does not except the fact of a massive famine in the droughty summer of 1933, encompassing all the south-western steppe regions of then-Soviet Union, and not distinguishing kolkhozniks on the principle of ethnic origin. The archives of the Krasnodar Kray Administration of Russia contain a lot of materials, including photo documentation, about the famine in the Kuban Valley, with lists of victims in the whole range of this multi-ethnic region adjacent to North Caucasus.
Meanwhile, the official Ukrainian propaganda, encouraged and assisted from the United States and Canada, describes the famine as a purposive extermination of people of Ukrainian origin. In comments to authentic materials used by Kiev officials, starving kolkhozniks are passed off as ethnic Ukrainians, though the population of the affected areas in Eastern and Central Ukraine was mixed – as it is today.
The Holodomor concoction was raised decades ago by Reagan's Republican administration with assistance from a number of activists from the Ukrainian diaspora, most of whom did not live in Soviet Ukraine in the related period, and one prominent specialist, longtime Freedom House president Adrian Karatnycky, safely escaped with his whole family from the "prison of peoples" right at that time.
Reagan's administration was then supposed to use relevant materials to officially blame the Soviet Politburo for "ethnic" atrocities. This plan was then postponed probably due to the arrival of Soviet perestroika when Mikhail Gorbachov (originating from Krasnodar Kray and married to a Ukrainian) came to power. Since that time, after the powers of Russia had rehabilitated the victims of Stalinism, denouncing, particularly, the really deliberate and systematic extermination of Orthodox clergy and severe persecution of Russian nobility – though Stalin's henchmen were similarly merciless also to well-to-do farmers (kulaks), disloyal artistic intelligentsia, and ruthlessly purged the Bolshevik party and the Red Army as well. Still, the rusty propagandist inventory is surfacing anew in over two decades. Why? Obviously, propagandists rely upon convenient extinction of surviving witnesses.
IS THE BELTLINE GOING TO STOP?
What is common for these three episodes? In each of them, images of real victims, raised from archives, are forged for needs of particular political use by persons who cannot imagine the reality of the relevant historical periods, though the true chronicle is available in the Library of the US Congress as well as in Russian archives, open for foreign specialists.
These stolen images of really perished people, who aren't able to object in courts, are used without permission from their surviving relatives. The memory about these people, instead of being kept in due solemnity, is resold as commodities of the propagandist industry. The images of Ossetians, exterminated by the US-nurtured Georgian regime, are exploited for fencing off this regime that had long discredited the whole vocabulary of democracy. The images of Serbs, exterminated by Moslem mercenaries, are laid in the foundation of the myth about "Serbian fascism". The images of Russians and Volga minorities that perished from starvation in 1918-1919, are utilized for instigating hate towards Russians in Ukraine.
The handwriting of this legally doubtful and essentially immoral practice is the same. The propagandist machine of the nation that backed Izetbegovic and Tudjman and today embraces convicted felon Hashim Thaci and corrupt raider and arms trafficker Mikhail Saakashvili, has long exceeded all the imaginable ethnical barriers of media debate.
Why do we raise this issue again and again? We have to do this, as brainwashing of mass audience, for a mere purpose of producing an "enemy image", is going to multiply, spawning remote effects. Libel scenarios used against Russia are likely to be applied to any country that questions the right of the United States for global domination. In a decade or two, the newer and less educated generation of the international audience will be told that the genocide in Kampuchea was unleashed not by the West-backed (though Communist) Khmer Rouge but by the government of Vietnam that overthrew the bloody regime. Quite possible, the "Big Leap" of China in 1975-78 will be interpreted as a means to exterminate Chuans, Manchurians, and Uighurs. And, eventually, the horrible scenes of torment and torture of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisoners will decorate albums telling about the "crimes of the Ayatollahs" as a political pretext for a military assault on Iran.
Number of shows: 1887