Image: screenshot of blood-curdling video from Ukrainian army propagandist and US ‘journalist’ and trans activist Sarah Ashton-Cirillo.
By Eamon Dyas and first published in the September edition of Labour Affairs.
Kiev Propaganda machine
From concocted assassination of Russian dissident to employing U.S. transgender activist – the evolution of Kiev’s relationship with the western media.
The feature that epitomises the western media’s relationship with the Kiev regime is its uncritical approach to Kiev’s propaganda no matter how crude that propaganda might be.
This was not always the case as evidenced by previous exposés by western media of the extent of corruption in the country and the presence of Nazi influence in its security services and wider society.
It is only in the aftermath of 2014 when the US State Department realised that Ukraine was there for the taking that the media began going soft on Ukraine. After that there continued to be some pulses of principled life in the media – witness BBC’s Newsnight post- Maidan documentary on Nazi influence [see: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=hE6b4ao8gAQ]. However, that gradually fizzled out as an awareness of what the US State Department required of the media percolated through the decision-making processes.
Moving an entire international media machine from a position of honest reporting on a country that was previously viewed in negative terms to where that same media becomes the enthusiastic and uncritical mouthpiece of its propaganda is not something that can be done overnight. It’s not a simple matter of making an executive decision. While such a decision would be enough to convince the majority of ambitious journalists there is always the conscience of the minority that needs to be taken into account. It was here that the egos of such journalists eventually became the key to them falling into line. With such people it was a matter of waiting for the combined effect of the reporting of those already on board and the endorsement by national politicians to reach a stage where even the most honest of journalist succumbs to the “national” wish to be associated with what by now is seen as the side of the angels. For not to do so runs the risk not only to a journalist’s career but, more importantly for the ego-driven journalist, the loss of the kudos already built up among one’s peers and the inevitable descent into the obscurity of social media.
But until this process reached fruition, from the point of view of the Kiev regime, there remained the issue of just how far it could push the western media into regurgitating its propaganda. It was one thing with regard to its domestic media which was directly controllable through its legal machine but it had to rely on something else when it came to the wider western media. It had to rely on a willingness on their part to be complicit. But how far could the Kiev regime rely on the complicity of a western media? This was after all a media built on a reputation of independence from their respective national governments. It wasn’t that this reputation was true but that enough journalists actually believed it to be true to cause anxiety. The answer to that anxiety came in March 2018.
On 4 March 2018 Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned by an unknown substance in Salisbury, England, and underwent intensive hospital treatment prior to them being disappeared by the British State. The British media subsequently reacted to these events in their best uncritical mode and blindly accepted and regurgitated the line fed to it by the British security services. But, back in Kiev anxiety persisted as to the level of complicity that could be expected of the wider western media in how the regime intended to behave in its ongoing dispute with Russia. So, as if by coincidence, Kiev experienced its own version of the Skripal scenario but with a local twist. With hindsight this particular event in Kiev could be seen as a “testing of the waters” by the Kiev regime to establish how deeply the western media would commit to it in its ongoing defiance of Russia’s concerns.
The “test” took the form of a story about the assassination on 29 March 2018 – a matter of weeks after the Salisbury incident – of a Russian dissident journalist, Arkady Babchenko, who had “fled” to Kiev the previous year.
According to NBC News:
“Babchenko has been scathingly critical of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the Russian campaign in Syria.”
And according to what was called the Kiev national police:
“the Russian journalist, who has been a harsh critic of the Kremlin, had been shot in a targeted killing. Babchenko was reportedly found by his wife bleeding at their apartment building in Kiev. Ukrainian authorities said she had called an ambulance but that Babchenko had died on the way to a hospital. Police had said he had multiple gunshot wounds to his back.“ – NBC News, 30 March 2018.
In other words, as far as Babchenko was concerned he represented the embodiment of the spectrum of anti- Russian opinion that embraced both the west and Kiev. Consequently, when news of his “assassination” was made public by the Kiev security authorities the finger was very publicly pointed at Moscow. The predictable media frenzy ensued with the instinctive Russophobe tendency of the media ensuring that it reacted as hoped for. So far, so good, but how would the western media react if this story was taken to the next step? A step that would expose the Kiev regime to charges of cynical media manipulation. How would the media react then? The answer didn’t take long to arrive. On 30 March 2018 Babchenko was miraculously resurrected to appear at a well-staged police press conference (“to gasps and applause” from the assembled journalists) announcing that it was all just a ploy ostensibly to flush out the would-be Russian assassins.
As things turned out the ploy was more successful as a means of testing the media’s credulity and its willingness to forgive and forget not only the Kiev regime’s tenuous connection with the truth but its willingness to fabricate the most outrageous of lies. The exercise gave the green light for Kiev to refine and develop its manipulative machine in the confidence that whatever it would come up with the media would continue to give it a non-critical licence as long as the object of that manipulation served an anti-Russian purpose.
So by the time of Russia’s Special Military Operation at the end of February 2022 the west’s media machine was already primed to respond in a manner which ensured that any honest context for that action was eliminated from the printed pages and screens of the western media and any remaining journalist who might be honest enough to place these events in their actual context was exiled to the far reaches of social media. At the same time western governments placed restrictions on pro-Russian media in ways that precluded the possibility of the context of Russia’s actions reaching any meaningful western audience. Towards this end all the paraphernalia of the traditional propaganda coercive tools were brought into play and charges of dis-information and ‘Putin puppets’ were brought against those remaining dissenting voices to cluster-bomb them into silence.
Since then Kiev’s continued bombing of civilian populations in Donetsk was guaranteed a silent licence from the media while its claim of non-involvement in political assassinations inside Russia, the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipeline, the attacks on the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the blowing up of the Khakhovka dam, attacks on the Crimea bridge, the invasion of Belgorod, were provided with unjustified credibility. Despite this, it is arguably the case that what has been more important for Kiev’s continued success in depicting itself as a force for good in the world is also the outcome of its intimate connection with the western media (and of course its associated entertainment industry with personalities like Sean Penn from the film industry and Bono from the music industry lining up to endorse the Kiev regime as their latest “good cause”).
What this relationship between Kiev and the western opinion formers has taught both parties is the importance of maintaining a subtle manipulation of western liberal sensibilities in ways that continue to portray Russia as an entity that is alien to those sensibilities and Kiev as their most enthusiastic proponent.
The success of the western media propaganda in this regard can be gauged by the fact that a regime that relies on the commitment of organised exponents of a Nazi doctrine to provide significant military support for its survival is now depicted as one that is so progressive as to be able to accommodate an openly gay battalion as part of those same armed forces. Just as Zelensky’s Jewishness was used as an argument designed to deny the influence of Nazi doctrine in the Kiev regime’s armed forces so now, the idea of a gay battalion in the Ukrainian Army is used to reinforce Kiev’s supposed progressive credentials. And just to show how Kiev is so infused with western liberal values the latest cause of those values – transgenderism – has become the latest expression of those credentials.
It appears that a spokesperson working for the Media Department of Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces is someone who has transitioned from a man to a woman. But, just as the media evidence of these Kiev credentials previously relied on nothing more than a photoshoot and an interview with a couple of gay individuals in a Kiev coffee shop, so too the presence of a transgender individual in the Media Department of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces is both more and less than it seems in the person of Sarah Ashton- Cirillo, an anti-Russian US citizen and self-admitted anti-Trump spy in the Republican camp (see Wikipedia entry: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Sarah_Ashton-Cirillo )
With the advent of Sarah Ashton- Cirillo the Kiev regime has been upgraded to the latest version of western liberal sensibilities and the re-fashioning of the Kiev regime is now complete. However, no matter how much the western media burnishes Kiev’s image that image is not representative of anything substantive in Ukraine society. Like the rest of the ex-Soviet bloc countries the main component of Ukraine’s sense of nationhood remains grounded in extreme anti- Russian sentiment. That sentiment could only survive the Soviet era because it was based in the antithesis of what the Soviet Union represented and that was something that was most effectively expressed through fascism. The current conflict with Russia and the manner in which the West has enabled Kiev to survive that conflict may have infused some of the West’s liberal values in Ukraine but it cannot replace the fuel that provides the ideological and practical energy driving the most effective element in Kiev’s resistance to Russia.