Dehumanisation as act of war

Submitted on Sun, 04/03/2022 - 17:43

This op-ed was prepared in response to an article in one of the EU-focused media, in which the situation around the conflict in Ukraine had once again been presented in an exclusively one-sided view, and Russian diplomats were accused of “fratricide and cannibalism”. After our appeal, the editors removed the scandalous characteristics from the text and published our response, albeit in a severely truncated form. Moreover, before that finally happened the same author in another even more aggressive article had painted our response (without quoting) not as an op-ed, but rather as an official letter to the editor, ostensibly containing interference and threat to “independent journalism”, once again descending to personal attacks, insults and obvious calls for aggression. Given that, we consider it necessary to publish the full version of our material so that any reader may draw own conclusions.

A respected European medium without any semitone calls Russian diplomats guilty of fratricide and cannibalism, referring to statements that Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine and support its compatriots by force of arms. But absence of plans does not mean absence of necessity to act, and support is not the same as protection of oneself and one’s country from immediate danger, so accusations of a U-turn are groundless. As are such dubious rhetorical techniques in principle.

Given that, here involuntarily comes a question concerning professionalism of a journalist who, in order to have the right to be called a journalist and not a propagandist, must remain a dispassionate observer and analyst even in the midst of human emotion. However, the problem is broader than that. As legislation – of Belgium, for example – which is supposed to be respected by the media registered in its territory, makes clear, insult is not an expression of opinion. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the anti-Russian bacchanalia that reigns in public space increasingly transcends not only ethics and logic, but also formal laws.

At the same time, one cannot claim that all this is new and surprising. Unfortunately, journalism in so-called “democratic” countries has long been degrading into the very totalitarian propaganda that it so enthusiastically despises and ridicules. Take the fiasco with extensive coverage of the “heroic death” of the Ukrainian military on Snake Island, or the fake about Russia ostensibly shelling a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Or photos of “totally demolished Kharkov” with sea coast visible in the background (for the simple reason that it is in fact Beirut after the port explosion).

In recent days, unfortunately, officials of “Europe of values” – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who ironically represent countries that know first-hand from their own history what the horrors of totalitarianism mean, failed to refrain from repeating these pseudo-tales.

The EU and the self-proclaimed “democratic society” as a whole are turning into an “empire of lies and hypocrisy”, as Russian President Vladimir Putin rightly noted. The next level after the voluntaristic dehumanisation of Russian leaders, officials and diplomats is the beginning of a full-blown European dark Middle Ages funfair – a witch hunt, in this case against everything Russian and Russians themselves.

Russian diplomatic missions receive reports of children of our compatriots – not necessarily Russian citizens, by the way – coming home from school in tears. Cases of refused service in restaurants and shops not even because one supports the ongoing military operation aimed to demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, but because one is Russian, are also reported. As well as of doctors who put political considerations above their professional duty. Segregation at its best.

Normal human emotions do not allow us to believe that this is really happening in the countries of “victorious democracy”. Professionalism of diplomats calls to check, help citizens in defending their rights and calmly work out a response. And also to remind our European friends and partners that dehumanising an opponent is not freedom of speech. Such “freedom” is, as in George Orwell’s novel, slavery. It is also, in fact, a declaration of “total war”.

What is happening now in Western European and American societies (and in their media being their mirror), who have forgotten their values of humanism, is very dangerous. Previous tragic experience of Europe of mid-twentieth century has already shown this. It was this danger that the Czech anti-fascist journalist Julius Fučík, who died in a Nazi prison, warned us all: "Humans, I loved you all. Be vigilant!"