I watch a lot of French news and other media in my ongoing and laborious attempt to learn a new language at midlife. I’ve learned something interesting in the process.
While France and the United States are both democracies that ostensibly support freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of popular dissent, I’ve noticed a startling difference in the application of these principles between the two nations on key issues. Specifically, Americans are under a near total media blackout regarding the Russian position on the Ukraine conflict, whereas the French, agree or pas, are at least hearing and seeing both sides of the debate and conflict.
While most French media tends to tout the official narrative of the macroniste government, which not surprisingly largely aligns with the United States and its marionette NATO allies, there is a remarkable willingness in public discourse to engage, hear out, and vigorous confront the other side of the argument.
Indeed, while in the past several weeks most French press have dutifully and fawningly reported on Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s fund-raising tour of European capitals, during which he made ever increasing demands for more tanks, more rockets, more satellites, and now more fighter jets, an unexpected turn in popular opinion is slowly taking place.
The French are starting to question the spoon-fed U.S. narrative echoed by the mainstream media and by their own government. This is in part because they are inherently skeptical of U.S. war propaganda (see: WMD in Iraq), and because they know better than most Americans about the history of Russia-Ukraine relations. But it is also because they have been exposed through their media to the spokespeople, leaders, and analysts of not just Ukraine and its western allies, but of Russia as well.
Specifically, French news channels frequently invite senior Russian diplomatic and government administrative officials, as well as media commentators and other public figures, for discussions and debates about what is happening in Ukraine and why. These interviews are confrontational and often combative, never ingratiating or officious. The point is that they occur. What impresses me about the French approach is the openness of the often heated disputation. The viewer hears the arguments and can make up his or her mind.
I’m not aware of any similar robust engagement in U.S. mainstream media with any Russian in any official government capacity or even private individuals, whether business leaders, media personalities, or academics. The exception, of course, is with those dissidents, exiles, and others who are prepared to denounce Putin and Russian nationalistic revanchism and rather affirm the U.S. narrative.
That there is no equivalent process in U.S. media is not because Russian officials can’t speak English. They are not being given a voice, and as a result Americans aren’t getting the full story. It is not that these spokespeople necessarily deserve a platform in this country, but my point is that Americans deserve to have access to the information and to make up their own minds. Especially if $100 billion in taxpayer funds are being spent to support one side of this foreign conflict for reasons that are not what they seem, and America risks being pulled further into outright war with Russia.
For those Americans who are paying attention and would like the freedom to understand the information, considering the issues independently and on their own merits, here are some of the main points that the mainstream media are leaving out, courtesy of Mike Whitney writing for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:
The war began not with Russia’s crossing of the Ukraine border in late February 2022, but several weeks earlier with the “heavy bombardment of the [Donbass] area (in east Ukraine) occupied by mainly ethnic Russians … the Ukrainian Army was, in fact, shelling civilian areas along the Line of Contact that were occupied by other [ethnic Russian] Ukrainians.” As a response to the attacks, “Before Putin sent his tanks across the border into Ukraine, he invoked United Nations Article 51 which provides a legal justification for military intervention.” This was in response to “the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass [having] been subjected to a brutal eight-year-long bombardment that had killed [an estimated 14,000] people.”
Putin’s objectives are limited to keeping NATO military assets out of a neutral Ukraine, which instead would remain an independent, demilitarized buffer nation, not to rebuild a Russian (or Soviet) empire. “In other words, he was doing the same thing that all responsible leaders do to defend the safety and security of their own people.” To better understand this, imagine how the U.S. would respond if China started building airstrips and military installations in Mexico.
The U.S. facilitated and sponsored a coup in 2014 to overturn the democratically elected but Russia friendly Ukrainian president and his cabinet. The U.S. and the West subsequently repeatedly violated the terms of the Minsk Agreement, which kept Russia from taking full control of the Donbas and Russian speaking regions after 2015, provoking a belated response from Russia.
The war is not about protecting “global democracy,” whatever that means. The U.S. government rejected a peace settlement negotiated between Russia and Ukraine in March 2022 because it would have undermined the Neocons’ ultimate objective: to decapitate the Putin regime and undermine the Russian economy and state, paving the way for renewed U.S. hegemony (and especially energy profits) in Europe.
In 2022, I wrote four thematically related articles for American Greatness that were both controversial and running against the grain of the mainstream narrative and popular opinion on the war in Ukraine. The points I made were: 1) that sanctions would not only be ineffective but backfire on the West, 2) that the sabotage of Nord Stream was in the cui bono interest of the United States, 3) that the United States government was lying to the American people about Ukraine in the same way it did in Vietnam, and 4) that the U.S. escalation of military commitment was bringing us to the brink of outright war with Russia without any mandate from the American people to do so.
I’m not pro-Russia and I’m not pro-Ukraine. I have no dog in the fight. I am for a negotiated peace that results in a neutral and independent Ukraine. This will likely come with some loss of territory, assuaged by tens of billions of dollars of support to rebuild Ukrainian infrastructure. But it is the only way out short of all-out and devastating European war.
What I am staunchly against are those interests which are propagating a war, with all the destruction and human suffering that accompanies it, for reasons that have nothing to do with the stated and shifting narratives of the escalating conflict. And I’m firmly against those who lie on their behalf. I’m for transparency, disclosure, and truth-telling. But I’m not delusional enough to expect it.