The American government is accusing the website Zero Hedge of publishing Russian propaganda over the Ukraine situation. Accusations are just that, but there could be more than just that here.
“U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday accused a conservative financial news website with a significant American readership of amplifying Kremlin propaganda and alleged five media outlets targeting Ukrainians have taken direction from Russian spies,” according to the Associated Press.
This is not the first time the suspicion has crossed minds. The website Streetwise Professor has been pointing out suspicions for many years now.
The idea that one state might try to influence the media of another is standard practice. What matters is being able to recognize when it is that governmental influence – propaganda, maybe – and when it is just an interesting difference of view.
This brings us to a more specific claim made by Vice that one of the Ukrainian militias, opposing any Russian claims, is in fact a band of Neo-Nazis. A 79-year-old Ukrainian grandmother was pictured being trained with an AK-47. That’s clearly propaganda. But the claim now is that the soldiers training her were/are from a Neo-Nazi militia.
At which point these things become difficult. The link comes via Mark Ames, to a Czech government media outlet – the Czech equivalent of Canada’s CBC, or Britain’s BBC. There’s a significant divide between pro- and anti-Russian feelings in the Czech Republic. The claim is that the Azov Battalion, those doing that training, are those Neo-Nazis.
Certainly part of their origin story starts in that sort of region. It’s also true that they are currently part of the Ukrainian National Guard and they’re based in the region right next to that which Russia has already occupied. There’s significant history here too. During WWII, some of those Ukrainians opposed to Soviet and Stalinist rule – Stalin had, after all, just starved to death 8 million Ukrainians – took the Nazi side. Undoubtedly mistakenly but they did. There was still a significant guerilla war being fought into the 1950s between such anti-Soviet Ukrainians and the reconquering Russians.
This all still resonates today. To be pro-Ukrainian independence is, to a certain type of Russian, to be that pro-Nazi from 70 years ago. It’s also well enough known that to be Nazi is the ultimate political insult, far worse than being Soviet – despite the equality of the funeral pyres of each system.
We do not say that this particular story, nor any like it, has no truth to it. But we do want to point out that there is a propaganda war going on out there and it’s worth being careful about which stories are believed. Anti-Russian Ukrainians will be called Nazis, whether they are or not – and some of them will be too. Zero Hedge has certainly run stories that make it look, at times, like Russian propaganda.