The reframing of recent history is a venerable practice long used by governments and corporations to cover their various acts of monstrosity, greed, duplicity or cowardice, and to rewrite defeat into victory. Unfortunately the emergence of the internet and instant information dissemination has made this ancient system largely useless. But our betters have not really wised up to this yet. They still think they control the flow of information as they did 20 years ago, and they believe that by planting their Revisionist Histories in compliant organs like the Guardian they are successfully erasing the real past. The results are often comical, and always instructive. They give us insights into the variously idiotic, ignorant and disturbed thinking currently in vogue in the corridors of power.
Tim Garton Ash, for example, in his latest Ministry of Information piece for the Guardian has been assigned the almost impossible task of creating a fairly major paradigm-shift, made necessary by the recent standoff between billionaire gangsters in Kiev. The MSM did its best to suppress these ugly goings-on, but they leaked out via Russian news channels and the alt media. So, since it’s no longer possible to ignore the turf wars or the lawlessness underpinning them, the Official Story needs to absorb this bit of unavoidable reality and try to reframe it in a way that doesn’t effect major damage on its own narrative. Not an easy job, when the entire moral basis of the “Maidan Revolution” and the entire justification for the coup that removed Yanukovych was that it was putting an end to oligarchical misrule. Tim is not a clever writer, but this task would be beyond someone far more gifted. The result makes great reading.
Tim eases us in with some gauze-lensed diversionary sentiment about Mustapha Dzhemilev, “diminutive, soft-spoken 71-year-old leader of the Crimean Tatars, gentle on the outside, hard as steel within”, who is a member of Poroshenko’s parliamentary party (Hmmm…I wonder how he feels about the fact several of his current colleagues in the government want a “clean nation, not like under Hitler, but… a little bit like that” because I am pretty sure this racist Utopia does not include Tatars any more than Jews, Poles, Hungarians or Russians). Tim contrasts this by quoting another Rada MP, US-educated Hanna Hopko (of the “centre-right” “Self-RelianceParty“) on her reassuringly rational belief that “our willingness to die,” makes Ukraine “a political nation”. The message here is clear, Tim tells us:
Two very different life stories, but one and the same message: steely determination that Ukraine should become a sovereign, modern European country.
Absolutely – the cornerstone of all stable social systems has to be exploited minorities and young women with a death-wish. Just add the casual “non-personhood” assigned to every Ukrainian who doesn’t share this vision, throw in a few nazis and democracy is as good as won. But Tim is just warming up, it’s after this he pulls the bait and switch which is the real point of his piece – from celebrating the wonderful renaissance that is Ukraine, to telling us it’s actually a piss-stained, graft-infested hell-hole.
This is a story we largely miss. In Berlin, Washington or Brussels we say “Ukraine”, but within 30 seconds we are talking about Putin, Nato and the EU. So let us consider, for once, the struggle for Ukraine, by Ukrainians, inside the majority of its territory still actually controlled by Ukraine. Even if there were no war, this would be a daunting task, for there is a breathtaking scale of corruption and oligarchic misrule, which has deformed the state ever since it gained formal independence nearly a quarter of a century ago.
The deputy finance minister says the grey or black economy may account for as much as 60% of the country’s economy. One example: we are told that of the 20,000 kiosks that are dotted along the streets of Kiev, selling various goods, only 6,000 are properly registered and pay some taxes. The other 14,000 may pay bribes and protection money, but not taxes. Who controls them? Well, we are told, it’s often public prosecutors (who are numerous, and have extraordinary powers), police officers or judges. Here is a state so intravenously corrupted that those who should be its doctors are its poisoners. Perhaps we might call the radioactive poison in its bloodstream Ukrainium.
Ha! “Ukrainium”. Nice. But once the uproarious laughter subsides we’re left with some annoying little anomalies. For example, Tim’s quite right, this is a story “we largely miss.”
You know why, Tim? Because you’ve all be claiming it isn’t true, remember?
I mean, forgive the confusion, but are you now saying Ukraine, post-Yanukovych, is not after all free and happy and run by non-oligarchs for non-oligarchs? Then why have you been insisting it was? And if that was just a misunderstanding and isn’t even slightly true, and if we’re not even pretending any more, then what are we doing in Ukraine at all? Why has the west spent so much money and risked world peace just to replace one set of corrupt goons with another? Why are we currently debating whether to send these mobsters lethal weapons? Is the west now openly admitting to supporting robber-barons? Are we coming clean about sending advisors to train neo-nazis and mercenaries in the private armies of rival hoods?
Aren’t these things we should be talking about, Tim?
Err…no. Tim doesn’t think so. What Tim thinks we should be talking about are the two “D-words” (de-oligarchisation and de-shadowing) which promise to magically fix all the nasty things once that “independent anti-corruption bureau” the Rada is setting up really kicks in (no, come on, don’t laugh). In fact Tim doesn’t even want us to notice the huge admission being made or the failures that make it necessary. He just wants us to move seamlessly into the latest reality built for us and live in it, uncomplaining. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Ukraine has always been a corrupt hell hole. Now let’s just glide on to the real point which is of course that all this corruption, which we previously claimed had been erased along with Yanukovych, but now claim…actually, errr…wasn’t, is all Vladimir Putin’s fault.
…we must understand that Putin is unlikely to be content with just a “frozen conflict” in eastern Ukraine – which many here in Kiev privately describe as the least worst option for now. He wants a simmering conflict, one that ensures the whole of Ukraine remains a weak, unstable, dysfunctional state.
Well, ok, not all his fault – but heck, he likes it that way, because…well, Tim doesn’t tell us why, but he just does ok? Because Putin is evil. And evil people hate our freedoms. Which is why – when you think about it – this stinking cesspool of graft and lies, incompetence and racial hatred is NOTHING TO DO WITH US AND, REALLY (when you look at it right), JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF RUSSIAN AGGRESSION.
And which of course also more or less excuses our continued plan to keep supporting it with money, troops and probably guns, even to the point of igniting WW3.
Well, Tim and his masters apparently think so. Or at least they want us to think so. They can only hope their target audience don’t read anything but him, and Soros, and Shaun Walker. But sadly the comments reveal the forlornness of such a hope. Lamentably, as usual, it’s BTL the real journalism happens. Let’s conclude by sharing some of it.
In response to Can Ukraine save itself from Vladimir Putin and the oligarchs? by Timothy Garton Ash
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