Recommended reading for the BBC

by Danielle Ryan at Journalitico

A very quick example of how outright falsehoods continue to weasel their way into the mainstream, despite all factual evidence to the contrary.

This recent piece from the BBC:

Viewpoint: What’s behind Russia’s actions in Georgia?

It may be a ‘viewpoint’ piece, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t entitle the author to present his own set of facts.

Here is the problematic section:

Moscow has been doing this in the internationally recognised Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia since the late days of the Soviet Union. This policy culminated in the 2008 war that saw both territories occupied by Russian troops. Russia subsequently proclaimed them as independent states.

As in 2008, when Moscow began its invasion on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, the timing of the latest provocation was skilfully chosen. Tied down with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the nuclear talks with Iran and Greece’s financial woes, the West has a lot on its plate.

The timing of Moscow’s “invasion” of Georgia was “skilfully chosen” the author says.

This leaves the distinct impression that the “invasion” was something which happened entirely on Russia’s terms, decided in Moscow and then acted upon with no warning, out of the blue. Nowhere does the piece explain that Moscow’s “skilful timing” was in fact a response, that Russia did not initiate the conflict itself.

And that’s not just Kremlin spin.

An EU report published a year after the five-day war confirmed it. Maybe the BBC should give it a re-read.

The report found that the conflict “started with a massive Georgian artillery attack” and, as reported by The Guardian at the time, “flatly dismissed” then Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s version of events.

The report (which you can read here) also said:

“There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation — Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated … It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack.”

To recap:

  • no armed attack by Russia to provoke the Georgian operation
  • no large-scale presence of Russian troops, despite Georgian claims
  • no evidence any such Russian attack was imminent

So why is the BBC, seven years on, publishing articles that tell an entirely different story?

This kind of omission, which is often unnoticeable to most, is how news organisations perpetuate myths under the guise of noble truth-telling.

A Newsweek article this week criticized Moscow’s “cunningly contrived” propaganda over Ukraine.

Russian propagandists, the author wrote, “offer a selection of facts and put them in a framework that naturally leads the audience to the desired conclusions”.

That sounds awfully familiar to me.

Follow Danielle on Twitter @DanielleRyan


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Brad Benson
Brad Benson
Aug 25, 2015 4:37 PM

I was living as an expatriate in Germany during the Georgian Episode. At the time, the German Newspapers provided daily running accounts of the fighting, together with a complete background in regard to how it all got started. The Bushies helped the Georgians, who had announced their withdrawal from the “Coalition of the Billing” in the Middle East, by withdrawing their entire 2,400 man force nearly overnight back to Georgia, just in time for the beginning of the Olympics in China, which they knew Putin was scheduled to attend. (One wonders how many troops from other countries were rushed away from the battlefield with so much gusto by the Bushies who, at the time, were doing all in their power to keep those countries there for as long as possible). The other key information that has been left out of most Western Media accounts about this war was the fact… Read more »

Aug 20, 2015 1:31 PM

Remember this BBC is run by folks who still believe in Santa Claus and Royals. Old habits are hard to break when to do so costs you your head. But child molestation is perfectly acceptable…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awAeg_-mSpQ

Aug 20, 2015 7:31 AM

I saw this program on the TV once which was on Cuba. It said go there soon to see the country that had not changed since the 50’s before it’s too late because capitalism was coming. Havana is a tourist attraction because looks like Chicago in the Gatsby days. The program was hosted by a nice middleclass English reporter, who was obviously a decent guy, like we in the west are always the good guys. The documentary started out okay saying about some of the good things about the revolution, like all children can go to ballet school – ballet is very big in Cuba, they said- but it soon got into how bad the communist Cuban society was. The reporter put Cuba’s poverty down to the US blockade and to the Cuban government mismanagement, but as the documentary went on the government mismanagement was continuously emphasized. The documentary showed… Read more »

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Aug 20, 2015 12:31 AM

It was my understanding that Russia actually did have troops in S. Ossetia, Abkhazia, or both. I thought they were obligated to garrison a force there under the ceasefire agreement, similar to the arrangement in Transnistria. In other words, the Russians were just responding to an illegal, ceasefire-breaking barrage by Georgia against their own troops. Am I wrong?

Aug 21, 2015 3:08 PM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

Prior to the 2008 war South Ossetia was policed by a joint Russian/Georgia/Ossetian peace keeping force. According to Wiki anyway. But that article is such a propagandist mess it doesn’t even mention the findings of the EU that Georgia was to blame for the hostilities.

Jennifer Hor
Jennifer Hor
Aug 26, 2015 12:24 AM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

I always understood that there was already a Russian-Ossetian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia before the Georgian attack and that it was this peacekeeping force that was the target for the attack.

Aug 26, 2015 8:07 PM
Reply to  Jennifer Hor

Dear Jennifer: You are correct about the peacekeeping force being the target of the attack. In addition to Russians and Ossetians, there were also Gruzian representative on the peacekeeping force. However, a couple of days before the sneak attack on the peacekeepers and on Tskhinval, the Russian press started to report that Gruzian peacekeepers had left their posts and sort of melted away. Almost as if they knew that a sneak attack was imminent! [irony] – obvious that they had been pulled back by the Gruzian government. I would have to go back and scrour through the archives to find these links, I remember, because I was following events pretty closely at the time. I also remember reading that the big attack itself was preceded by several days of light shooting back and forth, and some ethnic conflicts between different towns (Gruzian vs. Ossetian) regarding water rights. In other words,… Read more »