The New Yorker on Ukraine: Instead of Sy Hersh, Keith Gessen

6:27 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As the world anxiously awaits the next chapter in the tug of war between Russia and the West over Ukraine, I deconstruct a lengthy article in the May 12th New Yorker that shows how investigative reporting has been replaced by sugar-coated bias.
Ukraine!The print media can be divided into roughly three categories:  corporate local dailies that cover major US cities, the so-called liberal press such as the NY Times, the Washington Post, and journals such as The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and the progressive press, that includes The Nation, Mother Jones, Yes! and many smaller titles.  Alas, the difference between the mainstream media and the liberal media appears to grow smaller by the day, while the so-called progressive media increasingly resembles what used to be the liberal media.

This alarming trend is illustrated by the fact that, after contributing regularly to The New Yorker since 1993, America’s foremost investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh no longer writes for that magazine. A lengthy article on Ukraine by Keith Gessen indirectly explains Hersh’s disappearance, and The New Yorker’s abandonment of any progressive pretense.

Keith Gessen is the brother of Masha Gessen, who recently published “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin”, a much publicized take-down of the Russian president.  Although she resides in the U.S., she is listed on Wikipedia as a member of the Russian democratic opposition, and is an ideal US talk show guest in these days of rising tensions with Russia.  Keith is her younger brother, the editor of a magazine with literary pretensions and author, at 38, of one novel. Keith went to Ukraine last winter and the style of his New Yorker piece perfectly illustrates a comment about him by Jonathan Franzen: “it’s so delicious the way he writes.” Gessen’s is an ideal style for delivering a sugar-coated nasty message.

The piece begins ominously: “The Russian border is a two-hour tank drive from Kiev” – where the writer is sipping tea in a cafe.  “‘Little green men’ is how people described Russian soldiers when they first showed up, unmarked and unannounced, in Crimea.”  Aside from the fact that most people would not describe Russians as ‘little’, under a 1997 Treaty between Russia and Ukraine

“The two countries established two independent national fleets, and divided armaments and bases between them.[2][3] Under the treaty Russia maintained the right to use the Port of Sevastopol in Ukraine for 20 years until 2017.[4] …The treaty also allowed Russia to maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles, and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula.”

President Putin has repeatedly referred to this treaty with reference to the popular vote that returned Crimea to Russia in March of this year, finally admitting that Russian troops normally confined to barracks had been sent out onto the streets, where as videos on the MSM show, they merely stood around. Hardly an invasion, and impossible to consider on the same level as the weeks of violence precipitated and orchestrated by trained fighters of the Neo-fascist organization Right Sektor in Kiev’s Maidan square, as boasted in Time magazine interview and that resulted in the flight of an elected Ukrainian president.

Gessen says Kiev’s anti-government protesters were armed with bats and sticks and Molotov cocktails.  Apparently, he has never seen pictures of Right Sektor fighters in uniforms with swastika-like insignia (known as Wolf angels) carrying long metal clubs and shields.  Describing the protesters’ tents on the Maidan he does mention ‘an exhibit of helmets, home-made cannons, shields, Molotov cocktails’. When it’s just an exhibit, it seems harmless….

Surprised to find the encampment still occupied weeks after the end of fighting, Gessen muses: “It was clear that some of the men had nowhere to go, or certainly, no place better than this. Here they were heroes, back home they were not.”  Touching human interest note about Neo-Nazi thugs. Gessen also admits that the revolution merely brought another set of standard politicians to power “Men in black suits emerged from gleaming black Mercedeses to attend sessions of parliament.”  Meanwhile, the activists were preparing for war, signing up men for the National Guard, Gessen muses, like students do for credit cards on US campuses.  “The idea of the Guard was to get aggressive young people off the Maidan, but it was also an attempt to raise some fighting forces, in the event of a Russian invasion….The Ministry of Defense was asking people to text it money.” (Another touching note about a regime backed by the most powerful nation on earth.)

Gessen obviously identified with the young people in the Maidan where “there was an openness to the political life of the country, a willingness to experiment, a desire to communicate that was rare anywhere, but especially rare in the cynical, impoverished post-Soviet space.”… Alas, he fails to mention – or perhaps doesn’t realize – that these people did not win the revolution – and those that did are not interested in ‘openness’ or ‘experiments’, but are muscular men who love violence.  Continuing: “The new Minister of the Interior wrote long updates on his Facebook page. Everyone was equal and anything was possible.”  Gessen obviously hasn’t a clue as to who this man, Arsen Arkov is. According to Voice of Russia.com:

“Russia’s Investigative Committee has issued a resolution to indict the governor of Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk Region, Igor Kolomoysky and parliament-appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on charges of using prohibited means and methods of warfare,” IC spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass.

“Under the criminal case… of first degree murder, interfering with the professional activity of journalists and kidnapping, a notice has been given of charges against Igor Kolomoyskyi and Arsen Avakov,” he said in a statement.

The charges refer to the kidnapping of Zvezda television channel journalists and the preceding illegal detention of journalists from the same channel, as well as several other Russian journalists.  The release went on to say that the government sought to identity the commanders and rank-and-file of the Ukrainian Armed forces, the National Guard of Ukraine and Right Sector militants who have participated in the military operation against civilians in the southeast of Ukraine. Markin said that nearly fifteen hundred people have been recognized as victims of prohibited acts of war in Ukraine.

For example in Odessa: In the final paragraph of his article, Gessen tosses off a reference to the events of May 2 which left over a hundred dead. Major press outlets reported that pro-Russian demonstrators had erected a tent in front of the Odessa Trade Union headquarters, and that when Right Sektor thugs came and set the tent on fire, protesters took refuge in the building.  The Right Sektor then threw Molotov cocktails through the windows, setting the building on fire, and beating to death protesters who jumped from windows.  Gessen’s version of events: Read the rest of this entry →