Inside Journalism

A few weeks ago I got intrigued by the mass demonstrations and fights that were going on in Kiev. A friend of mine, a soulmate in the matters of amplified noises, was born  in Soviet Kiev. He still lived in the same city, that was now the capital of Ukraine. I was curious to hear his opinion, listen to his eye-witness reports. One reason was that I wanted to find out how he was; the other reason was to hear a voice that was not filtered by journalists. We agreed on transmitting the conversation via Radio On, the radio of which Adrian Shephard and I are the administrators.

After the first interview, we also did a second one, Adrian in Berlin, me in Calabria, Dmytro in Kiev and skype above us. We discussed almost everything there was to discuss, from his participant point of view, as someone who spoke to many people in the protesters zone, to his pre-occupied citizin of Ukraine point of view, a person who followed the political moves with a critical eye.
The second interview was during a relatively quiet period. However, the square was turning into a warzone and people were very nervous. The situation can change any moment. He said. It did change.

I had a short email contact with Dmytro the day after the police tried to clean the square. That was the day more then twenty people died and hundreds were injured. In his mail he wrote about a massacre, about never having seen so many deaths and about strange grenades used by the police, that stuck to the body, exploded and made people lose their hands or legs. I asked him if we could do a third interview. Moments later I realised I was inside journalism, thinking more about the importance of such an interview then about his state of being, which must have been one of shock.

I felt disturbed by my short visit inside journalism. Dmytro disappeared from the internet. I was sure he was on the square almost day and night. I read the articles in the newspapers, looked at the pictures and I was very much worried that something could have happened to my friend.  Kiev was not Stalingrad yet. But he was involved in street fights, on the look out for snipers, careful not to be cut of from the others.

I read about a journalist in a room with two televisions and a constant eye on the tweet stream and I thought of a Dutch writer who was in Berlin when the wall came down. He watched the street scenes on CNN in his hotel room, and then the great traveller wrote about it in a book.
I read about Tony Blair and his friendship to a Murdoch lady who was involved in the telephone hacking scandal. They were still friends, and I thought Tony must have had a very intimate relationship with the Murdoch press, which secured him his premiership and Murdoch the tasty stories and first hand information.
I read about an ex-deputy prime minister in the Netherlands who talked about giving the press the tasty bits they write about, rather then the long dry discourse no-one would read. At least that would give him press coverage and maybe a few extra votes.
I read about the French journalists who presented a kid in the desert as a lonely child on the run for the civil war in Syria, while his parents were just a few meters away.
I discovered a website where stories and video’s with the latest shocking news were up on sale for 100$.

And then I came across an article in the New York Review of Books. It was written by Timothy Snyder who was a professor at Harvard University. The title was ‘Fascism, Russia and Ukraine.’ I read it three times, because I didn’t understand the insertion of the Holocaust notion in the conclusion. The article explained very clean and clear the events that lead up to the day of violence, and described in equally clear and unsentimental words what Ukrainians expected from their government.
But then he introduced the Jewish faction in this sentence, which was not free of Hollywoodian pathos: “Young Jewish men formed their own combat group, or sotnia, to take the fight to the authorities.” I could almost see them march towards the barricades, with close-ups of some of those brave men, of which at least one would get killed, one found on the sidewalk heavily bleeding from his head; the hero would get entangled in a love afair with a girl who supported Yanukovych.
Snyder, who had published a book about Hitler, Stalin and their Bloodlands didn’t play this dvd. He went to his library instead and changed his voice. After a third read I wanted to know why. Snyder introduced eurasianism and Aleksandr Dugin. The things he stated were so extravagant that I wanted to find out a bit more about Dugin. You can do as well. I think this phrase says pretty much everything about Dugin’s philosophy and his vision of Putin.
“Sovereignty in our theory of Multipolarity belongs to the intellectual elite of civilization. It is a kind of platonic vision. So, philosopher should be the king, the tsar, the Caesar. Only the person that embodies the spirit of the history, of the culture and not the most prolific, the most effective manager. The decision should be taken by the intellectual elite in dialogue with the people. The people through the intellectual elite.”

There is a very strange parallel with the hallucinative drug inspired visions of peace and love of the neo-hippies of the last twenty years with their incense fuelled talks and practices around chakra’s, cosmic powers and direct contact with the universe.

There is also a direct connection with the man in this picture dreaming away about Germania, the center of the Aryan civilization.

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Dugin understood post-modernism as a license to shop for ideas in whatever political direction, and use them without their ethic or moral context. ‘One Civilization, One People, One Ceasar’ therefore didn’t sound like ‘Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer.’ The insult ‘Nazi’ can be used in a marketing strategy, sorry, power play, as Snyder pointed out.

Snyder is moved by the Maidan as idea -maidan- sees it as a place where people deliberately meet and create a political society, through speech and discussion. At the end of his article he writes:  “The history of the Holocaust is part of our own public discourse, our agora, or maidan.” I don’t feel very comfortable with that comparison; it makes me feel I walk on top of thousands and thousands of skulls. And I don’t see why I should walk those killing fields while trying to find out something about the situation in Kiev.  And if I do, I must assume that Putin and his intellectuals are just one step away from setting up camps for mass extermination. I won’t do that. I don’t have a book to sell, nor an interview.

I started writing this article when the three European ministers of foreign affairs had reached an agreement with the president. The Polish minister shouted that the radikals should accept it, otherwise they would get martial law and that would mean they were all going to die. At the end of the day after, the president and not a few of his political friends had fled to Russia. Never mind the women and children, bank account first.
Those European ministers must have stared in disbelief at that little cloud at the horizon, not noticing how one and the same dog pissed against their legs. Of course the now former president yelled at some microphone that the Nazis had taken over parliament: “Machtsübernahme!” And thanks to Snyder I now understand that a lot more Nazi-Nazi yelling will follow from the other side of the border.

Dmytro must find himself in the middle of a historic whirlpool, amidst twittering, texting, facebooking, youtubing, selfie-ing, flag-waving, drinking, singing, crying, celebrating, smiling happy people. No world cup can probably equalize that feeling.

No-one can foresee what will happen next. There are still heads of state, region or village who use their position to accumulate shitloads of money. In Ukraine the people can live for at least another twenty-four hours with a sparkle of hope to have changed the course of history. I have learned there is this kind of platform, somewhere between heaven and hell, called maidan. And I surely hope that Adrian in Berlin, me in Calabria and Dmytro in Kiev can meet again soon. Maybe someone wants to buy that interview.

Timothy Snyder’s follow up articles:

Ukraine, the Haze of Propaganda

Crimea: Putin vs. Reality

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