From U.S Dept. of State report in 2021 about Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion:
“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents, torture, and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement personnel; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in Russia-led conflict in the Donbas, including physical abuses or punishment of civilians and members of armed groups held in detention facilities; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and censorship; serious restrictions on Internet freedom; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; serious acts of government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes, violence or threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of ethnic minority groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor”.
Below is a transcript from System Update with Glenn Greenwald/Live on RumbleIn this episode, we examine how the Western media has completely rewritten the vast majority of their own reporting about Ukraine, reversing everything they spent the last eight years saying the minute Russia invaded back in February, engaging in one of the most brazen examples of the exact type of government and media propaganda George Orwell’s 1984 was designed to warn about: we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
Tonight, I’d like to speak to you about the war in Ukraine, but before doing so, I have a request to make of you. Try as hard as you can to set aside your views of whether the U.S. should or should not be intervening in that war by lavishing Ukraine with $100 billion and counting, and all sorts of sophisticated weaponry, as it treats the border conflict between two other countries on the other side of the world as its own proxy war.
And even try to leave aside your views about whether you believe Russia invaded Ukraine without any provocation or justification, or whether you believe that the U.S. and the EU – deliberately or otherwise – provoked the Russians by continuing to hint about Ukrainian membership in NATO, or helping to change the regime in Kyiv in 2014, from a pro-Moscow to a pro-EU government, or in general running amok and all but governing this vital country right on the most vulnerable part of the Russian border. The reason I ask you to leave all that aside is because it does not – or at least should not – affect the subject I’m about to examine, even though it’s nominally about the war in Ukraine.
Since at least 2013, when the U.S. and the EU began working to change the government of Ukraine, that nation has been of great interest to the West – for all sorts of interesting – though not necessarily valid – reasons.
You likely recall Victoria Nuland, the chameleon who somehow always manages to end up in power no matter which party Americans vote for: part of a leading neo-con family by virtue of her marriage to long-time neocon DC operative Robert Kagan, Nuland occupied a senior position in Bill Clinton’s State Department; then became Dick Cheney’s primary foreign policy advisor, especially for the War in Iraq, War on Terror; and then reappeared, as if nothing had happened, in the Obama administration as a top official in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, finally running Ukraine policy for Obama. Like so many top neo-con operatives in DC, she had a short stint out of power during the Trump years but has now reappeared running Ukraine yet again, this time for the Biden State Department.
In 2014, Nuland got caught on tape essentially choosing who the new Ukrainian President would be, as part of their new “democracy” installed after the U.S. and EU helped Western Ukrainians dislodge their former president. And it is not an exaggeration to say that the U.S. government has been running Ukraine ever since.
That’s why when the Ukrainian energy company Burisma ended up confronting all sorts of unpleasant legal difficulties, they decided to pay $50,000 per month not to the son of an influential Ukrainian politician, but to the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, as Vice President Biden was essentially governing Ukraine as an imperial overlord or consul, micro-managing that country to such an extent that he was picking and choosing which prosecutors should be hired and fired.
So if you were Burisma, it made sense to pay the son of an American politician since the U.S. government, for whatever reasons, was deeply interested in Ukraine to the point of governing it – even though, as I’ve shown you many times before, former President Obama expressed the standard view for decades in Washington that Ukraine was not and never would be a vital interest to the U.S. because it has no oil or other resources nor geostrategic importance.
Its only value seems to be its proximity to Russia and its use as a proxy to weaken Moscow. Regardless of whether it should have been done, Ukraine was deeply important for close to a decade to the U.S. and the EU before this war, and as a result, it received a great deal of coverage in the Western press. And what is most striking is that there was a consensus on how to think about Ukraine since at least 2014, when the government was changed.
And yet, as soon as Russia invaded, you can see – in real time – how the Western press completely abandoned and rewrote its own history about Ukraine, on virtually every issue of importance regarding that country: they did a complete 180-reversal, where they stopped saying what they had been saying for a decade – as long as those truths undermined U.S. and EU interests in the war in Ukraine – and often began asserting exactly the opposite and render their own reporting off limits to utter.
That a union of government and media will radically revise history in order to maintain popular support for a war was central to how Orwell’s dystopian, totalitarian government of Oceania functioned in that novel. Whenever Oceania’s leaders subtly redirected the hatred of the citizenry from longtime enemy Eurasia to new enemy Eastasia, the messaging to the citizenry brazenly changed, all based on the propagandistic premise that nothing had changed. As Orwell wrote: “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”
And just like that – presto! – everything that the citizenship was told previously was no longer applicable. A brand-new reality – suited for the needs of the new war – was in its place. In a process that should be very familiar to Americans who lived through the wars in Iraq, then Libya, then Syria, and now Ukraine, what was until very recently declared to be a loyal friend and partner could switch on a dime to be not only an enemy, but an enemy that we have always opposed, and vice-versa. As Orwell wrote in that book, using his protagonist Winston Smith: “The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia.”
He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’. And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.”
Thus did Saddam Hussein go from close American ally, in the 1980s, against Iran, to incomparable Hitlerian evil who must be vanquished, including because he had gassed his own people – indeed an incredibly evil thing to do, albeit something he did when he was still a close U.S. ally with whom Donald Rumsfeld was shaking hands. The same thing happened with ally-turned-enemy Muammar al-Ghaddafi, of Libya, when it came time for that regime-change war and the same thing with ally-turned-new-Hitler Bashar al-Assad.
It wasn’t that our government and its media alleged that anything had changed. It was that everything just started being rewritten and revised to imply that nothing had changed. That it had always been this way. And we are seeing this propagandistic framework more vividly than ever in how Ukraine is now talked about in the West, vs. how they were discussing their country for eight years before Western populations needed to be convinced to send arms and massive amounts of their money there, even if it meant a proxy war or risking a direct hot war over Ukraine with a nuclear-armed power.
To begin with, consider this documentary from the BBC (6:00-8:30), in 2014. Its title assumed – as if it weren’t debatable – that in fact, it was a basic truth, namely, many Ukrainians do not want to live under the rule of Kyiv or even be citizens of Ukraine at all. Instead, they are Russian-speaking, ethnic Russians, whose families, for centuries, have self-identified as Russian. They would much rather live under the rule of Moscow than Kyiv, especially once the Ukrainian government was changed with the help of Victoria Nuland and her friends and became pro-EU instead of pro-Russian.
Now, that may not be your choice if you lived in Ukraine. I can certainly understand when I heard Ukrainians – particularly those in the West whose first language is Ukrainian – say they’d rather have democratic autonomy and pick their own leaders than live under the rule of Moscow. But it doesn’t matter what I want or what you want if you are in Ukraine. The indisputable fact of the matter is, as the Western media always acknowledge, that a large number of Ukrainians – particularly in the eastern part of the country – would rather be annexed by Russia or at least be declared independent of Kyiv.
That is why – unbeknownst to so many in the West, since it interferes with the preferred narrative – so many of them have, since the change of government in 2014, been fighting a civil war against the central authority in Kyiv. They are separatists who are backed by Russia. Recall that when the Clinton administration’s involvement in the war in Yugoslavia grew deeper and deeper, especially by the end of the 1990s, a central war demand of the U.S. – and why are we involved in this war at all? – the demand became that the province of Kosovo, which had long been part of Serbia and subject to the central rule of Belgrade, much like eastern Ukrainian provinces are subject to the central will of Kyiv, should instead be declared independent. And the argument of the West was that the people of Kosovo did not want to be part of Serbia, and that was largely true. And so, the U.S. and NATO pressed the case until Kosovo won its independence.
At the time, Vladimir Putin – who, with Russia, as a long-term ally of Serbia and someone who believed in the stability of the post-World War II order – warned that granting independence to Kosovo would be deeply destabilizing, since many provinces in Eastern Europe were shoved into countries with which they did not identify and from whom they wanted to be independent.
But that warning was ignored. And thus, Putin decided to use that precedent, the one that gave independence to Kosovo, to justify the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, based on the argument – again, a true one – that the vast majority of people in those two Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Azkhabia – despised the Georgian president, someone who had been selected by and was beloved by American neocons and were demanding Russian passports and citizenship instead. The same thing happened in 2014, when Russia held a referendum in Crimea, and over 90% of the citizens of that province voted in favor of becoming part of Russia.
There are valid criticisms of how that referendum was conducted — given that Crimea still had Russian troops on its territory when the voting was held – but nobody seriously doubts that the vast majority of the people in Crimea identify as Russian and prefer to be ruled by Moscow rather than Kyiv. Close to 85% of people in Crimea speak Russian as their first language while only 3% speak Ukrainian. And the same is true – and has long been true – of people in the provinces of Eastern Ukraine, including in the Donbas region.
But how often do you hear that admission now from Western media outlets? Almost never. To listen to them, all Ukrainians are the victims of Russian aggression, because they crave their sovereignty and their democratic government in Kyiv. But that’s just false – a large minority of Ukrainians, and a majority of them in Donbas, want to be part of Russia or be independent. And that’s what makes that BBC documentary so fascinating is that it uttered this truth in unflinching form, and even sent a reporter to Eastern Ukraine to interview the people in that region about why they wanted to be part of Russia or are very hostile to the central government of Kyiv.
You can see in the documentary that he was expressing a view held by, as the BBC admitted, a large number of Ukrainians in the east. And that is why – for all the talk about how a diplomatic solution is impossible – one solution has always been clear. Hold a fair and free election or referendum in those provinces – supervised not by Russian forces but by UN peace-keeping and other forces – and allow the people of those regions to decide for themselves what they want their fate to be, using the precedent of Kosovo and the independence granted to it by the West.
What the BBC said and showed in 2014 was not controversial at the time because it’s undeniably true. But now, anyone pointing out that many Ukrainians prefer to be part of Russia would be instantly accused of being a Russian propagandist, and you’d be hard-pressed to find such admissions in any Western outlet. It’s been all declared off-limits.
Now, the question of what people in Eastern Ukraine want is by far not the only topic where everything has changed. Let’s take a look at the “hero’s welcome” that President Zelensky just received when he spoke to a joint house of Congress. They draped the dais of the House of Representatives, not with the American flag, but with the Ukrainian flag, and he was heralded as this noble leader, this person who deserves all of our admiration, someone fighting for good government and democracy in Ukraine.
And let’s compare it to what has been said about him over the last several years since he emerged in power. First of all, let’s start with this Guardian article. As you may recall, there was a leak of millions of documents a decade ago called the Panama Papers, which revealed how rich people hide their wealth in offshore bank accounts, where it’s free from accounting or detection, or taxes. And there was a subsequent sequel to that, called the Pandora Papers, which did much of the same.
This Guardian article, in 2021, just six months or five months before Russia invaded Ukraine, and it became prohibited to say anything negative about Zelensky in the West, as the Guardian noted, “Revealed ‘Anti-Oligarch’ Ukrainian President’s Offshore Connections”. They put ‘anti-oligarch’ in quotes because they were mocking the fact that Zelensky was posing as someone opposed to oligarchy and corruption when he himself, as revealed by these papers, had all sorts of offshore accounts. The article read: “On the campaign trail, Zelensky pledged to clean up Ukraine’s oligarch-dominated ruling system. And he railed against politicians such as the wealthy incumbent […] who hid their assets offshore. The message worked. Zelensky won 73% of the vote and now sits in a cavernous office in the capital, Kyiv, decorated with gilded stucco ceilings. Last month, he held talks with Joe Biden in the Oval Office”. […] “The Pandora papers leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with The Guardian as part of a global investigation, however, suggests Zelensky is rather similar to his predecessors,” the corrupt oligarchs. “The leaked documents suggest he had – or has – a previously undisclosed stake in an offshore company, which he appears to have secretly transferred to a friend weeks before winning the presidential vote. Before becoming president, Zelensky declared some of his private assets. They included cars, property, and three of the co-owned offshore companies. One, Film Heritage, which he held jointly with his wife, Olena, a former Kvartal 95 writer, is registered in Belize.” […] “But the Pandora papers show further offshore assets that Zelensky appears not to have revealed. Film Heritage had a 25% stake in Davegra, a Cyprus holding company. Davegra in turn owns Maltex Multicapital Corp, a previously unknown entity registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.” Weird places, if you’re Ukrainian, to keep your wealth: Belize and the British Virgin Islands. “Zelensky, the Shefir brothers, and Yakovlev, each held a 25% stake in Maltex.”[…] “On 13 March, 2019, two weeks before the first round of voting in Ukraine’s election, Zelensky gave his quarter stake in Maltex to Serhiy Shefir, documents show. It is unclear if Shefir paid Zelensky. Bakanov witnessed the secret transfer and signed the offshore papers”. […] “Since entering politics, Zelensky has been dogged by claims that he is under the influence of Igor Kolomoisky, a billionaire whose TV channel screened Zelensky’s show. During the campaign, Zelensky’s opponents alleged $41 million from Kolomoisky entities found its way between 2012 and 2016 into offshore firms belonging to Zelensky and his circle, including Film heritage.”
Are you comfortable yet with $100 billion and counting that the United States is sending to Ukraine under the care of these people?
Here is a chart prepared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists about those papers. And you can see here the countries most mentioned in the Pandora papers, documents that prove how extremely wealthy people in politics hide their wealth because they don’t want it to be detected. And there you see Ukraine has the lead by far as the most mentioned, as the country with the most politicians named in these papers, with 38, and Russia, who we never stop hearing about in terms of their corruption, corruption, and oligarchs, has exactly half, 19. And then there are the rest of the countries.
So, before we get to the U.S. Department of State, what we’re being told is that Zelensky is this noble figure who fought off oligarchs. People will acknowledge that Ukraine is still corrupt, but they say that he has been elected on a platform of reform to fight oligarchy. And yet, just six months before the war, it was perfectly acceptable. People were reporting that he himself is essentially corrupt, that he has enormous amounts of wealth, that you don’t get just from being the host of a TV show or a comedian, stored, including investment funds that own some of the richest real estate in London. But if you now stand up and try to report any of this, this has disappeared from Western discourse because we need to convince Western populations that they can keep sending tens and tens of billions of dollars of their own money to Ukraine, where it will be safely and responsibly shepherded.
Now, the other claim we hear about Zelensky is he’s a great Democrat. He’s someone who has restored democracy to Ukraine and, therefore, this war is a war between democracy on the one hand, in Ukraine, and authoritarianism and despotism on the other, in Russia. That is something that we hear constantly, but it’s not something we heard until Russia stepped foot into Ukraine, in 2022, and the West saw an opportunity to weaken Russia by backing Ukraine.
Here, for example, is the report of the Department of State, in 2021, under Joe Biden, and it reports on the practices in Ukraine. Again, this is a government — the United States — already very favorably inclined to Ukraine. It was governing it. It picked its leaders. It was arming and supporting it, even while it was doing that. This is what they were willing to say about Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents, torture, and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement personnel; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious abuses in Russia-led conflict in the Donbas, including physical abuses or punishment of civilians and members of armed groups held in detention facilities; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and censorship; serious restrictions on Internet freedom; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; serious acts of government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes, violence or threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of ethnic minority groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor”. That’s Zelensky’s Ukraine.
The US government went on: “The government of Ukraine generally failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. The government took some steps to identify, prosecute and punish officials involved in corruption”. […] “There were reports indicating that the government or its agents possibly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The State Bureau for Investigations is responsible for the investigation of crimes allegedly committed by law enforcement agencies.” […] “Human rights organizations and media outlets reported deaths due to the torture or negligence by police or prison officers […] Impunity for past arbitrary or unlawful killings remained a significant problem.” […] “Although the constitution and law prohibit torture […], there were reports that law enforcement authorities engaged in such abuse. While courts cannot legally use confessions and statements made under duress to police […], there were reports that police and other law enforcement officials abused and at times tortured persons in custody to obtain confessions”. Finally, “Impunity for abuses committed by law enforcement was a significant problem”. […] “The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press and other media, but authorities do not always respect these rights. The government banned, blocked, or sanctioned media outlets and individual journalists deemed a threat to national security or who expressed positions that authorities believed undermined the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Now, does that sound like democracy to you? Do you actually believe that what the United States is doing in this country, by defending the current government that it helped install, is defending democracy? These are all things reported openly in 2021, in 2020, about Zelensky in the Ukrainian government, and now they’ve entirely disappeared. Instead, we have this narrative courtesy of the current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who said, back in August, “Today, Congress extends our warmest wishes to the people of Ukraine as they celebrate 31 years of independence. America remains unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s courageous fight to defeat tyranny and defend democracy — for their nation and the world”. Here’s another tweet from her, in August: “The Ukrainian people have displayed unimaginable heroism as they confront unconscionable atrocities. The Congress remains with Ukraine as it fights to defend Democracy — not only for its people but for the world”.
That’s the narrative that has replaced what was always said about Ukraine right up until the time Russia invaded. Zelensky is corrupt. He stores his vast wealth in offshore bank accounts. He’s supported by Ukrainian oligarchs who put him in office. And Ukraine is rampant with despotism, tyrannical abuses, torture, killings, censorship, and the rest, far, far, far from this glorious democracy we now suddenly are being told about by every source, both within government and mainstream media.
Just to put a finishing touch on this, from Reuters, just this month, Ukraine is currently preparing a law banning churches affiliated with Russia, including one of the oldest and most sacred churches in Ukraine, for centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church. Reuters says “The Ukrainian government will draw up a law banning churches affiliated with Russia under moves described by President Zelensky as necessary to prevent Moscow being able to ‘weaken Ukraine from within’…”
Now, not only did Zelensky do all this after Russia invaded — he did it before, the 2021 report from the State Department showed that — he also, in 2021, a year before Russia invaded, shut down three opposition television stations. Imagine if Putin did that. We’d never hear the end of that. So, Zelensky just ordered three television stations, in opposition to his government, shut down. And then, in 2022, he ordered opposition parties shut down, and more media outlets shut down and now the Eastern Orthodox Church banned, on top of all the abuses the State Department is describing. And yet the Western media that constantly reported this will now tell you that we’re there to fight for democracy.
Then we have the issue of the Azov Battalion. Let me tell you what was said about this Azov Battalion, from 2014 until the day before Russia invaded. The following: the Azov Battalion is a neo-Nazi group, not a group with far-right ties, but a neo-Nazi group. They worship and revere national heroes who collaborated with the Nazis in order to kill tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the war, including Stepan Bandera. They use Nazi insignia, they use Nazi music, they use Nazi songs. And not only was that true, said the Western press for the last decade, but they were the most dominant militia and fighting forces inside Ukraine. When you think about military force in Ukraine, you’re really thinking about the Azov Battalion. They’re the ones fighting the separatists in Eastern Ukraine. They’re by far the most sophisticated and most advanced fighters. When you arm Ukraine, this is whom you’re arming, said the Western press for a decade.
Here, for example, is a tweet from the Anti-Defamation League, in 2019. It says: “This Ukrainian extremist group, called the Azov Battalion, has ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Our latest report on international white supremacy details how they try to connect with like-minded extremists from the U.S”. And here’s the tweet from the journalist Mike Levine that they cite: “The FBI has arrested a member of the U.S. Army who allegedly discussed plans to bomb a major U.S. news network, discussed traveling to Ukraine to fight with a violent far-right group, and allegedly distributed info online on how to build bombs”.
This is how the Azov Battalion was spoken about constantly as an actual, serious, and grave Nazi force inside Europe, with whom Nazi activists and Nazi radicals from around the world were identifying and traveling to Ukraine in order to train with.
Here, for example, is the ADL’s report “Hate Beyond Borders, the Internationalization of White Supremacy”, and this is how the Azov Battalion was always spoken about until Russia invaded: “A number of white supremacists also have connections to Azov, a Ukrainian extremist group and militia. The Azov Battalion was created in May 2014 to fight Russian-backed separatists. Many of the volunteers who joined the group had ties to the far-right hooligan movement in Eastern Europe. The group also has ties to neo-Nazis in Ukraine. […] “Investigative reports on Azov from Bellingcat and Radio Free Europe […] point to the many ways Azov has reached out to like-minded American extremists. Those heading up outreach efforts include Denis Nikitin, a Russian/German neo-Nazi and founder of the White Rex, a white nationalist clothing label, who acts as an “unofficial ambassador” for Azov.” And he talks about the insignia that they built. And that is on and on what this ADL report said.
Now, here from The Guardian, in 2014, is the evidence that this is how the Western media talked about Azov, not only as neo-Nazis but as the dominant fighting force in Ukraine, not just some stray or isolated hero group — the way people like to say now, ‘okay, fine, there are a few Nazis in Ukraine: there are also a few white supremacists in the U.S. military’. That’s not what this was at all. They were and are the leading fighting force in Ukraine.
As The Guardian said, in 2014, “Azov’s Fighters are Ukraine’s Greatest Weapon and May Be Its Greatest Threat”: ‘I have nothing against Russian nationalists or a great Russia’, said Dmitry, as we spread through the dark Mariupol night in a pickup truck, a machine gunner positioned in the back. ‘But Putin’s not even a Russian. Putin’s a Jew’, he said. Dimitri — which he said is not his real name — is a native of east Ukraine and a member of the Azov battalion, a volunteer grouping that has been doing much of the frontline fighting in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russia separatists.
The Azov, one of many volunteer brigades to fight alongside the Ukrainian army in the east of the country has developed a reputation for fearlessness in battle”. […] “But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force […] they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over.
The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi leanings of many of its members. Dmitri claimed not to be a Nazi but waxed lyrical about Adolf Hitler as a military leader and believes the Holocaust never happened”. There, like Kanye West. “Not everyone in the Azov battalion thinks like Dmitri, but after speaking with dozens of its fighters and embedding on several missions during the past week” […] The Guardian “found many of them to have disturbing political views and almost all to be intent on ‘bringing the fight to Kyiv when the war in the east is over.” […] “The battalion symbol is reminiscent of the Nazi Wolfsangel, though the battalion claims it is in fact meant to be the letters N and I [crossed over each other]. Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.”
Isn’t it amazing that American liberals and Democrats think that everyone who wears a MAGA hat or voted for Donald Trump is a Nazi? They want them censored off the Internet, they want them imprisoned without due process, they want them regarded as an insurrectionist criminal group, and when they finally meet the real deal Nazis, the actual Nazis, in Ukraine, they want to arm them and fund them and to revere them, turn them into social media stars.
This is the most amazing part: it’s how the New York Times trajectory talking about the Azov Battalion was. So, here, in 2015, is an article by the New York Times on how Islamic battalions, including Chechens, are now in Ukraine fighting against their archenemy, the Russians. And this is what the New York Times news article, in 2015, said about Azov: “Right Sector, for example, formed during last year’s street protests in Kyiv from a half-dozen fringe Ukrainian nationalist groups like White Hammer and the Trident of Stepan Bandera. Another, the Azoff group, is openly neo-Nazi”. Let me read that again. This is from 2015, a New York Times news article: “Another, the Azoff group, is openly neo-Nazi, using the “Wolf’s Hook” symbol associated with the SS. Without addressing the issue of the Nazi symbol, the Chechen said he got along well with them because they’re nationalists and hate the Russians”. The article goes on: “To try to bolster the abilities of the Ukrainian regular forces and reduce Kyiv’s reliance on these quasilegal paramilitaries, the United States Army is training the Ukrainian National Guard. The Americans are specifically prohibited from giving instruction to members of the Azov group”. It was illegal for the United States military to have anything to do with the Azov Battalion because, in the words of the New York Times, they’re an openly neo-Nazi group.
Yet, since the war began, Facebook had a problem, which was that Democrats and supporters of the U.S. war in Ukraine wanted to praise the Azov battalion. They needed to justify sending arms to the Azov and held them as courageous. The problem was Facebook had a policy that prohibited any praise of neo-Nazi groups, specifically including the Azov battalion. So, what do you do about that? You just change the rules and you exempt the Azov battalion from your list of neo-Nazi groups that nobody’s allowed to praise because now the West needs them praised.
Here from The Intercept, in February 2020, right as the war began: “Facebook now allows praise of neo-Nazi Ukrainian battalion if it fights Russian invasion”: FACEBOOK WILL TEMPORARILY ALLOW its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, The Intercept has learned”. So, just like that, they completely changed what the Azov battalion was and how it could be spoken about.
Here, from The New York Times, in 2020, as an op-ed by two individuals who say they both “fought jihadists”, they were members of the U.S. military and, they say, “now we battle white supremacists”. And this is what they wrote: “As a former soldier and FBI agent, we both risked our lives to fight al-Qaida. But the enemy we currently face is not a jihadist threat. It’s white supremacists — in the United States and overseas. Defenders of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, which the FBI calls “a paramilitary unit” notorious for its “association with neo-Nazi ideology” — That was the FBI’s position in 2020 – accuse us of being part of a Kremlin campaign to “demonize” the group… but the Australian, who, in March last year, murdered 51 worshipers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, claimed in his manifesto that he had traveled to Ukraine; during the attacks, he wore a symbol used by the Azov Battalion”.
That was 2020: The FBI accused them of being in association with neo-Nazi ideology and training people like the person who went into the mosque in New Zealand and murdered Muslims. Right when the war started, though, the New York Times’ language about the Azov started changing. Here, in March 2022, just a month after the war began: “Why Vladimir Putin Invokes Nazis to Justify His Invasion of Ukraine”. You will recall that one of Putin’s arguments for why he invaded Ukraine, especially in Eastern Ukraine, was to de-nazifi the region, meaning the Azov Battalion.
And it suddenly became important for Western media outlets to debunk that claim, even though they had spent a full decade saying exactly that, that Eastern Ukraine was overrun by Ukrainian fighters with the neo-Nazi ideology called the Azov Battalion, and thus they needed to debunk this and watch how the language changes: “With Ukrainian nationalist groups now playing an important role in defending their country from the Russian invasion, Western supporters of Ukraine have struggled for the right tone. Facebook last week said it was making an exception to its anti-extremism policies to allow praise for Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion military unit, ‘strictly in the context of defending Ukraine’”…
So, just that subtle language change: The New York Times has been calling the Azov battalion, an openly neo-Nazi group, and one month into the war, they were now just a nationalist group that had a far-right ideology, much more benign and less threatening. The language just starts subtly shifting.
And then we go to October — now we’re seven months into the war, and The New York Times isn’t even bothering anymore to come up with lighter terms for Azov. Now, Azov is heroic. Azov is noble as all of the people whom we celebrate and with whom we empathize. Here’s a New York Times tweet: “Commanders of Ukraine’s celebrated Azov” –now they are celebrated – “Commanders of Ukraine’s celebrated Azov Battalion have held an emotional reunion with their families in Turkey, Ukrainian officials said, honoring the fighters released from Russian confinement last month”. And there’s a picture of a member of the Azov Battalion — that The New York Times had scorned for a decade as neo-Nazi, that the FBI said you could not get near it, that the ADL said were worshipers of Hitler — now we’re empathizing with them with these wonderful, lovely pictures of them hugging their family, the celebrated Azov Battalion, after they get released from Turkey.
Here’s the New York Times article: “Commanders of Ukraine’s celebrated Azov Battalion” – where is neo-Nazi, where’s far-right? That’s gone. — We have ‘celebrated Azov Battalion” – ‘have held an emotional reunion with their families in Turkey, Ukrainian officials said, honoring the fighters released from Russian confinement last month as part of the largest prisoner swap since the start of the war. There are many emotions. Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who attended the meeting, said in a post on Telegram. ‘The road to this moment was long and difficult. Finally, they were able to hug’”. Now, what’s really amazing about that is that you see just how rapidly it changes.
Time Magazine, the most mainstream of mainstream outlets, actually produced an entire documentary, not in 2010 or 2015, but in 2021, the year before the war, warning Americans and Time Magazine readers about how dangerous and Nazi-ish the Azov Battalion was. Look what they did.
Time: This was the summer of 2019 and I had gone to Ukraine to learn more about these groups. From the crowds, one thing seemed pretty clear about them: they weren’t bothered by the fact that this event was organized by the Azov Movement, a far-right group that has increasingly been linked to violence around the world.
‘FBI agents say he pressed a desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with a far-right paramilitary group.’ ‘At least one member of an American hate group also trained in Ukraine with the Azov Battalion.’
What worries officials in the West is Azov’s recruitment strategy. It’s tried hard to build friendships with far-right groups around the world, especially in the U.S. and Europe. During my visit, in 2019, I spent a day at one of the biggest recruitment events in Azov’s history. Thousands of people showed up for a day of fighting sports and blatant propaganda. There were neo-Nazi symbols, tattoos, and posters all over the place, and many in the crowd seemed pretty receptive to Azov far-right ideology.
Now, look, maybe you’re somebody who thinks that the U.S. should continue to send weapons, sophisticated weaponry, some of the most sophisticated weapons in the world, even though it will end up in the hands of a neo-Nazi group called the Azov Battalion. Maybe you’re somebody who wants the U.S. involved in defending Ukraine, even though the president of Ukraine is incredibly corrupt in the way that the Pandora papers showed he was. Maybe you’re somebody who believes that the U.S. government should treat Ukraine as a proxy war, even though the Ukrainian government is incredibly despotic and abusive and has very little relationship to what we think of as democratic.
But that’s why I asked you to set aside all of those views at the start, because no matter your views on the war itself, this should deeply disturb you: the ability of the Western media to, on a dime, rewrite everything that they’ve always said to give you a completely alternative reality with no dissent allowed. Many people objecting to these things were banned from the Internet from the start of the war. This is pure propaganda of the kind that Orwell warned about, and you can watch in real time, as the Western media does it, and see how dangerous it is.