The situation in Crimea and Ukraine is tenuous. It is rife with violence that is the product of a complicated and entangled history that culminated in the conflict that has been making headlines in the past week. How does CNN see the story? As an opportunity to increase its ratings and get feeble-minded viewers to buy into a narrative of fear and saber rattling. It’s nothing new for CNN. With past conflicts and social events, the narrative they choose to forward is one of imminent destruction and chaos.
Russia has long planned its recent ICBM test. However, this news Goliath is opting to interpret the test as a sign that Russia has its eyes on possible military action. This is despite Vladimir Putin coming forward and saying that military forces will be recalled as he sees no need for military action in the Ukraine. CNN’s interest is clearly in driving up its viewership and not in balanced reporting. Otherwise it would note that the Russian ICBM test has been scheduled for some time and in full compliance with a bilateral arms-reduction treaty according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Unfortunately, media outlets, desperate for attention, will continue to make more out of a test than what exists.
For CNN, the tradition of exploding events to drive their own ratings is regrettably lengthy. The organization was quick to jump on the bandwagon in Syria and Iraq. CNN interviewed Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) about the apparent “possibility” and “capability” of Syrian forces invading the United States. With this interview, the network entertained the far-fetched idea of Syrian militants infiltrating the U.S. to launch attacks within our borders.
McCaul even speculated on military threats during the 2016 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics are over, and not a single shot was fired, nor was a single bomb detonated during the games.
The months leading up to Bush’s invasion of Iraq saw frenzied press coverage, especially on part of CNN. When talks of invasion began to surmount, the network swarmed on the topic and continually threw fuel on the fire of public opinion. Interviews with government officials and the public facilitated by the network consistently drove home the idea that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the country. This idea was fostered and nurtured by the U.S., as well as U.K. governments. Eleven years later, domestic and foreign policy experts indicate that no threat was present.
But what is happening in the Ukraine? How can we digest what’s happening? It helps to start with the history.
Ukraine has been a focal point for tensions since the 19th century with the Crimean war that took place in part due to religious tensions but also due to western fears of Russia’s increased presence in the region as the Ottoman empire declined. Tensions persisted for around 60 years and culminated in World War I. At the end of World War I, the communist revolution occurred in Russia and Ukraine was the scene of continued violence. Approximately one and a half million people died in the region between 1917 to 1921.
Then Stalin arrived as Ukraine became a part of the U.S.S.R.. Stalin’s agricultural policies resulted in the starvation and death of, by some estimates, as many as 10 million Ukrainians. After World War II, Stalin deported the Tatars, an indigenous ethnic group, of the Crimean Peninsula to Central Asia. Stalin was also responsible for moving large numbers of Russians into eastern Ukraine.
In 1954, Khrushchev transferred ownership of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine.
Now, the region is struggling with a violent political upheaval and stability is uncertain. The violence that has occurred in the region has sparked concern from the international community and further concerns of fascism being on the rise. Russian and European were alerted when interim legislation was proposed, attempting to relegate Russian-speaking citizens to a second-class did not help matters.
All of this is to say that CNN is certainly not helping with its crass coverage of the situation in the region. The people of Crimea and Ukraine have been a caught in between Western and Eastern interests for centuries and continue to suffer for it. Using the Ukrainian people’s hardships and exploiting Eastern tensions for headlines is a disservice to both the networks viewers and the people of Ukraine.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33. Additional research for the piece was provided by Joshua de Leon. You can follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.