Whenever I read coverage of Russia by the Western mainstream media, I wonder – how can you be a “Russia expert” if you don’t even know the language? Or how can you be considered any kind of regional expert if you don’t speak their local language, for that matter?
If you don’t know the language, it means that you can’t understand what their officials are saying domestically. President Administrations usually have people who transcribe all the official speeches and translate them into various languages, yes, but what about other political, business and public figures who too play a very important role in the country?. If you can’t understand the language, it probably means that you can’t read the press, listen to radio or watch TV to perform a decent local news analysis. If you can’t understand the language, it probably means that you can’t understand local posts on social media that often create resonance and, nowadays, too play a significant role in politics. It would also imply that you can’t fully understand the classic literature and, thus, the culture, with all the jokes, sentiments, irony and subtle humour (let along that you haven’t been able to read history texts and original archives to genuinely understand the society’s history from within).
It is common sense, really.
Yet, I remember how a few years ago, first shortly before and during the Ukrainian Crisis, and then during the prolonged “Russiagate” hysteria in the US, the mainstream media was swarmed with these, so called, “Russia experts” and “pundits” who didn’t know the language and who, often, never even visited the country. They were appearing on TV, they desperately tried to sound knowledgeable by parroting the narratives they’ve read in the likes of The Economist and the New York Times (whose authors too had the same level of “expertise”), recycling the same simplistic clichés that had no correspondence to reality whatsoever.
And those commentators who did speak the language, among those invited to panels, were predominantly chosen among frustrated tools who failed politically at home – people like Garry Kasparov, or those who were having beef with the Russian authorities for running shady business/financial schemes, e. g. Evgeny Chichvarkin. They were virtue signalling by smearing the government and, often, their home country as a whole, using the most simplistic platitudes imaginable. Their commentary was convenient for those running the media as it did fit in so well into the narrative.
It was horrible, and it still echoes nowadays.
And for the last couple of years, since Trump’s Trade War began, I have been seeing similar commentary about China.
Structurally and thematically it is so similar to the anti-Russian smear campaign — the same narratives about totalitarianism and oppression, similar US-based evangelical Cold War think tanks that got revived amid increasing confrontation publishing “studies” with obscene methodology and (mis-)extrapolations that violate common sense, some political dissidents and religious cult/financial pyramid scheme members being presented as credible sources, and the media echochambering itself, creating the effect of availability heuristics to make any sort of detached nonsense sound believable.
The only difference with the anti-China narrative, compared to the anti-Russian hysteria, is that people in the Trump administration have also managed to pull a certain segment of the alternative and pseudo-alternative media landscape (from the conservative, right-wing camp) into it. The quality of their “analysis” and “expertise” isn’t much better.
But who needs the real expertise, really? The mainstream media’s role is not to inform their audience, but to propagate certain viewpoints that their owners and sponsors find convenient. They don’t need people who tell the truth. They need people who perform the function. And the function is to, simply, brainwash the masses.
They have, once again, created an echo chamber and filled it with nonsense that they ended up believing themselves.