By Mohammad Mazhari

Media highlight Ukraine as Ukrainians have similar features with the West: ex-White House adviser

March 11, 2022 - 15:12

TEHRAN - An American academic and former advisor to the White House on Russian affairs says that Western mainstream media pays more attention to the Ukraine case because the country bears a great resemblance to Europe.

“The clothing of the people, the look of the buildings, all seems similar to those of the audience of such reporting,” John Colarusso tells the Tehran Times.

 “These aspects are a sort of symbology. So, the war is frightening, and therefore a catastrophe,” Colarusso adds.

The war in Ukraine has other aspects that may be not seen by ordinary people in the West. Western mainstream media pay more attention to the suffering of the Ukrainian people. Reporters sometimes use racist language while depicting the situation in Ukraine.

But people in West Asia raise questions about wars in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, asking: Are they justified wars? They ask why is there a kind of disparity when it comes to sympathy with people who are exposed to war?  

“War in the Middle East (West Asia) simply is played out against scenes that are less familiar to the audience of the mainstream media. The one exception is war with Israel,” Colarusso argues.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Is there any correlation between nationalism and racism? Trump's case showed that people who underline nationalistic values can be racist.

A: Yes. Naive nationalism is simply a large-scale social grouping, and social groupings are based on shared features.  Such features can be racial, in the simplest cases. Sophisticated nationalism is aware of this problem and tries to embody group identity through symbols.

Nationalism was originally built on the idea that a nation represented the political will of a coherent, single people sharing a common language and history. Unfortunately, there is no nation on earth that meets such standards except some of the small nations in the Pacific Ocean.

Q: Why do Western mainstream media highlight the Ukraine war as a catastrophe while they neglect other wars and crises in West Asia, regarding them as normal phenomena? 

A: Because the clothing of the people, the look of the buildings, all seem similar to those of the audience of such reporting. These aspects are a sort of symbology. So, the war is frightening, and therefore a ‘catastrophe.’  

War in the Middle East (West Asia) simply is played out against scenes that are less familiar to the audience of the mainstream media. The one exception is the war with Israel. An analyst said to me once that the Israelis are just “like us.”  Then I showed him footage of Netanyahu and his cabinet dancing in a circle. He was taken aback and admitted that maybe there were cultural differences. 

The manipulation of empathy by governments can play a crucial role in marshaling a nation’s support of one side in a conflict. The media seem instinctive to follow government pronouncements. It is “easy information.” Such manipulation is made easier if one party in a conflict more closely resembles the audience of the media.

Matters of state, however, often do not align with simple cultural patterns.  In this case, Russia attacking Ukraine, they do. 

Q: Some Western reporters have been pointing to Ukrainian people as Europeans who enjoy a higher standard of living than West Asians. What is the implication of such an attitude towards Muslim people?

A: It is bad for Muslims because it implies that any strife is simply a product of their assumed inferior cultural level.

Q: How can media entrench racism and disparity in society via mirroring the events and stories based on stereotypes? There are stereotypes about Eastern, Muslim and West Asian people.

A: Stereotypes are simple, easy for the media to use, at least initially, when the reporters are not familiar with a people or region.  They resort to them quite unconsciously. Often these stereotypes are acquired when the reporters were children, having picked them up from movies or children’s books. Such stereotypes are often based on some slight physical difference or some marked cultural feature, such as manner of dress or foreign language. As events progress, however, stereotypes often fall away and more realistic reporting emerges.
 

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