Friday, January 19, 2007

Propaganda and censorship…

Sorry folks, Europe is NOT broadcasting "the truth" to Belarus
I have this computer glitch. It has to do with this particular blog that you are looking at right now and none of the others on the beinghad group. I don't know exactly what causes it. It seems to have something to do with restarting my internet connection and trying to upload The STORY a little too quickly. What happens is that I get a screen saying that Internet Explorer cannot open this particular page. I can see all of the rest of my pages without problem but clearing the cache, refreshing the page or deleting the cookies do absolutely nothing to change things. I can go into blogger and I can see a preview of the blog, but even republishing or trying to open an individual item in the archives fails.

So I start getting a little paranoid, right? Why does this blog fail and my others are fine? And of course, you know the first thing that comes to mind: I have been blocked. Of course I have been blocked. I am in Belarus, Lukashenka is the last dictator in Europe and because of something I said I am simply being erased by the KGB. And ironically, writing a letter to a friend asking them if they can see the page is the only thing that gets it to open again. I am not joking here: I do this and within seconds, my page is visible again. So of course this has me, in this moment, thinking that I was indeed blocked but, because writing a letter proves that I have at east one person actually reading me outside of Belarus' sphere of influence, this makes them back down and open the page again…

Ok, I understand that it is starting to sound a little weird and paranoid so I will stop here. But you get the point?

OK, what I am writing about today is not the Belarusian side of this but about the European and American media types who are exploiting this particular subject of whether or not there is fear of the government in Belarus (Ha ha ha… I always laugh at this; I mean, it is not like there is not fear of the American government, right?) by the spreading of lies and propaganda about the country through the media and internet: Europe has opened a radio station specifically to broadcast its propaganda to Belarus, and the internet media whales away as usual.

While putting together the last BHTimes I ran across a couple of articles from Charter '97 that got me a little off. The first one wasa headline which read:

To live in dugouts and to warm oneself by burning wood?!

–this for an article about an increase in Belarus' investment in the forestry industry. When checking out the story, I found that Charter '97 got their original information from this article from BelTA

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved a program on production of forestry machines and equipment for 2006-2010. The head of state signed a corresponding decree on January 12.

As BelTA was told in the presidential press service, the program describes a set of measures to create favorable conditions in this country for development of the forestry industry and provision of its organizations with up-to-date forestry machines.

The program will help the forestry industry of Belarus employ efficient technology of logging, delivering and processing wood as well as using wood as a fuel.

The document was drawn up in line with the protocol of instructions of the president of Belarus of September 7, 2006.

Both the original article and Charter '97's are the same, but Charter '97's headline is inflammatory and pushes a piece of information about a government action THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENCE IN THE LIGHT OIF RECENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS into the realm of paranoia.

The second little "digger" I found was this story:
Censorship of Russian TV Channels in Belarus about Belarus' potential censorship of Russian news agencies.

News editions of the TV channel Rossiya are broadcasted an hour later in Belarus these days. Previously Belarusians watched Russian news at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Minsk time (simultaneously with people of Russia), and now they start at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., which is one hour later than in Russia. (There is a one-hour lag between Russia and Belarus). A worker of one of Russian TV channels in an interview to the Charter’97 press-center supposed that in this way the Belarusian authorities had left a possibility for them to censor Russian news if necessary.

The story talks about how Belarus is now censoring Russian news by holding it back one hour. Now the first place I found this article was on another website who had picked up the story from Charter "97 and ran it as a news item. They basically copied the Charter '97 piece word for word but there is a little subtlety here that Charter '97 catches that the other news agency misses: Moscow is one time zone further ahead from Minsk. In the original Charter '97 article, there is a small quote in brackets that says this, but of course this gets omitted when the story gets picked up in Europe. Maybe it was simply omitted from the press release. I mean, any port in a storm, right?

Basically all of this noise is really starting to get me down. Belarus is having great problems here at the moment. Belarus knows there are going to be cuts and that money is going to be tighter. People here have already seen how the cost of living has started to come up due to an un-natural, European influenced economy. The cost of food is on the rise; a packet of spaghetti yesterday cost 1900, up from 1600 only a week ago and 1500 last summer. Cheese is 1000 a kilo more than it was last year; only vodka seems immune. The cost of paying for the utilities for the houses has already started to come up- this little gouge is amazingly unfair because there has been no snow or frost at all this winter (actually there hasn't seemed to be any winter at all: Thanks industrial waste and auto emissions!), so one would think that the cost should actually be less as Belarus is using fewer materials for heating than she would in a cold winter. But of course this is more than we could hope for.

But at the same time, what Belarus gets during a time which absolutely calls for calm resolve and cool heads is more and more and more noise from outside, opposition oriented media sources. Without a doubt this is a war that is being waged against the country. This war though is not being waged against Mr. Lukashenka as people are want to believe, but rather against the people of Belarus. And it is not a philosophical war, it is not capitalism vs communism (well, it is but in theory, in case you missed it, Belarus is no longer officially communist and hasn't been, officially, for 15 years!) or about whether or not there is "freedom" in Belarus, but simply about being able to dictate policy and steal what can be stolen. To me, because it is all only about lies and greed, this is all simply farce and unnecessary and for sure, simply not fair.

It is not necessary because allowing for a fair deal rather than demanding to abuse the differences in the standards of living would have allowed for friendly relations between Europe and the former Soviet Union from the beginning. But rather than simply doing business as would have been possible based upon need and fulfillment, all Belarus got from Europe was either one way, money siphoning and cut rate enterprises which only took money out of the country or was told to jump in the lake because they didn't have the money to play. All Belarus received were deals where local workers got $100 a month and Europe reaped millions. And of course sex tours and prostitution rings; this doing wonders for Belarusian interpersonal relationships and family structures, as you might imagine. Or in other words: All Belarus has seen from Europe is abuse of privilege. Try accepting what I have just said as fact and then see if it is at least possible to understand why 83% voted against Milinkevich and his Euro-backers?

But if you don't believe what I am saying, another perfect example for this was what happened down in Ukraine last year. There the original decision was to allow for money to dictate people's entry into the country. This was from the early 90's. Rather than having a hard line protector saying that allowing for deals based only on a visitor's ability to pay would lead to ruin, as Belarus did, Ukraine opened its doors and allowed for Europe to open businesses, control the money and dictate policy. But did Europe's presence make Ukraine happy? Did it improve the quality of life? The last elections said NO. The protests over NATO's air show were clearly a NO! And in fact many, many Ukrainians this last year have started to think Lukashenka was right and there is now a lot of support re-establishing the CIS as a stronger, more codified trade union. The last Ukrainian elections absolutely proved that doing business western style is simply not to the liking of the people here. In being made to serve Europe on an un-equal basis Ukrainians found that there was nothing really in it for them except to submit to an economic rape. And rape is rape no matter how well dressed or connected the rapist is.

So on my part I am getting tired of the noise. People here should be allowed to live as they can and believe what they believe. I talk to people all the time and they are never afraid to say what they want to say and do what they want to do. Belarusians are, for the most part, pretty clear thinkers and, for the most part, all they want to know is whether or not there is any real security in it for themselves or for their families. These last few weeks with Russia have been getting on my nerves, not only because of the extra burden Belarus is going to be asked to shoulder, but also because of all of the happy grave dancing I have to sift through to get a clear picture of what the story is these days. From the outside, all I am getting is lies and propaganda written by people who have not the slightest clue what life is really like here or any real interest in doing anything for Belarusians.

And what, you may ask, is the story from inside Belarus? Well here you get a much simpler message: All is ok, all is normal; all will be ok. This is not the first time Belarus has faced hard times, and for sure it won't be the last. And this is really who Belarus is. People here know what is going on and therefore having outsiders dealing with them as if they are stupid or as if they really haven't learned anything in the last decade and a half is simply an insult. Belarus is tough and I believe they know what they are doing and are capable of making their own decisions without any outside help. Lukashenka was right: Belarusians are a very, very proud people.

More soon…