Will Ukraine Be NYT’s Waterloo?

Exclusive: As Ukrainian soldiers from the coup regime in Kiev tighten the noose around anti-coup rebels in eastern Ukraine, the New York Times continues its cheerleading for the coup regime and its contempt for the rebels, raising grave questions about the Times’ credibility, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

For Americans interested in foreign policy, the New York Times has become the last U.S. newspaper to continue devoting substantial resources to covering the world. But the Times increasingly betrays its responsibility to deliver anything approaching honest journalism on overseas crises especially when Official Washington has a strong stake in the outcome.

The Times’ failures in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War are, of course, well known, particularly the infamous “aluminum tube” story by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller. And, the Times has shown similar bias on the Syrian conflict, such as last year’s debunked Times’ “vector analysis” tracing a sarin-laden rocket back to a Syrian military base when the rocket had less than one-third the necessary range.

But the Times’ prejudice over the Ukraine crisis has reached new levels of extreme as the “newspaper of record” routinely carries water for the neocons and other hawks who still dominate the U.S. State Department. Everything that the Times writes about Ukraine is so polluted with propaganda that it requires a very strong filter, along with additives from more independent news sources, to get anything approaching an accurate understanding of events.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

From the beginning of the crisis, the Times sided with the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan square as they sought to topple democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who had rebuffed a set of Western demands that would have required Ukraine to swallow harsh austerity measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund. Yanukovych opted for a more generous offer from Russia of a $15 billion loan with few strings attached.

Along with almost the entire U.S. mainstream media, the Times cheered on the violent overthrow of Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and downplayed the crucial role played by well-organized neo-Nazi militias that surged to the front of the Maidan protests in the final violent days. Then, with Yanukovych out and a new coup regime in, led by U.S. hand-picked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the IMF austerity plan was promptly approved.

Since the early days of the coup, the Times has behaved as essentially a propaganda organ for the new regime in Kiev and for the State Department, pushing “themes” blaming Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the crisis. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Though the US ‘Looking Glass.’”]

In the Times’ haste to perform this function, there have been some notable journalistic embarrassments such as the Times’ front-page story  touting photographs that supposedly showed Russian special forces in Russia and then the same soldiers in eastern Ukraine, allegedly proving that the popular resistance to the coup regime was simply clumsily disguised Russian aggression.

Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people but that didn’t bother the Times, which led with the scoop. However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia who later appeared in eastern Ukraine was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.

Soldiering On

The Times, however, continued to soldier on with its bias, playing up stories that made Russia and the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine look bad and playing down anything that might make the post-coup regime in Kiev look bad.

On Saturday, for instance, the dominant story from Ukraine was the killing of more than 30 ethnic Russian protesters by fire and smoke inhalation in Ukraine’s southern port city of Odessa. They had taken refuge in a building after a clash with a pro-Kiev mob which reportedly included right-wing thugs.

Even the neocon-dominated Washington Post led its Saturday editions with the story of “Dozens killed in Ukraine fighting” and described the fatal incident this way: “Friday evening, a pro-Ukrainian mob attacked a camp where the pro-Russian supporters had pitched tents, forcing them to flee to a nearby government building, a witness said. The mob then threw gasoline bombs into the building. Police said 31 people were killed when they choked on smoke or jumped out of windows.

“Asked who had thrown the Molotov cocktails, pro-Ukrainian activist Diana Berg said, ‘Our people but now they are helping them [the survivors] escape the building.’”

By contrast, here is how the New York Times reported the event in its Saturday editions as part of a story by C.J. Chivers and Noah Sneider focused on the successes of the pro-coup armed forces in overrunning some eastern Ukrainian rebel positions.

“Violence also erupted Friday in the previously calmer port city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, where dozens of people died in a fire related to clashes that broke out between protesters holding a march for Ukrainian unity and pro-Russian activists. The fighting itself left four dead and 12 wounded, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. Ukrainian and Russian news media showed images of buildings and debris burning, fire bombs being thrown and men armed with pistols.”

Note how the Times evades placing any responsibility on the pro-coup mob for trying to burn the “pro-Russian activists” out of a building, an act that resulted in the highest single-day death toll since the actual coup which left more than 80 people dead from Feb. 20-22. From reading the Times, you wouldn’t know who had died in the building and who had set the fire.

Normally, I would simply attribute this deficient story to some reporters and editors having a bad day and not bothering to assemble relevant facts. However, when put in the context of the Times’ unrelenting bias in its coverage of the Ukraine crisis how the Times hypes every fact (and even non-facts) that reflect negatively on the anti-coup side you have to think that the Times is spinning its readers, again.

For those who write for the Times and the many more people who read it the question must be whether the Times is so committed to its prejudices here that the newspaper will risk whatever credibility it has left. The coup regime from Kiev may succeed in slaughtering many ethnic Russians in the rebellious east — as the Times signals its approval — but will this bloody offensive become a Waterloo for whatever’s left of the newspaper’s journalistic integrity?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

24 comments for “Will Ukraine Be NYT’s Waterloo?

  1. JPH
    May 7, 2014 at 11:54

    2009 analysis predicting the Ukraine mess:

    Question might be why the US was intent on driving a wedge between Russia and EU. Provoking Russia had the US exploiting the Russian reaction and the fear induced.

    Condi threw Georgia under the bus. Kerry is now fucking Ukraine. The hysterical language of the US is designed to driving the EU to US and NATO. That was the objective.
    TTIP ties in to this strategy. TTIP is not a trade partnership but “an economic NATO”.

  2. Stas
    May 5, 2014 at 03:36

    Robert, thank you very much! The EU goverment and US try to demonise Russia due to oil and gaz. Everybody in Russia know it.

  3. Aldi
    May 5, 2014 at 03:10

    How the thugs killed Odessa inhabitants in the Trade Unions House – the details of bloody scenario

  4. Rob
    May 4, 2014 at 19:45

    Did the NYT suffer for its mendacity in the run up to the Iraq War? Not as far as I can tell. Then why should anyone think that dissembling over events in Ukraine will prove to be its Waterloo? In the corporate media, their is no shame in being wrong or even in lying. In fact, such journalistic malfeasance can be the keys to fame and success.

  5. Juste
    May 4, 2014 at 18:43

    Look at the last movie (first comment) , how pro-kiev achieve pro-russian to end suffering.

  6. Alex
    May 4, 2014 at 17:21

    Dear Robert Parry,
    Thank you for sharing your opinion. As a Russian-American reader who followed the situation since November last year, I am a bit concerned by your words about Russia’s $15 mln help “with few strings attached”. As matter of fact, one of those few strings were submission to Customs Union which was against Ukraine’s constitution and exactly what people already standing on Maidan Square were against. In my opinion, your article fails to establish correct chronology of events, leading to possible confusion in cause/consequence analysis.

    • Ilya Muromets
      May 5, 2014 at 13:02

      Thank you for your comment, Alex. And, as a Ukrainian-American reader who has followed the situation for more than 20 years, I feel compelled to correct you. The Russian offer did NOT require Ukraine to submit to the Customs Union. In fact, it clearly stated that Ukraine would have full. independent choice on the matter and could remain outside of the Union.

  7. Ilya Muromets
    May 4, 2014 at 16:34

    People are starting to wake up to the fact that they have been systematically lied to by western politicians and their allies in the corporate media. Their cynical narrative of exalting the self-appointed government in Kiev and their mantra of demonizing anyone who opposes this illegal junta are starting to unravel.

    Friday’s tragic events in Odessa, where more than 40 people were burned alive are a case in point. According to hundreds of witnesses, the forces of Ukraine’s radical Right Sector chased a group of people, who were demonstrating in support of a referendum to federalize Ukraine, into Odessa’s trade union building. Mind you, the Right Sector had been given legitimacy by Kiev when they were deputized into the Ukrainian National Guard in April. The extremists then sealed the building and began torching it with a volley of Molotov cocktails, setting the structure ablaze. However, this atrocity did not end there.

    The local police, apparently under orders from Kiev, did absolutely nothing to counteract this violence. The city fire department, which is manned around the clock and located a mere 150 meters from the burning building showed no signs of response for an entire 20 minutes. Moreover, when the fire engines finally began moving, the Right Sector extremists blocked their access to the building, and as people were desperately trying to climb out of the windows to reach safety, these same radicals began shooting at them, killing many who would have otherwise escaped the flames. Those who reached the ground without being shot were viciously beaten. I will emphasize once again that earlier, the self-appointed government in Kiev absorbed the Right Sector into the ranks of its National Guard.

    In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, representatives of this same “government” cynically hailed Friday’s massacre as a victory for Ukraine over the separatists. Among those who cheered, are outspoken member of parliament, Irina Farion; chief of Oleksandr Turchinov’s presidential administration, Sergei Pashinsky and western media darling, Yulia Timoshenko.

    It is this “government” that the west has helped bring to power and that much of the world so avidly now supports. On top of their constitutional illegitimacy, they have now conclusively proven themselves to be a gang of blatant killers and such support is unthinkable.

    Meanwhile the western media have largely ignored what has happened in Odessa and on those rare occasions when it is mentioned, a description of these events appears as a passing footnote against the backdrop of the standard narrative. For example, CNN gave these events the following lip-service: “31 people died after a fire was started at a trade union building amid clashes in the largely Russian-speaking Odessa.” Time (as can be seen in this article) and Fox News have done much the same. No mention of direct involvement from the Right Sector/National Guard, not a word about the highly questionable passivity of the local police, not even a hint concerning the shootings of those trying to escape the burning building. And of course, not a word of accusation was given against the criminal actions of the illegitimate government in Kiev. It seems they can do no wrong.

    I will remind you, there were hundreds of people who witnessed this mass execution, but western media are perfectly content with feeding their audience a diet of half-truths and innuendo.

    Even more shocking was the total absence of direct condemnation from western governments against those actually guilty of this atrocity. People were burned alive with the active support of Kiev’s self-appointed leadership, yet our “21st century” world chooses to remain silent. This deafening silence will be heard throughout the globe.

  8. David G
    May 4, 2014 at 11:44

    It was literally yesterday, Saturday, that I noticed mainstream media reports were now referring to the people mobilized against the current Kiev regime as “rebels”. It may have started earlier, but I noticed it yesterday.

    I was somewhat disturbed, therefore, to encounter this same usage of “rebel(s)” twice in this Robert Parry article, once in the sub-hed above the byline, and once in the body of the text.

    Have Parry or ConsortiumNews referred to these people as rebels before? Is this not a disturbingly Orwellian moment, when an element of the very propaganda that is being critiqued is silently adopted by all sides in the debate, virtually instantaneously, with no recognition that a change has occurred?

    If Parry and ConsortiumNews are going to continue this usage of “rebels”, I hope they at least do so with full awareness of how, when and, why the term was introduced into this context, and ideally they will explicitly justify its usage to the readers here. 

  9. Lubov
    May 4, 2014 at 04:34

    Не верьте своей прессе, в Украине идет геноцид и убийство мирных жителей,все ненавидят американцев, они убивают людей во всем мире. Они фашисты и поддерживают фашистов.

    • Ivan
      May 4, 2014 at 15:32

      rt.com – true about Odessa, Ukraine

      • Alex
        May 4, 2014 at 17:14

        RT lies, don’t watch or read it

        • Vladimir
          May 5, 2014 at 08:32

          So far there were correct about everithing that happens in Ukraine..

  10. May 3, 2014 at 22:37

    thank you

  11. Mike
    May 3, 2014 at 22:03

    Notice how prominent news outlets completely omit the fact about the US Dept. of State lighting the fuse in Kiev that started this entire bloodbath. How can Washington expect allegiance from the American people when performing these wicked deeds?
    The Russian Federation won’t take these recent events lying down. Washington is hoping for a Russian response as a justification to enter the fray.

  12. Tom Coombs
    May 3, 2014 at 21:04

    Same thing going on here in Canada. The Globe and Mail and the CBC are spewing the same tripe as the NY Times.

  13. Eddie
    May 3, 2014 at 19:21

    It appears that reading the NYT is becoming similar to watching a ‘docudrama’ on TV… essentially a waste of time if you’re at all interested in reality because you have no way of knowing which statements are factual and which are fictional.

  14. Michael W.
    May 3, 2014 at 17:01

    About two weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore and I canceled my online subscription to the NYT. The lady asked why I wanted to cancel the greatest paper in the country. I told her I wasn’t going to pay my hard earned money to read lies.
    I would urge anyone else to do the same. Any newspaper that openly advocates for the potential destruction of humanity shouldn’t exist.

    • Gleb
      May 4, 2014 at 06:54

      Hello Michael.
      I’m really glad to see people who seek the truth over internet, not just “consume” NYT or central TV. You know, your g0vernment and mr 0bama play strange game. I’m really concerned about the development of this situation. Because all is know happening in the vicinity of Russian borders. But you could be sure, that practically nobody in Russia wants war. But still, situation is very dangerous and dramatic.

  15. William Jacoby
    May 3, 2014 at 16:44

    Sounds like “Operation Mockingbird” is still alive and well, at the Times and elsewhere. Once covert activities like Mockingbird are begun, or others like Gladio, what is supposed to make us believe that they have ever been ended, or if ended, not resurrected? The capability and expertise is there, funding is ample, the oversight is weaker than ever, the driving forces–whatever they are–the same. The evidence is there too–in your column. So why is there not a movement to divest ourselves of our investment (as readers and customers) of the Times? How about at least a disclosure campaign: which of its writers or editors are on the CIA payroll or otherwise compromised by it?

  16. Mike
    May 3, 2014 at 16:37

    In what way is this investigative journalism? I don’t necessarily disagree, but this is just an editorial rant. You should look into your own credibility before going after the Times

    • May 4, 2014 at 11:51

      Russia is in the mind or what not to do, just sit by the river and it is quite possible to see the corpse of a passing opponent. And that nterestno not hate him, and probably even pity from that hysteria akuyu he experiences;-)

    • LucasFoxx
      May 4, 2014 at 11:52

      I’m with you. I won’t defend the NYT, but Perry’s continuing dismissal of a democratic parliment and defense of a criminal Presidency and Putin’s strategies is dissappointing.

      • Jay
        May 4, 2014 at 15:38

        that’s more like a rump parliament you be defending there lukas.

        imagine if the teatards threw all of the democrats an Rockefeller republicans out of washington dc in a putsch and then tried to claim they’re a legitimate parliament.

        i assume you mean Obama’s “criminal” presidency.

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