Desultory Eclecticism had the privilidge of attending a recent conference at Columbia University marking the 5th anniversary of Ukraine's Orange revolution. Speaking about the remaining challenges Ukraine faces moving forward, Professor Yuri Shevchuk noted the overwhelming Russian influence on Ukrainian media space. On November 25, Washington, D.C.-based Foreign Policy printed an example, in an unironic manner.
In "Ukraine's Phantom Flu: How Yulia Tymoshenko created a swine flu panic to get herself elected president," "freelance journalist living in Moscow" Yulia Ioffe spins a misinterpreted, offhand comment from a Tymoshenko campaign official into an accusation of attempted electoral theft. Citing fuzzy polling statistics and doing her best to dismiss both the WHO's positive reaction to Tymoshenko's decisive action and rival candidate Victor Yanukovich's history of corruption and dirty play, Citizen Ioffe provides a depressing example of the state of journalism in Russia and of editorial discretion in the U.S.
By paragraph 2, Desutlory Eclecticicism was formulating his snarky comment. How could Ioffe neglect to inform her readers that, since no candidate has a legitimate prospect of breaking the 50% threshhold in the preliminary election on January 17th, this vote will almost certainly be followed up by a runoff between Tymoshenko and Yanokovich on February 7th, and that voters supporting the 3rd and 4th party candidates in the preliminary vote would never dream of supporting Yanukovich over Tymoshenko in round 2? How about a mention that Ukrainians, as post-Soviets, are still notoriously dependent on government aid and advice to make the right decisions--like picking up tamiflu and staying off of busses--in the midst of a flu epidemic? Who exactly is this obscure official source who Ioffe references on five different occasions in a 650 word article, always alluding to the same cryptic remark?
Fortunately, Taras Berezovets, the official in question, was educated in England. Within hours of the article's appearance, he had responded with a comment headed "misquoted." Outlining his personal understanding of Western journalistic standards, he laments that a hatchet-job like Ioffe's was actually published in an influential American journal.
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