By XHABIR DERALLA
False balance and “neutrality” lead to indifference and delusion of society. It’s the space where, instead of finding out facts, ideas of populism and authoritarian rule are nested. How’s that? Simple, because false balance that is promoted to the public anticipates equal (usually uncritical) giving up of part of the media podium to ultra-right populism and Russian propaganda.
The media are just the most visible, but also most influential space where nationalism, racism, religious hatred and values characteristic for a dictatorship regime are promoted (extremely uncritically). It’s, practically, an unlimited space that is defenseless (without fact-checking and without criticism) in which the Kremlin has been operating throughout the world for two decades now. This situation is especially visible in regions such as the Balkans. The post-war traumas have still not healed, while ethnic, religious and political polarization, accompanied by deeply rooted (political) corruption, poverty and undeveloped political culture and media literacy are degrading the social fabric and blocking the democratic processes.
In order to arrive to the media and dominate or be in undeserved “balance” with democratic values, ultra-right populism and Russian propaganda first need to be enrooted in several strategic areas. They are produced and nurtured by political parties and radical groups in society. Richly awarded (financed) by the Kremlin and other centers of power across Europe and beyond, they are embedded in the economy, culture, education, entertainment and – in religious communities.
The church is one of the most powerful promoters of the “Russian world”, but civil society organizations are not lacking behind it. By using the influence of the NGO sector, anti-Western, Russian and ultra-right propaganda operatives, using the enormous financial support of the West, are striking – at the West and at the democratic processes in the country. As a result, you get “NGO phonies” that are totally in line with the propaganda operations of the Kremlin and/or with the ultra-right centers in the country; it can be any of the Balkan countries, North Macedonia is no exception.
Through the economy, but also through well-developed channels in the underground, Russia is present in the Macedonian economy as well. Finances that come from the East (in this case, not only from Russia), never come alone. They always have various “additions” in which – with (in)visible “sponsorships” for the domestic “patriots” and “believers” of all colors – they strengthen the positions of states that wage a war against democracy at home and in the world. Certainly, a complete equation cannot be made between anti-western and Russian propaganda, but all “benefits” of the anti-Western propaganda surely go in favor of Moscow.
In the Macedonian case, the institutions by far are not managing to face the problems caused by these tendencies. They are deeply rooted, especially during the time of Gruevski’s regime. The consequences of such rule have not been overcome, among else, also because of the narrow and fragile majority of the progressive political forces in Parliament. The influence of the autocratic and anti-Western political forces in the neighborhood, the inconsistency of the EU policies and the hybrid war that Russia is leading against the democratic world are additional factors for that vulnerability of the Macedonian (and not only Macedonian) society.
With just one short look at the social and political scene and all the channels of influence that are at the disposal of the anti-democratic and anti-Western centers of power, it’s no wonder that we have such a “balance” in the media space.
What to do? First step, we need to open our eyes and see the real situation. Even a powerful EU had shut its eyes for too long to Putin’s well-devised strategic game and didn’t accept the obvious fact that he is leading a hybrid war against democracy in the world. The propaganda and corruption are as equally a powerful weapon as the fiery power of the armies. Even now, when the brutal aggression against Ukraine is ongoing, part of the political elites, media and civil society keep their eyes wide shut.
(“Eyes wide shut” is the title of Kubrick’s film of 1999.)
Translation: N. Cvetkovska