Friday, December 24, 2004

Blogging as Propaganda or Disturbing Discoshaman

The “Orange Revolution” has made an internet star of “Discoshaman”, the host of the blog known either as Le Sabot Post-Moderne or The Postmodern Clog. A simple Google search will turn up ample evidence of the extent to which various of the “bigs” of the blogosphere abjured the search for balanced reporting and factual background on the Ukraine situation in favor of the highly subjective live-blogging of the “revolution” by the unabashed “Orange” groupie Discoshaman. “Here’s a guy who’s there,” an endorsement from Andrew Sullivan on the homepage of The Postmodern Clog reads, “And, yes, the revolution will be blogged.”

For the purpose of exhibiting the fundamental righteousness of the “Orange Revolution”, the Discoshaman seemed too good to be true. He was exceedingly hip, as the trendy moniker and obscure French blog title make clear. His blog had lots of cool pictures direct from Kiev, including, among other inspiring subjects: festive young people in orange accessories, quaint old ones in folkloric garb, and, uh,…big beefy dudes in military camouflage and orange armbands, whom the “Discoshaman” genteelly dubs “Yushchenko’s peacekeeping force”. He even had a blogger wife with an equally neat handle – “Tulipgirl” – and Disco and Tulip had a gaggle of cute kids (“my yellow-haired monkeys”), whose pictures also turn up on the blog or on pages linked from it. What more could possibly be needed to know that in the global, nay cosmic, struggle of niceness against not-niceness, Disco and Tulip were on the side of the nice? Best of all for the pro-Bush sectors of the Blogosphere, feeling their oats after President Bush’s re-election and who might otherwise not have known quite what to make of the Ukraine crisis, the Discoshaman was an open right-winger, a pious Christian and a fervent supporter of our troops in Iraq. If the Discoshaman did not exist, the “Orange Revolution” would most certainly have had to create him.

But closer scrutiny of the Postmodern Clog reveals a number of disturbing inconsistencies in the Discoshaman’s self-presentation as innocent chronicler and exegete of the “Orange Revolution”.

To start with, if the Discoshaman is such a great supporter of President Bush and the American-led intervention in Iraq, why has the fact that Viktor Yushchenko has made the withdrawal of Ukraine’s troop contingent in Iraq a centerpiece of his election campaign seemingly not registered in his estimation of the man and the movement he leads? This fact alone need not, of course, have led Discoshaman to abandon his faith in “the Orange”. But given his ostensible political convictions and given his self-appointed vocation to report on and even “explain” the “Orange Revolution” to the folks back home, it would at least seem to merit some reflection. A search for “Iraq” on the Postmodern Clog turns up a number of posts with generically “right-wing” ruminations on Abu-Ghraib, the search for weapons of mass destruction, the failings of the UN, etc. – but nothing whatsoever on Iraq in connection with Viktor Yushchenko and the Orange Coalition. (If I have missed something of relevance in this connection, I would welcome comments or an e-mail to my address in the Profile section.) A November 30th post does refer obliquely to Yushchenko’s stance on Iraq, but only in order to dismiss its relevance, since somehow the “Orange Revolution” is supposed to be above politics. “The Left-Right concensus [sic.] on democracy in Ukraine is incredibly precious to me,” Discoshaman writes, “It's precisely for this reason that I'm fisking the small segment of the Left which is working to fracture that alliance. We NEED both sides with us. I could not be less interested in scoring cheap political points about American politics. If you doubt me, consider this -- a Yushchenko win will likely cost America a member of the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’ Do I seem concerned?” Well, no. And given that the already thinly-stretched American military will presumably have to dispatch another division to Iraq to replace the parting Ukrainians and that these soldiers will be at risk and some might die – this indifference on the part of a self-professed "conservative" is somewhat unusual. (Incidentally, such consequences of a Yushchenko victory have been noted by a couple of posters on Free Republic - and, to my knowledge, virtually nowhere else on the Web.)

Discoshaman has not been able entirely to ignore the charges of anti-Semitism directed at certain components of the “Our Ukraine” coalition. But his characteristically glib response to them raises more questions than it answers. In a 28 November post, the Discoshaman appeals, in effect, to his supposedly privileged status as witness of the “revolution” – or, in Andrew Sullivan’s phrase, “a guy who’s there” – in order to reassure his readers that the charges are baseless. “I have seen ZERO evidence of anti-Semitism during the protests,” Discoshaman writes. That’s fine and may even be true. But it fails to engage the existing documentary evidence of anti-Semitic tendencies among important segments of Ukrainian society that openly support Yushchenko’s candidacy: notably, such evidence as has come to light in connection with the Silski Visti affair.

In an update to his 28 November post, moreover, Discoshaman adds: “I forgot to include the fact that Yanukovych's campaign hired a neo-fascist group to campaign on behalf of Yushchenko. Yushchenko promptly denounced both them and the agitprop itself. But don't expect those attacking him to mention that fact when using this alleged endorsement against him.” As is again typical for the Discoshaman, no evidence, let alone source, is given for the charge that the Yanukovich campaign hired a neo-fascist group to campaign for Yushchenko. We are supposed simply to take it for granted that Discoshaman has it on good authority. Presumably, the episode that Discoshaman has in mind – since he provides no specifics, we are obliged to speculate – was a pro-Yushchenko rally held in Kiev by the UNA-UNSO [Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense], at which participants are said to have displayed SS insignia and given the Hitler-salute. As noted here, Viktor Yushchenko did indeed denounce the proceedings. However, as likewise noted here, he was at the same time careful to distinguish the UNA-UNSO that is alleged to have organized the rally from the “‘UNA-UNSO’ organization headed by Andriy Shkil,” which via the Yulia Timoshenko Block is an acknowledged member of the “Orange” coalition. Now, if one is to judge by the writings of Andriy Shkil himself, which among other things – and as quoted in English on the UNA-UNSO’s own website – openly endorse the ideas of Nazi “racial theorist” Walter Darré, the UNA-UNSO of Shkil richly deserves to be qualified as a “neo-Fascist”, if not indeed, more precisely, neo-Nazi organization.

It would be easy to multiply examples of such glaring lacunae in Discoshaman's blogging of the "revolution". The hagiographic presentation of Yulia Timoshenko is notably cleansed of the many shady aspects of the would-be revolutionary heroine's vita - not to mention of her frequenting of the likes of Shkil.

The friendly but fatuous style of the Postmodern Clog - and it is curious that this same style extends also to a large part of the commentaries on the site - lends itself perfectly to the purposes of propaganda. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the Discoshaman is in fact an English language editor working for the "Orange" youth organization PORA. He himself announces this in a post dated 24 November that is reproduced on Free Republic. Indeed, the title of the original post as reproduced on Free Republic is "Updates from PORA -- The Revolution WILL be blogged". The references to PORA have, however, been removed from the archived version of the post on the Postmodern Clog - as has the cheerful admission "I am writing from HQ".

To those bloggers who have in good faith adopted the Discoshaman as their authoritative source on the Orange "revolution", I would suggest the following: you have been used.