I have been thinking a lot about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, why it’s getting so much attention, what kind of attention it’s getting, and who’s saying what about it. It is safe to say the media played a major role in the build-up to this conflict, and continues to do so with all kinds of information flying around.
To start with, why do nations go to war? This particular war seems to have been pre-emptive, driven by a (perceived) need for Russia to protect its territorial integrity and prevent the establishment of hostile military bases near its borders. It seems more symbolic and less driven by actual breakdown in diplomatic relations or default in signed agreements. Yet no matter how it is cast, this conflict has led to loss of thousands of lives and displacement of many, with people’s lives disrupted and many livelihoods destroyed.
The media coverage for this conflict has been sensational to say the least, partly because it involves a major world power (Russia) and partly because it has major economic implications for the developed world. In fact, I am firmly convinced that economics is the key driver for the attention this war gets. Wars or sustained conflicts in poorer climes with minimal impact on key product supply chains around the world only get sporadic coverage and minimal intervention from major world powers.
There is obviously a humanitarian crisis triggered by this war – one which will outlast the war itself – but the treatment of the human suffering seems, in my opinion, to merely be a tool for media houses to drum up their positions or views of the war. And this leads me to the media war itself. On Western, Russian and all kinds of neutral media, opinions, information, and propaganda are being disseminated daily to canvass support for or against the war or either party in the war.
Traditional media having been engulfed by technology and social media, there are now a myriad of voices disseminating information and opinions about the war, including postulations about why the war started and how it will end. These voices include all kinds of moderate and extreme views that, in their own way, shape the outcome of the war, through various means. Actions result from convictions and emotions, and both are impacted by what we hear and believe. In the end, closure to this conflict may well depend on whose media strategy is more successful.
For me, it is just sad to see nations still embroiled in these kind of conflicts, especially thinking about the people whose lives are irreversibly transformed by those conflicts. But even sadder is the fact that the human suffering triggered means little to the mongers of war, including those whose interest in this war is less about human care and more about self-preservation. The relatively ignored conflicts still raging in Myanmar, Yemen, and Afghanistan among others bear testament to this unfortunate reality.