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Sochi Olympics, Ukraine, and the Media

One of the biggest accomplishments of the Sochi Olympics has been its role in dousing the fires of the unrest in Ukraine - a fiery sequence of events that took the woefully unstable country to the brink of civil war. Crowds of bloodthirsty hooligans, goaded on by the terrible trio of anti-Yanukovych leaders (Tyahnybok, Yatsenyuk, and Klitschko), were seizing administrative buildings throughout Ukraine and fighting vicious street battles with the police. The shaken up Yanukovych seemed on the brink of collapse.

And then, with the commencement of the Winter Olympics, the world's media attention swiftly shifted from Kiev to Sochi. With the world media's eyes on Sochi's stadiums and away from Kiev's Independence Square, the intensity of the anti-Yanukovych protests rapidly cooled down. All of the sudden, the protestors accepted an amnesty from the government and began to clear out seized government buildings. Apparently, when malevolent troublemakers like the Ukrainian protesters are deprived of the adoring presence of the Western media, they calm down and become at least slightly less rabid. The same was true of those other rabid troublemakers - the Palestinians, whose stone-throwing fervor was in direct proportion to the presence of sympathetic Western journalists.

Another thing is readily apparent about the Western media: unlike the old Soviet Union, which was treated respectfully, if not reverently by the mainstream networks, Russia is portrayed as an object of scorn and ridicule: a failed, menacing, disagreeably exotic country. Consider one of the latest BBC special features on the Sochi Olympics: a brief article on a Siberian shaman who danced around the fire and conjured for the Russian team's success. Snow, shamans, Siberia - a typical set of ignorant Western assumptions about Russia. Only the bear and balalaika are missing.

Eugene Girin

Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.

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