I appreciate good journalism, and there is a noticeable lack of it in this country. Objective American journalism went out the window with the advent of ratings-guided, customer-response reporting. Success in the job for a television reporter has more to do with appearances than intellectual capacity. When the people want more Justin Bieber and Miley Cirus stories…well, damn it, we’re going to give the people what they want.
I appreciate the HBO show Vice first and foremost as a quality journalistic vehicle. (I admit, I was unaware of the magazine until the television show aired for the first time last year.) Most every story on Vice I watch, I learn about something new. Many of their stories deal with global culture and obscure relevance. When they cover an American story, it is usually of greater significance and involves American cultural stories of which I had been ignorant. The topics usually involve proliferation of gun violence, climate change, slavery, animal poaching, education, poverty, discrimination…all leave me feeling indignant of the human condition. I place such a high value on Vice as a source for informative journalism, and I consume it voraciously. The show makes me glad that I live in this country, even while I am simultaneously embarrassed to live in a culture that places much value on vapidity and self-indulgence.
One thing that is obvious about Vice’s reporting: it is dangerous. I have noted many times while watching a segment that the reporters have to possess courage to engage in the oft-violent environments where the stories take place…much more courage than I, or most reporters, would ever admit possessing. It is understood by these Vice reporters that this bravery is a necessary component of their profession to get the stories that few are willing to cover. Informing the public about events of greater significance comes with a high cost.
Simon Ostrovsky, a Vice reporter, was detained yesterday by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine is a most dangerous place in the world at this moment. I write about this today in the hopes that more Americans will start paying attention to this, because I suspect the situation in Ukraine is of little consequence to the American citizen.
Vladmir Putin is invading Ukraine. He has already referred to Eastern Ukraine as New Russia. His army is gathered, ready to strike at the first provocation. Russian military has entered populated cities attempting to turn the citizens against the Ukrainian government. Hell, there is a situation that harkens back to Nazi Germany, as anti-Semitism rears its ugly head yet again, asking Jewish citizens to register because they supported the Ukrainian government.
While this happens half a world away, it is understood within the global community that the United States has the military strength to oppose a Russian takeover. Putin knows this, and he’s thumbing his nose at us specifically. His media broadcasts news reports assuring Russians that they could wipe out our country. Many of the Russian insurgents display anti-American propaganda. Edward Snowden was included in a public Q and A designed specifically to make our country look bad.
Now, an American has been captured by Russian military. Forgive me if I believe this should garner more attention than silly Nevada cattle-ranchers or who’s going to run for President in 2016. (I love Stephen Colbert, but I see more stories covering his appearance on Letterman than Simon Ostrovsky…and that’s not right.) I can’t help but feel this would have shocked the nation as recently as the Cold War era, but today, it doesn’t seem to stir people’s ire as much as it should….
Vladmir Putin is pushing for conflict, and he is daring the United States of America to go to war on behalf of the Ukrainian government. We should treasure and protect our citizens, especially a brave professional reporter as Simon Ostrovsky. American citizens should share their disgust of Russia’s insurgence with each other at the proverbial water cooler. We should discuss this more openly as a community, and we should campaign together for Ostrovsky’s release. We should unilaterally denounce Vladmir Putin’s tactics and authority, and stand united, as one people, against this Russian insurgence. The power of One Voice might be a better weapon than a ground war, and the mere threat of American involvement might deter Putin. Furthermore, if we continue to be pushed by Russian machination, we should prepare ourselves for the possibility of entering a ground war with Russia. I am as war-weary as the next citizen, but Putin might not allow for another choice. If he starts hurting one American, then he may decide that one is not enough.
This is a most difficult issue. I do not want to beat any war-drums. I don’t want to see any more bloodshed. I don’t want Ukrainians or Russians to kill each other. I don’t want to see Ostrovsky hurt. I certainly do not want any more American soldiers killed. It is hard to stand up to a bully, whether on a metaphorical playground or the realistic world stage. But, I do know that if we ignore this conflict, Putin will keep pushing. A bully loves to be ignored, because he knows that he can instigate further. Eventually, a bully has to be confronted, and Putin is spoiling for this confrontation with our country. We cannot ignore this situation anymore.