This is an excerpt from my March 15, 2022 Washington Examiner op-ed about my Polish hometown’s (Mszana Dolna) aid to Ukrainian war refugees and a few broader propaganda warfare and U.S. international broadcasting issues.
By Ted Lipien
Still, over the years, his [Putin’s] propagandists have done tremendous damage to political discourse and media, both on the Right and on the Left. He [Putin] managed to dupe conservative political and media figures — former President Donald Trump and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson being two extreme examples. They should admit that they were wrong. But they are not the only ones deceived.
Putin also managed to dupe former President Barack Obama — Obama’s “Reset” with Russia is a good reminder of Putin’s cleverness. The Clintons, the Bushes, and the Biden family were all duped by him. Putin is an equal opportunity ex-KGB manipulator of Western politicians and Western media.
U.S. conservatives still seem now more vulnerable to being fooled by Russian propaganda. But Putin’s agents of influence also managed to convince Western liberals that east-central European countries, including Ukraine, are full of nationalists and anti-immigrant fascists. The damage has been done, especially in the case of Poland, which has a government that is conservative but also strongly opposed to Russian imperialism in the region.
Many of the stereotypes about east-central European countries, which have been promoted by Russian propagandists and repeated by Western media for years, are largely false. These countries are far more pro-Western and more liberal-democratic than what Americans learned from Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times. These nations are still paying the price of their negative image.
Even now, Russian propaganda shows its impact. For several days until last Saturday [March 05, 2022], the Voice of America displayed a map showing countries providing humanitarian and other aid to Ukraine. Strangely, the countries that have given most of the assistance, including Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova, were not on it. When I pointed out to the VOA and USAGM management that this kind of disinformation violates the VOA Charter, which requires accurate and balanced reporting, I received a curt response that the data VOA used did not include these countries. The message from the VOA central English newsroom editors was that they were not going to change anything on their map until they get new data.
Perhaps VOA editors and those in charge of them could not imagine that a country such as Poland, described earlier as nationalistic and run by a “right-wing” government, could take in over 1.7 million refugees and provide them with free accommodations and care in private homes, all in a few days.
[After three days, and after sending about ten e-mails, VOA central English newsroom at first only partially corrected its website by including Poland and Slovakia. It took them longer to add Hungary, which by now has taken 255,000 war refugees from Ukraine, mostly women and children because the men are fighting. It VOA even longer to fully correct and update its map.]
In my small (population roughly 7,000) hometown of Mszana Dolna, Ewa and Janusz Jasinski have already helped more than two dozen Ukrainian refugees. Their son, Grzegorz, made five trips in his car to the border, each time bringing with him Ukrainian mothers and their children. Six refugees are now living at the Jasinskis’ house, while others have been placed with other families, all free of charge. Plans are underway to get the children enrolled in schools, find Ukrainian-speaking teachers, and provide temporary employment for their mothers. Their son, Grzegorz, made five trips in his car to the border, each time bringing with him Ukrainian mothers and their children. Six refugees are now living at the Jasinskis’ house, while others have been placed with other families, all free of charge. Plans are underway to get the children enrolled in schools, find Ukrainian-speaking teachers, and provide temporary employment for their mothers.