Zombie Monitors, Zombie Reporting

If the ramifications of the Kremlin-funded media’s mis-reporting weren’t so dire, calling bullshit on their poor, sodden attempts at “journalism” would be far more fun. Case in point: covering today’s “elections” in separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

Late last week, a group of ad-hoc elections observers – a group of what some among us may term “zombie monitors” – came forward to announce their intention to make sure today’s “vote” went off without a hitch. Billing themselves as the “Agency for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” the group largely comprised a hodge-podge of far-right (and some far-left) Europeans, some of whom had given a prior stamp of approval to the Crimean “referendum.” When describing this new ASCE one of the far-rightists, an Austrian national, continued to flip between “Agency” and “Association” – a sign of either carless ignorance or sobriety foregone. Or both.

But while those of us able to distinguish the two – the OSCE v. the ASCE – have every right to dig into our bin of epithets to tar these guys, it’s clear the name was chosen with a purpose. Wide swaths of the population are largely unfamiliar with the OSCE; fewer yet would pay much mind to those claiming a difference between the two organizations. Election monitors are election monitors are election monitors, to those who’d support the eastern Ukraine “votes.” There’s a reason, after all, a wide reach of the post-Soviet conglomerate believes the Crimean “referendum” was accurate and binding.

But even the barely-there distinction between the two groups wasn’t enough, it seems, for the Kremlin. Soon after the announcement of the ASCE’s founding, Kremlin-backed media – who’d lost all journalistic credentialing long ago, for those paying attention – decided to blur the lines further. Dropping any pretense of accuracy, Russian state media opted for something close to the Big Lie.

Running under the banner of “OSCE Observers Inspect Polling Stations in Donetsk Ahead of Local Elections,” RIA Novosti reported on Saturday that:

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have inspected polling stations in the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk ahead of Sunday's elections, a RIA Novosti correspondent in Donetsk reported Saturday.

According to the correspondent, a team of OSCE observers based in Donetsk visited a polling station in Donetsk School No 1. They checked polling booths and voter registration desks.

Paula Slier – a reporter from RT, former known as Russia Today – backed up the claims, Tweeting on Sunday:

Slier

Unfortunately, for those who have the basest understanding of journalistic responsibility, there still exists the concept of fact-checking. And when it comes to checking whether or not, say, the OSCE had anything to do with Sunday’s “election,” it doesn’t take long to find their take:

As of Sunday evening, RIA’s story remains up and available for the English-speaking world to examine. Slier, though, appears to have deleted her Tweet, without any explanation. 

But a few of her Tweets remain - pointing to RIA’s story as evidence of her claims:

Which actually begs an interesting question – if Slier presumably received enough blowback to delete her Tweet claiming the OSCE’s presence, why does she then point to RIA’s story as evidence? Why does she pull back her claim, but then point to a piece that would support her position?

I’m sure there’s an answer out there, lost in the tangle of cognitive dissonance of those who work at networks like RT. But this poor excuse for journalism – this lying, if you’d like to be less frank – adds one more area of obfuscation to litany of reasons to distrust Kremlin-backed media. Facts are for suckers, apparently.