Bild’s loyalty to the occupier’s audience: how to tell about the war without blaming the Russians

While it’s been eight months since the full-scale war in Ukraine started, and the Ukrainian media are doing their best in telling the truth about the situation in the country, some Western media continue to ‘soften’ the news and whitewash the reputation of Russians for German readers. 

What is the reason for this behaviour? Fear of Putin’s regime? Attempts to maintain good relations with terrorists or following the idea of staying ‘in the middle’ of the two warring countries? Let’s try to understand on the example of the German ‘Bild.’

Zelenskyy’s advisor suggested a tactical victory for Russia. Does it look like a propaganda thesis of the Russian pseudo-media? No, this is the title of the article from June 22. It was mentioned in a German publication that one of the most critical military advisors to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksii Arestovych, worries that Russia has almost captured Sievierodonetsk.  

What is the problem?

Firstly, the article does not quote Arestovych about a possible tactical victory of Russia. So, the headline is not supported and argued by anything at all.

Secondly, the author uses a thesis that devalues Ukraine’s statements: ‘The recent fighting has been mostly in the surrounding villages, even though Ukraine says Russia does not fully control the city. Lysychansk is still held by Ukrainians.’ The narratives ‘even though Ukraine says’ and ‘still held by Ukrainians’ only reinforce the readers’ opinion that even if our country’s troops manage to keep the territories, it will not last long. 

Thirdly, the information in the first part of the article is presented one-sidedly. The reader will get the impression that the Ukrainian command is in absolute fear of the occupying army.

Photo: a collage of ‘Ukrainian moment’

What is the threat of this?

Creating a false image of the Ukrainian army among German readers and their perception of the situation in the eastern direction as Ukraine is going to lose the territories.

Will Scholz be able to hold the gas pressure? A rhetorical question or a thesis that makes us think about the possibility of a crisis in Germany because of the war in Ukraine? And again, it’s an indefinite article in Bild from April 27. 

The author says, ‘the Kremlin’s master turns off the gas taps to the first countries, stopping the natural gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria.’ The argumentation of such a decision is fully explained in the introductory part: ‘Russia insists on transfers in rubles, EU countries reject this and insist on existing contracts. They choose payments in euros or dollars.’

But on the other hand, the author immediately presents information that may cause natural resentment among the German audience: ‘Instant reaction on the markets: gas prices will rise!

Photo: ‘Економічна правда’

What is the danger of this?

Indignation and discontent. It becomes easier for the residents of European countries to make a logical chain: an increase in the cost of gas on the market — an increase in the price of utilities — a complication of payment — deterioration of the cost of living. 

The reaction of Germans

When Adeline (a designer, 32 years old), an ordinary reader living in Germany for 11 years, opened this article, she immediately asked her Ukrainian friend:

‘Do I have to prepare for my move by winter? Is it so important to pay in euros, and what should we do if the gas supply is cut off?

It is ironic, isn’t it? 

Ukrainians had to defeat the occupiers on their land and worry about how the Germans would survive the winter. It sounds like a surreal story, but we have such a reality.

And although the author explains that: ‘The chief economist of Commerzbank confirms to Bild: ‘The cessation of Russian gas supplies to Poland will not lead to a reduction in gas supplies to Germany,’ he reinforces the readers’ indignation at the situation: ‘BUT: ‘Germany could suffer indirectly if we wanted to help Poland with our gas supplies’.’

And ‘the best’ part: ‘Putin’s tough move increases pressure on the federal government. A clear signal: if you do not agree with my condition, no more gas from Russia. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has to make a decision.’ Won’t the average reader ask, ‘what is there to think?’

Photo: a collage of Ukrainian moment

And one more case from Bild: ‘The father of the deceased soldier accuses the Russian army: ‘My son was taken away from me in a vile way’.’

On the night of April 13–14, the cruiser ‘Moskva’ was sunk by two Neptune missiles, according to the Ukrainian command, along with the crew. Bild spoke to the sailor’s father, who was reported missing after the sinking. He supported the war in Ukraine and had a pro-Putin stance.

The Russian command first said that the sailor, Yegor, was not on the cruiser but stopped contacting the sailor’s father.

Photo: Українська правда

What is the problem?

In an attempt to separate the Russian army from the population and reinforce the narrative that ‘not all Russians are bad’ in a story where the man clearly expressed his pro-Putin position.

‘It is a shock for us that we cannot find out what happened to our son. He was not even supposed to be on the ship during the mission. Our authorities constantly tell us that there are no conscripts in Ukraine, only professional military,’ said Yegor’s father. 

Another manipulation and attempt to justify the hostile position of the Russians by their naivety. The father claimed that he did not know that his son was fighting on the territory of an independent state, even when he ‘could only talk to us about trivial things, such as the weather.’

Bild writes that the father said, ‘I cannot say whether my attitude to what is happening in Ukraine has changed. After all, I do not want to be branded a traitor to the people.’

Interestingly, according to Bild, his publications on the Russian social network ‘VK’ can be interpreted as the fact that he supported Putin for a long time. But after his son’s disappearance and intimidation from the authorities, he wrote, ‘A man whose son was taken away in such an insidious way is not afraid of anything.’

The problem is that the father, who supported the war in Ukraine, is surprised by the death of his son.

Photo: DailyLviv

What is the result of it?

An attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Russians who have supported their country’s war in Ukraine from the very beginning. This proves that the government cannot act without ‘loyal citizens’ who will gladly support the killing until it becomes their problem.

What is the conclusion?

Bild covers the war in Ukraine, taking into account the opinion of both sides, but sometimes the articles are provocative and partially true.

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