As it becomes increasingly clear to the West that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents, that notion is apparently anything but clear to the Russian public. For in that northern land most media channels are owned or implicitly managed by the Kremlin—and the Kremlin knows one thing for sure: It is in no way responsible for bad things, up to and including this downed plane.
So what does the media posit happened instead? Well, there are sensationalistic theories to suit any anti-West comrade. A sampling, as disclosed by the New Republic’s Julia Ioffe:
*It just so happens the plane had been recently reinsured—by people in power who knew its fiery fate.
*The Ukrainian military mistook the plane for Putin’s presidential aircraft, and shot it down in a villainous assassination attempt.
And the crown-champion:
*MH17 is actually the missing Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared in March. Except it didn’t disappear. Rather, it was taken to an American military base, packed with mysterious and incriminating corpses, flown on auto-pilot and blown up over Ukraine by a CIA bomb. But of course.
Besides completely suspending Occam’s Razor, in one way or another, these narratives all make clear that the West is trying to pin the tragedy on Russia, probably as “part of a nefarious conspiracy to drag Russia into an apocalyptic war with the West,” as Ioffe writes. These news reports also include the increasing trend in Russia to use Soviet-era terminology like “fascists” and “national traitors.” Nothing like Cold War rhetoric to up the ante.
Creating a Monster
Commentators speculate that this news coverage actually puts Putin and his government in a precarious position. By casting the blame so strongly on others, it could be . . . awkward if it becomes clear to the Russian public that the Kremlin-supported rebels did sorta kinda blast the plane to smithereens.
Given the hard line the news reporting has taken—which the general public is pretty much believing, it appears—Putin may not have wiggle room to walk back the assertions. So even if international pressure gives Putin cause to de-escalate, he may have a tough time doing so without seriously losing face domestically.
In short: This inventive news coverage doesn’t bode well for an agreeable solution to the tense situation. I do kind of like the whole corpse story, though.