Different treatments of Alexei Navalny and Gonzalo Lira by mainstream media and governments a glimpse into how Western propaganda works

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To understand why the Western news media have gone full blast over Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and Putin critic, while staying almost completely silent about Gonzalo Lira, an American blogger and commentator, you only need to know that the former died in a Russian prison but the latter in a Ukrainian jail.

No one can doubt the sincerity and courage of Navalny who died in an Arctic penal colony aged 47. He fought for democracy in Russia, took on the Russian strongman and paid the ultimate price. He could have stayed abroad after being treated for poisoning, likely an assassination attempt, in Berlin but chose to return to his homeland. That sealed his fate.

Virtually all major Western leaders and news outlets have lionised the Russian opposition politician. There were even small rallies in Israel, which featured the slogan “Russia will be free”. It’s not clear whether the participants were aware of its similarity to “Palestine will be free”, which has been shouted in mass protests across the globe against the Israeli brutal siege and destruction of Gaza.

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You probably have never heard of Lira, who died last month in a Ukrainian jail after eight months. I wrote about his death shortly after his father in New York released a public statement denouncing the US government, but particularly its embassy in Kyiv, for ignoring his son’s plight. In his last handwritten note, Lira said he was denied even basic medicine.

Last year, Ukrainian authorities said Lira was making “pro-Russian” statements and arrested him for the “production and dissemination of materials justifying Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine”.

Lira didn’t have the same moral fibre as Navalny. He probably never expected to be arrested, let alone die in prison, whereas Navalny knew he would be endlessly harassed if not jailed indefinitely once he returned to Russia.

But Lira had been pretty accurate, almost prescient, about the war and where it was headed than Navalny. The Russian essentially followed the Western script, that is, the Russian invasion was the crime of the century but Ukraine, backed by the West, would win. The Russian military and economy would collapse, and the Putin regime would crumble. He had hoped for a democratic post-Putin regime in Moscow to emerge after the war.

Lira argued the exact opposite almost from the beginning, back when everyone was celebrating “Western unity”, “Ukrainian bravery and nobility” and the inevitable defeat of Putin. Once he became notorious with a growing online following, American media outlets started doing hatchet jobs repeatedly against him. He was called “a sleazy dating coach”, for offering “misogynistic” advice on relationships, which he did before the war, that mostly appealed to men’s rights activists and “incels” (involuntary celibates, usually young men who also hold sexist views) while living in Ukraine.

He was called a pro-Putin shill and a useful idiot, though even the Ukrainians didn’t claim he was taking money under the table.

Once the invasion started, he turned his attention to the war. He argued the invasion was not unprovoked but a response to Western (Nato) encroachment, that Ukraine couldn’t win, nor the West led by Washington, which would have another failed but highly destructive proxy war. He said the government of Volodymyr Zelensky was as corrupt as any before it.

He may or may not have been a nasty person but he was bang on the buck with his analysis of the direction of the war.

Unsurprisingly, once he was jailed and then died, the mainstream media pretty much went silent on him. Given the sway his own government had over Ukraine, he could have been easily spared. But Washington didn’t think this particularly troublesome citizen was worth saving.

It’s ever thus. Washington has been very loud in criticising the national security trial of former Next Media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in Hong Kong but has been virtually silent about the unprecedented number of Palestinian journalists being killed by the Israeli military using US-made weapons. Is there a pattern here?

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