The Reality Bites Initiative
A project of the Club for European Understanding and Communication – Vienna
Jacquingasse 57 / 1a; A-1030 Vienna
“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.”
The start of the millennium was the begin of the computerization of everyday life. With household or handheld computers came the social media. But as much fun as they are, social media have proven to be more of a Trojan herd than just a single horse. On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and nowadays even Tik Tok very useful information is sometimes made accessibly, also globally. But these postmodern media can also serve the goal of propagating disinformation, either by totalitarian rulers targeting their own citizens, aiming at the citizens of another state or simply by one political party vying for power in an electoral campaign.
Ever since the events of Spring 2014 that led to the annexation of the Crimea and the invasion of the Ukrainian Donbas region, we have found our media flooded with “alternative facts” about the socio-political conditions and the historical background of the development of eastern Europe. We have been bombarded on the one hand by recognizably professional internet trolls but on the other by also full-fledged media campaigns, which have been spreading a twofold message: about Russia, that the sanctions imposed by the west only harm western European economic interests whilst US conglomerates are circumventing these punitive measures. Simultaneously Ukraine is depicted as a vaguely fascist Russian province whose secessionist rulers have no interest in ending the conflict in the Donbas where they were the initiators of the conflict anyway. Seen from this perspective, the Russian government is merely defending its interests, preserving peace, and trying to restore national integrity whilst dealing with an ungrateful tribal offshoot that is trying to invent itself a nation. From this viewpoint Ukraine – ruled by unnameable Oligarchs anyway – is trying to swindle those two thirds of its population that would rather be reunited with the Motherland, into joining the rest on the path to the Golden West.
As it is the picture painted above is factually wrong on all points. Purpose of this initiative is to show the other side, the reality, of the situation. Even so, the purpose of this initiative is not to debunk the disinformation that has been weaponized to target western audiences. Goal of this endeavour is to provide verified and easily validated facts on the actual happenings in Russia and to supplement the freely obtainable daily news about Ukraine with facts that demonstrate its relevance as European state for European stability.
The protagonists of Reality Bites are not marketing or PR people. They are academics, analysts, artists and journalists. The overall aim of The Reality Bites Initiative is to provide succinct and verified information to a western audience about situation in the eastern part of Europe. Facts that are overall not well known but are vital for understanding the situation.
This may well sound like a remarkably high target, but it is not if relevant standards are consistently applied. Sober thinking and sound research as well as a good sense of humour are the foundation for this exercise. Other than “truths” that are all too often relative and subject to interpretation, facts are immutable but that does not mean that they need be boring.