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Dutch School Book Depicts Russia as a Monster Devouring Ukraine

A blatant attempt to brainwash children

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a piece for Russia Insider about the dangers of overusing the term ‘Russophobia’.

I wrote that overusing the word was counter-productive; that it’s not just a word we can trumpet out to retaliate against every criticism of Russia. I also said that using it too much actually trivializes real, genuine instances of Russophobia.

Which brings me to the images below. This is what I meant. This is a real, no-question-about-it, case of disgusting Russophobia.

RT reported yesterday that this picture was printed in a Dutch social studies textbook for kids around the age of 15-16. It first came to light when it was printed by a newspaper in 2014. Russia, as you can see, is depicted as some sort of monster or bear with fangs and sharp claws trying to eat Ukraine. Europe is pictured as a benign, scared-looking human just trying to help.

The image appears in a chapter called 'Countries without democracy', according to RT.

As if that wasn't quite bad enough, the book also includes a map of the world to help kids understand which countries are good and bad, which are free and ‘not free’ etc. On that map, you guessed it, Russia is listed as a ‘not free’ country. Simple as that, no debate about it, Russia is not a free country, kids! Perhaps they forgot to mention it, but the country deemed most free of all by Western standards, is also the place where about 550 people have been killed by police officers in the first half of this year alone.

Children believe what they see in their textbooks. They take it as gospel truth. The content therefore must be balanced, strictly facts-based and not deliberately aiming to promote any sort of extreme or dangerous political views. Anything else should not be allowed cross the door of a classroom.

The man who posted the pictures online, Michel Philipsen, also wrote an article in which he noted that Russia sends tens of thousands of tonnes of humanitarian aid to the Donbas region, while the US and Europe send military supplies and debate sending weapons -- not something that could be gleaned from this particular image.

Activist Ancilla Tilia told RT: “It is absolutely anti-Russian propaganda, which is ironic, because Russia is often accused of inspiring propaganda, but it seems that we're not able to recognize that we are also being propagandized."

There are a few elements to this which clarify the extent to which these images are pure propaganda:

  1. Note the colours — green vs. red (green is typically a ‘good’ colour, while red is obviously always bad; evil, the devil, Russia etc.)
  2. Ukraine, the entire country, is reaching its hand out toward Europe, desperately asking for help. This is an utterly blatant and despicable mis-characterization of the crisis in Ukraine.
  3. Russia is depicted as something inhuman, some barbaric animal, while Europe is depicted as a placid, kind, helpful human.

But what makes a country ‘free’ or good, and who gets to decide? The SOTT article which explains the book’s content in more detail notes that what makes the US and Europe the most ‘free’ probably has something to do with ‘human rights’.

Interestingly, a couple of years ago, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte broached the issue of Russian laws banning gay ‘propaganda’ with Vladimir Putin. Rutte argued that this could lead to the limitation of rights for LGBT people. Fair enough question. Putin then used the opportunity to ask Rutte why organisations which support pedophilia are allowed to function in the Netherlands.

“I can hardly imagine that a lawyer in Moscow would allow an organisation that supports pedophilia to function. In Holland, however, it is possible. There is such an organisation,” Putin said.

“I can also hardly imagine that there would be a party in the parliament of our country that would oppose participation of women in political matters. But here there is a party that does so. We just need to learn to listen better to each other, to respect one another, do you understand?" he said.

This serves as a reminder that what is ‘free’ and ‘not free’, and which ‘human rights’ are the most important, is not so cut and dry in every arena — and Western dictating to Russia on how to handle its internal affairs is just another manifestation of this idea that it’s okay to tell a ‘bad’ country what to do, simply because you’ve decided you're the ‘good’ guy. 

This children’s school book is a step too far and the schools and teachers that are using it should be ashamed. There is no other way to look at those images other than as a cynical form of propaganda -- a blatant attempt to brainwash impressionable teenagers as they form their view of the world.


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