There is an old journalistic trick. It's called planting a story. Only now it's done online. And Chrystia Freeland is the latest example of how it works. Michael Harris writes:
This week, one of the true stars of Canadian journalism, Bob Fife, published a story in the Globe & Mail that made waves. And for good reason. It hit all the hot buttons from bygone wars. According to Fife’s story, Freeland had known for 20 years that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi-controlled newspaper in occupied Poland.
Although Freeland had mentioned her maternal grandparents in articles and books, she had never stated that her grandfather, Mikhail Chomiak, had been a Nazi propagandist for the Krakow News. Or that the paper had published articles supporting Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. This, despite the fact that Freeland helped edit a scholarly article written by her uncle on this very subject back in 1996.
Where did the story come from? We're learning that Russia plants lots of stories these days. Why? Well, consider:
After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in the wake of a so-called “referendum”, Canada imposed sanctions against Moscow. In retaliation, Freeland and twelve other prominent Canadians, including then-Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, were banned from travelling to Russia. Cotler had long advocated on behalf of political prisoners in Russia and was a supporter of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who died in prison after accusing Russian officials of colluding with organized criminals.
It was after Freeland was appointed minister of Foreign Affairs that stories began to appear on the internet, especially on pro-Vladimir Putin websites — stories about the Ukrainian side of her family. They had titles such as “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet”. Her maternal grandfather, Mikhail Chomiak, grew up in Western Ukraine and graduated with a Master’s degree in law and political science from Lviv University. He became a journalist in 1928.
The stories on these pro-Russian websites detailed how during the Nazi occupation Chomiak edited a Ukrainian language newspaper, Krakivski Visti, that spread anti-Semitic, Nazi propaganda. Some of Ukraine’s most prominent intellectuals wrote for the paper — those who had survived mass arrests and executions. The newspaper has been described as “a Ukrainian paper edited within the German reality.” It was a kind way of describing collaboration.
After the war, Chomiak immigrated to Canada. His daughter — Freeland’s mother, Halyna — was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Her paternal grandmother was a war bride from Glasgow — lucky to be on the winning side of a war that crushed so many young people.
Freeland got back on Russia’s radar as Canada’s policy on Ukraine developed with the Liberals in charge. On March 6, 2017, Canada announced a two-year extension of Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine — Operation Unifier, which is part of a wider NATO mission. She was seen as an enemy of Russia with a personal animus against the Kremlin.
Knowing what we now know about Russian interference in the American election, we'd be foolish to think that the Russians will leave us -- or any perceived enemy -- alone. But there are a couple of lessons to be drawn from all of this:
1. All of us have skeletons in our closet. And all of us have relatives -- past and present -- who have not been paragons of virtue. That knowledge should, but often doesn't, vaccinate us against self- righteousness.
2. The sources we choose for our information are critically important. It would appear that Donald Trump has been relying on Breitbart News to explain the world to him.That fact might go a long way to explain why every time he opens his mouth he can't be believed.