H.A. Hellyer, Washington Post, February 28, 2022
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades,” Charlie D’Agata, a CBS correspondent in Kyiv, told his colleagues back in the studio. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”
D’Agata’s comments generated a swift backlash — and he was quick to apologize — but he was hardly the only one. A commentator on a French news program said, “We’re not talking about Syrians fleeing bombs of the Syrian regime backed by Putin; we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.” On the BBC, a former deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine declared, “It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair … being killed every day.” Even an Al Jazeera anchor said, “These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East,” while an ITV News reporter said, “Now the unthinkable has happened to them, and this is not a developing, Third World nation; this is Europe.”
British pundit Daniel Hannan joined the chorus in the Telegraph. “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone,” he wrote.
The implication for anyone reading or watching — particularly anyone with ties to a nation that has also seen foreign intervention, conflict, sanctions and mass migration — is clear: It’s much worse when White Europeans suffer than when it’s Arabs or other non-White people. Yemenis, Iraqis, Nigerians, Libyans, Afghans, Palestinians, Syrians, Hondurans — well, they are used to it.
The insults went beyond media coverage. A French politician said Ukrainian refugees represent “high-quality immigration.” The Bulgarian prime minister said Ukrainian refugees are “intelligent, they are educated. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists.”