The latest in Fair Observer’s series of fictional dialogues intended to make sense of the underside of the news.

FADE IN:

INT. NEW YORK SENTINELS’S NEWS BUREAU — EVENING 

Shot from behind the editor’s desk. Door opens.

HARVEY MANNERS, journalist, enters and walks towards the desk of AVERELL GRAHAM, executive editor.

HARVEY MANNERS

Averell, this is getting out of hand. Remember Yulia, that Ukrainian woman in North Carolina I interviewed. We ran her story two days ago. Now I’m getting non-stop flak from her, a barrage of calls and emails, at least three times every hour.

AVERELL GRAHAM

What? She didn’t like the interview?

HARVEY MANNERS

On the contrary, she thought it was great. But she’s convinced we could use our influence to get the government to act and at least set up a no-fly zone, like Zelenskyy called for.

AVERELL GRAHAM

She obviously doesn’t have a clue about the role of the media in a true democracy. It’s the government that gets us to act, not the contrary.

HARVEY MANNERS

She keeps talking about the “land of the free and the home of the brave” and says we have to be brave in our defense of freedom. She wants us to push the State Department to act in the name of our government’s commitment to peace and democracy. She’s hounding me to give her the number of someone in the National Security Council so she can explain it to them directly.

AVERELL GRAHAM

Jesus! We made her a celebrity for a day and now it’s gone to her head. Doesn’t she know that’s Zelenskyy’s job, not hers? And he’s stepping up every day. Providing us with great copy, by the way.

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HARVEY MANNERS

She keeps harping about the idea of achieving peace, for the sake of her relatives back home, who she claims are in a state of shock.

AVERELL GRAHAM

Doesn’t she understand that this is no time to talk about peace? It’s too soon. The Russians still have a lesson to learn. I mean, peace is great, but everyone in DC knows that it would be a waste of a great effort to let it happen now. And we’re the last to complain. This has been great for our numbers.

HARVEY MANNERS

Forgive her for being naïve, but given her situation, I really do understand her concern. The entire population has no idea where this is going. They don’t even know who’s involved and how long it’s likely to last.

AVERELL GRAHAM

Someone should tell her that governments, or in any case, our government is in the business of making the world work in a way that makes sense for us. At this point, nobody’s going to worry about protecting some random woman’s relatives.

HARVEY MANNERS

I’m not going to tell her that.

AVERELL GRAHAM

Of course not. I would just ignore her.

HARVEY MANNERS

After all, she’s kind of right. I mean, as a nation, we’ve all been taught to believe in democracy and the peaceful pursuit of happiness. That’s what we stand for, or at least say we stand for. And we want the same thing for other people. Our readers think we should be standing up for Ukraine more vigorously than we are. But this one’s starting to look pretty messy.

AVERELL GRAHAM

The American people have always understood that happiness isn’t always achieved peacefully. And in any case, we need to keep stories like hers going. Our readers’ are lapping up the latest atrocities the Russians are committing and accounts of the suffering it entails. So, here’s what I suggest. Forget about Yulia. Go out and identify another Ukrainian witness who has a new complaint about Russian war crimes.

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HARVEY MANNERS

Makes sense and gives me an idea.(PAUSE) Here’s what I could do. I’ll reach out to Yulia and ask her to recommend one of her friends to interview, someone who has their own story to tell about the misery their family has been subjected to. I can promise that I’ll refer to her testimony in the new article, so she’ll see her name in print again. I’ll reassure her by telling her that if we have enough stories, the State Department will listen.

AVERELL GRAHAM

Great idea! She’ll begin to feel like a real celebrity. That’s what motivates people. A bit like Zelenskyy himself, who’s been given the chance to play the role of his life and has put in an Oscar-worthy performance. We have to keep the drama alive, with new episodes emerging all the time… which is great for us.

HARVEY MANNERS

Are you saying the war is something we want to keep going?

AVERELL GRAHAM

Hey, we all know war is hell. And every media strategist knows the wars in the Middle East went on far too long, leaving a really bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Everyone said Americans were tired of war and ready to enjoy a period of peace. This war came out of the blue, but it has a lot of life in it. It’s producing high drama on a daily basis. The level of emotion is exceptional. That makes our job easier.

HARVEY MANNERS

So, we keep playing up Ukrainian suffering?

AVERELL GRAHAM

Hey, it’s working to everyone’s advantage. Just ask your contacts at the State Department. You don’t see them scrambling for peace talks.

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HARVEY MANNERS

Maybe, but apparently not to the Ukrainians’ advantage.

AVERELL GRAHAM

That’s where you’re mistaken. So they lose some lives and have their infrastructure damaged. When everything finally dies down, we’ll be there at their side to rebuild Ukraine in our image and share with them the American dream. Just like we did for Europe after World War II.

HARVEY MANNERS

I get it! We have the exaggerated emotion of a drawn-out war…

AVERELL GRAHAM

In which no American lives are being sacrificed, I should remind you.

HARVEY MANNERS

… followed by the noble decisions and actions of our government and the generosity of our people who lead the Ukrainians out of decades of misery.

AVERELL GRAHAM

That’s it in a nutshell. You just defined our editorial policy for at least the next 18 months to come.

FADE OUT

Fair Observer’s running feature Fly on the Wall is a series of imaginary, but believable dialogues intended to use fiction to help us make sense of the world. Each fictional dialogue takes place in a private setting between sometimes real, sometimes imaginary people in the news or behind the production of news. By exploring the motivation and intentions of the characters, these dialogues provide an opportunity to illuminate the shadows lurking in the secret corners of current events.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.