What happened to discussion of the war in Ukraine?


Julien Gate | flickr

The Editorial Board

President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion on neighboring Ukraine more than six months ago.

Early into the fight, analysts from across the world, including Putin’s own advisers, believed Ukraine’s government would fall in a few days against Russian forces, much like the Afghan government collapsed under pressure from the Taliban last summer. It was mainstream media’s primary point of discourse.

In the months following the invasion, however, the general population, and consequently Western media, has seemingly lost interest in the war, enough so that Kyiv is worried that decreasing coverage will make Western support dry up.

It’s a concern that has captured the interest of European news outlets. Euronews reports media sources across Europe are seeing readers less interested in war, Ukrainian refugees and citizens remaining in the country. Instead, people are interested in Putin’s motivations.

It’s a stark reversal in the way the public reacted initially to the crisis, as Ukraine’s Twitter account received an outpouring of support, including memes intended to ridicule Putin and the Russian invasion.

At that time, there was also a significant flow of financial donations to the Ukrainian military, including millions that were being accepted in cryptocurrency. People were so invested in the crisis that even Western citizens who had no lineage in Ukraine were taking up arms and joining the country’s military.

This is not the only crisis where public attention and media coverage largely evaporated.

One year after America’s withdrawal from what seemed to be its endless war in Afghanistan, news coverage on the fallout and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country is minimal.

The coverage at the start of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was very similar to mainstream media’s coverage of the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There is a common theme that underlies the trend in coverage of both Ukraine and Afghanistan: Over time, people and the media simply stop caring.

It raises the question of why — why do people stop talking about these crises? It’s likely because people don’t directly feel the ramifications of such conflicts, making it easy to forget about those suffering and to instead focus on more local issues, such as the next election.

While there are important issues not related to Ukraine, Afghanistan or other countries in crisis that must be covered, it is a great disservice to those suffering to stop talking about their struggles.

While Western and international media outlets may have forgotten about the crises, the people in those countries have not. Ukraine is still at war with Russia, while Afghan citizens are starving.

Observers may have forgotten these peoples’ struggles, but those going through it don’t have that luxury. The media and its audience must truly care about these people and their suffering and report and discuss it as such.