The colours of freedom

A vital part of the battle which will determine the future of Ukraine is fought on the web pages of the media outlets like BBC and CNN.  The public opinion in the West will be won or lost based on how the issues are presented in the news items and editorials. In this fight for the hearts and minds of the readers Ukraine has one very important advantage which is not often appreciated – its national colours.

Marketing uses colours and shapes to evoke positive perceptions about the brands. Think Coca-Cola, think bright red – a youthful, vibrant, dynamic colour. Greenpeace, predictably, uses green colour which goes with the eco, sustainable mirage they piggyback on. Politics, as presented in the media, is no different since we subconsciously ascribe values based on the colour associations. Take a quick glance at the photo below, reproduced from the BBC news item on the clash of pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions in Sevastopol:

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The colours of the Russian flag on the left are dull. Starting from the top we have white which is neutral but also vacuous and bland. It looks a bit like a background colour which has not been printed over. Then the dark blue, rather gloomy and uninspiring. The red below evokes the imagery of communism and Soviet revolution which is a turn-off. There is also an imperial-looking emblem in the middle of the flag which further muddies the presentation.

This contrasts with the vivid, bright colours of the Ukrainian flag. Light blue is the summer sky or tropical seas – vibrant, playful and positive. Yellow is the colour of the Sun and sand – both pleasant and warm. Perhaps the most striking contrast is between the hues of blue in the flags – the one on the right almost jumps out of the photo screaming “look at me!”. The form of the Ukrainian flag is tidy and clean – no confusing emblems.

So the Russian flag is a marketing disaster but the BBC editors also did everything they could to present Putin’s supporters in a bad light. The photo is packed with subliminal bias. On the “Russian” side we have two middle aged ladies in drab clothes. One of them has an Ostapchuk-style hairdo and the other sports a 1960s purple beret. At the back stands a male with a smug look on his face. On the right we have a very attractive young woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag. Her long hair flows freely as she assertively argues with the Ostapchuk-like lady on the left. In fact she somehow reminds me of the Freedom in the famous painting by Delacroix:

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Actually I would not mind a photo of the Ukrainian muse in a similar outfit but I digress. Even the tiniest details are arranged to reinforce the subliminal message – the chick on the right looks taller than her adversary and the Ukrainian flag in the background waves above the Russian flag. All the colour, youth and vitalitly in the picture are clustered on the Ukrainian side. Additionally, the text under the photo refers to the crowd on the left as “pro-Russian” and the Ukrainians as “pro-unity”.

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This is similar to the semantic tricks used by the sides of the abortion debate where the abortionists call themselves “pro-choice” and their opponents prefer to be referred to as “pro-life”. Actually, in the context of the current trouble in Crimea, the Russian faction could be presented as “pro-choice” in a sense of giving the Crimean population a choice through referendum. I must contact the BBC editors with this suggestion!

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