Things are not always as they seem

Tonight I attended an event at Vienna’s Amerika Haus: WHY DOES UKRAINE MATTER TO THE U.S. – AND WHAT IS AT STAKE FOR EUROPE? A discussion with NOLAN PETERSON, Kyiv-based correspondent of the Daily Signal, moderated by Otmar Lahodynsky, president of the Association of European Journalists, European editor, profil-magazine.

Since arranging for a reading by US writers at Amerika Haus in 2014, generously supported by the US Embassy during the 13thInternational Short Story Conference, I have received invitations and have attended several events at Amerika Haus.

I am a writer. I am curious. Friends say that I am left leaning, although I rarely know my left from my write foot. To subvert Phil Collins: I can´t dance!

Before accepting the invitation and once again having my name on a certain list  – this time with ID and bagscan at the entrance – I did some homework, or the better-sounding research.

Who is Nolan Peterson*? A journalist at the Daily Signal, a newspaper run by the US Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. So? A trustee is Rebekah Mercer. Mercer? Where had I heard that name? Recluse? Breitbart? Bannon? Trump? OMG! WTF! No beard tonight, though

Why was Otmar Lahodynsky from Profil “only” a moderator? Was this a Mercerian set up? Propaganda wars? Hey, I´m a writer and my imagination goes wild sometimes.

Things my mind in this mode picked up:  “The power of Russian propaganda,” Peterson said, and I thought, sheesh, and my own Murdoch´s Fox?

“The stories I write are as much of a weapon as any bombs I ever dropped.” This maybe showed that the pen/sword analogy had become a cliché. Yet a sword is also to defend…. Bombs, too?

When Peterson spoke of Russia exploiting social media, I couldn´t help thinking of Zuckerberg´s Facebook, but he must have expected such and quickly made mention thereof.

And then his closing words gave me the shivers (did I mention he played a video at the outset? A picture is worth a thousand words, n’est-ce-pas? The final question to the 19-year-old who later was killed, could only beg a “yes”). He quoted Hemingway from For Whom the Bell Tolls: “If we win here, we will win everywhere.”

But Hemingway continues: “I wish there was some way to pass on what I’ve learned…”

And this, for me, is what I see in what Peterson is trying to do. He was there. He saw. He spoke.

The questions came. And he took them on the chin. I had visions of a string-pulling Mercer and his ilk all over the world as a new generation searches for truth.

How can we help? How can we make people care?

Tell the stories. It is always the stories.

Thank you for your story, Nolan Peterson. Thank you for caring.

And so, as always, onwards!

*Nolan Peterson has reported on the war in Ukraine since the summer of 2014. A former U.S. Air Force Special Operations pilot (2006-2011) with over 250 hours of combat time in Afghanistan and Iraq, Peterson was the first U.S. journalist to be embedded with the Ukrainian army.
Nolan Peterson graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2004. He holds a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, as well as a graduate degree from Middlebury College, earned during a two-year fellowship at the Sorbonne in Paris. Before joining the Daily Signal, he worked for the Florida-based Sarasota Observer.