Once the Western media stop paying attention to what’s happening in Belarus, which could happen within days, what then?
If you’ve been following events from that country, you know Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko remains steadfast that his recent re-election was legitimate. As a result, he’s refusing protesters’ demands to either hold another election or step down.
Western media love the narrative: Longtime president allied with Russia equals antagonist. The heretofore disinterested in politics woman steps in for her husband, the opposition candidate who had been detained by the police, and becomes the instant protagonist. Her decision to flee the country adds a “damsel in distress” quality to this story.
The government’s response to the protests that followed Lukashensko’s re-election reminded Westerners of their (often flawed) understanding of the Soviet era. And the protesters refusal to back down provided an even more vivid memory: the collapse of the Eastern Bloc more than three decades ago. The anticipation that Lukashenko will fall is…well, too good to miss.
The convenient and familiar narrative fits, but so far the final act hasn’t played out: Lukashenko is still in power. And there’s the problem: Unless he’s ousted soon, the media’s interest in the drama will fade. If Lukashenko pulls the plug on the Internet (one can hear the howls of “how Soviet of him!”), making it even more difficult for messages from inside the country to get out, media reporting will dissipate even quicker.
If Western governments suggest in the coming days that Belarus is important to their interests, they’re lying. Surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, Belarus poses little threat to its neighbors, and it has no designs on territorial expansion. The nation usually enjoys good relations with Russia, though there have been some recent strains, which might be the backdoor way the West tries to justify its interest in regime change.
Lukashensko might survive the unrest in his country, or he might be toppled (and likely seek exile in Russia). Whatever happens to him had better happen soon; the media’s horribly short attention span is soon to run out. A new “you can’t miss this” drama from somewhere else in the world is just what the media need to forget Belarus.