‘If only I’d been a black lesbian drugee, or a transgender grifter, then maybe they would have done something. Well, if I had been one of those two things I would have been out instantly,’ Chilean American political commentator and YouTuber Gonzalo Lira said in a video posted to his YouTube channel on 1 August 2023. In it, he is seen walking towards the Ukrainian-Hungarian border—alas, however, he never made it to the neighbouring country, despite only being a few miles away from the crossing… He was most likely apprehended by authorities at the border: as the US State Department has confirmed, in response to the inquiry by Breitbart, he was still in Ukrainian custody as of September 2023.
But let’s go back to Mr Lira’s above-cited statement. It is a sarcastic reference to female basketball player Brittney Griner being traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner exchange between the US and Russia in December 2022.
However, is it true?
As outlandish as it may sound, yes. Given the amount of funding the United States is giving to Ukraine, it is likely that they have more than enough leverage to ask to let a US citizen return to the United States. There would be no need for any kind of prisoner exchange, like in the case of Griner; it would be enough to set it as a condition for the next military aid package worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We know President Joe Biden likes to go for a bargain when dealing with the Ukrainians anyways, as evidenced by the infamous clip which surfaced in January 2020. In it, Biden spoke about the fact that while serving as Vice President in the Obama administration, he told the Ukrainian government that they would only get aid if their chief prosecutor he wanted out was removed…
Yet, when it comes to the case of Mr Lira, the inactivity of the US State Department is insultingly conspicuous. The same goes for the US media.
As of the time of writing this article, the largest mainstream news outlet (discounting right-wing political commentator Tucker Carlson) covering Gonzalo Lira’s controversial arrest is Yahoo News. They ran two articles about the story. They titled one of them ‘Misogynist dating coach Gonzalo Lira, aka Coach Red Pill, arrested in Ukraine for Russian propaganda’. That is less than sympathetic towards an American citizen sitting in jail in a foreign country for sharing his opinion. Also, his dating content is not really relevant in this case, certainly not relevant enough to be included in the headline. Lira’s original ‘Coach Red Pill’ content is no longer available on YouTube at his own discretion, only third-party repostings of it. The last post on the still-available Coach Red Pill Patreon page is from April 2022.
And Yahoo News was not the only outlet taking a jab at the incarcerated Chilean American commentator either.
Another ‘catty’ headline, ‘Red Pill’ Dating Coach Gonzalo Lira, Accused of Shilling for Putin, Is Arrested in Ukraine,’ is from the Daily Beast. Meanwhile, the largest publications, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, are silent on the issue. On the other hand, a piece titled ‘Detaining Gonzalo Lira: Another blow to the freedom of press in Ukraine’ did get published—by the Finnish online news outlet Helsinki Times…
Contrast that with the case of Evan Gershkovich.
Gershkovich is an American journalist who was working in Russia, reporting for The Wall Street Journal. In March 2023, two months before Gonzalo Lira’s arrest in Kharkiv, Ukraine, he too was arrested by the Federal Security Service on charges of espionage in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Just like Gonzalo Lira, Evan Gershkovich is also still imprisoned,
however, the level of interest from the American media could not be further apart from that shown for Lira.
Gershkovich regularly gets sympathetic pieces written about him by publications such as The Associated Press, ABC News, The New York Times, the US state-funded NPR, and, evidently, his employer The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan Senators have also introduced a resolution, pressing for the release of Mr Gershkovich from Russian prison.
Part of the reason for the difference in media coverage of the two cases is that Gershkovich was ‘one of their own’ for the American mainstream media, an established journalist working for a major publication; while Lira was ‘just’ an independent online content creator, a lone YouTuber. However, that is just part of the reason. The other component is, undeniably, that
Gonzalo Lira did not have the ‘correct’ opinions.
This is most apparent in the less-than-flattering titles the man got while, at times, going through actual torture in a Ukrainian prison, according to his telling. He believed that the Russian forces are likely to win and hold on to the Ukrainian territories currently under their control. He believed that the number of casualties in the war are underreported by the Western media. He also believed that the invasion was partly provoked by the Ukrainian government.
It is fine to disagree, or even find his opinions repulsive , all or any of that—while even if some prominent figures, such as Elon Musk, agree with at least some of it. However, all major US media outlets keeping quiet about the imprisonment of an American citizen for a political opinion—he was never even accused, let alone proven to be coordinating with the Russian state—is scary. How is it that not one journalist in American mainstream media is willing to write a single, factual, non-disparaging article about the plight of Mr Lira?
And what’s even more disheartening: how come no one in the Biden administration’s State Department is willing to pull some strings to get one of their citizens, who is in prison for reasons that are in complete disagreement with the idea of free speech enshrined in the US Constitution, released from an allied country?