Yes, the Soviet-bred information war buffs will come up with a nametag for me. I’ll probably be called a ‘cosmopolitan person’.
Remember that during the Cold War the Russian-language version of the term — ‘космополит’ — had a negative, anti-Soviet connotation inside the official USSR narrative.
But even if I do not get discounted as someone untrustworthy by the Russian TV viewership — my 70-year-old auntie in Yakutia among them — I will most probably just not blip on the radars of the media monitoring department of the Kremlin’s Information Warfare machine.
For those in official Kyiv and their Moscow-based counterparts who increasingly like to meddle in the information war narrative — something planted in our minds by those who were brought up on the Post-Soviet Russian mafia-themed telenovellas — I am just a faint voice. But it is the collective of such voices that dicated the end to the centuries-long massive slave trade, ongoing de-colonization or the steadily growing effort to empower women around the world and feed every single starving individual out of the current almost 1 bn undernourished humans on this planet.
As history shows, all the above-mentioned mega campaigns might take centuries to be realized. But it will be hard for you to disagree that, globally, the human dignity is in much better shape than it was in the time of the Crimean Tatars’ state entering the Russian Empire. Of course, Russia Today fact-checkers! Western Europe was not a civilized entity by the modern standards back then.
Information warfare is about rhetoric, about putting stresses, giving more visibility to certain facts — and overlooking others — in the otherwise complex course of long centuries of events. In the social networking age, it is partly about hiring enough people to plant the favorable comments in Facebook groups, lash out at your offline opponents in online fora.
The current Russian government, composed of many intelligence professionals, is good at managing this kind of projects. Those who want to notice it, can say that in this video Dmitry Konstantinovich Kiselyov, head of the official Russian government-owned international news agency Russia Today, is being perfectly dodgy in his line of thought.
Those who trust his lively performace on TV don’t care what I just said.
Living in silos has always been a trait of humankind. And still, over the centuries we somehow collectively came to realize that black Africans are as human as members of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So, to most of us now it seems an obvious thing to do for Northern Ireland’s politicians to have condemned the recent erection of a flag representing the racist group Ku Klux Klan in east Belfast.
But it doesn’t still matter much to us in Europe that the ueber-advertised Kony 2012 campaign didn’t succeed at stopping African cult and militia leader, indicted war criminal and the International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony.
And as long as you have someone thinking of hoisting a Ku Klux Klan flag at a public space in Europe, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin will have a seamless reason to point a finger at you, say, “BUSTED”, and play mind games the way Russia-based media do in the Eastern Ukraine crisis.
The US and UK invaded Iraq. Russia is there to record the bashing videos. The world seems to always have enough excuses for Russia Today to convincingly explain why Ukraine is a failed state, why Crimea from time immemorial has been part of the Russian Federation and why the droughts in Zimbabwe must be blamed on the Western sanctions and not the somewhat complacent 30-year plus tenure of one de-colonization star president.
As I argued, before the above-pictured condo in my hometown of Kramatorsk has been intimidatingly, convincingly — and conveniently for the information war folks — devastated by the under-reported gunmen:
Who knows — if Sérgio Vieira de Mello, Brazil’s son who had often risked his life for the promotion of the humanitarian cause, was still alive maybe he could inspire Russia’s [current Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov to be less national and more humane in his reasonings.
Yesterday around 4 pm, the apartments that you saw in the photo above were severed by an individual whose name and beliefs we will hardly get to know despite the ubiquity of media reporting. The vast flows of information — or rather information war campaigns — tend to hide such individual stories. People, like the current Russian leadership, seem to solidly believe that it is in their power to manage the information streams in the current Ukraine crisis, give significance to certain events and divert the attention of the public from others.
John Langshaw “J. L.” Austin, the British philosopher of language and author of How to Do Things with Words, pointed out that we use language to do things as well as to assert things, and that the utterance of a statement like “I promise to do so-and-so” is best understood as doing something — making a promise — rather than making an assertion about anything.
Russian leadership can easily dismiss any authority of this ‘Austin guy’ by drawing the attention of TV viewers in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd to the fact that he is an Anglo-Saxon, a Westerner. In case you didn’t know it: Russia is where elephants stem from: Россия — родина слонов.
Still Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will keep his face straight as he calls the EU ‘our partners’ while blemishing the mythical Ukrainian Nazis that usurped the power in Kyiv as a result of the Western-funded Euromaydan.
Several decades back they could also add that the British linguist cited above is from the capitalist world and thus originally corrupt. However now Russia prides its status as part of BRICS, an economics moniker coined by a New York-based banker.
For all those in pursuit of due happiness in the world today, let us not be baffled by Russia’s talking heads regularly contradicting their previous phrase, playing mind games, a sports they perfected over several Soviet decades.
Don’t get discouraged, stick to our message. To paraphrase a Donbass activist whom I recently had a chance to hear in Lviv, after he was tortured by anti-Ukrainian people in a basement in Donetsk: “Overall, the human condition is in a much better shape then centuries ago. And because of our collective goodwill we are destined to play first fiddle.”
Now, the Great-Russia-inspired information war experts can come up with lots of arguments to criticize the British Broadcasting Corporation. I am also sometimes critical of my Isles-inhabiting peers. I even sometimes want to agree with some of the US inequality criticism by the Russia Today correspondents. But this pre-Euromaydan BBC HARDtalk interview by Petro Poroshenko — depending on His Highness’s mood, Vladimir Putin might sometimes call him a partner — has something unsettling and revealing in it.
Close to the end of the interview, the BBC presenter says that Ukraine cannot change its geography — Dah! Can any other state do that?
Poroshenko reiterates by saying that Ukraine’s “appearing in the orbit of Russia’ is ‘not good.'”
Attention! Now watch the video starting from 23 min 31 sec to hear why he claims it would be bad? Bad for who? He says that it would not be good for Ukraine. But what is he driving at?
The soft-spoken Poroshenko here:
Again I have nothing against Russia [neither does the author of this essay if you haven’t noticed yet], Russia doing what they understand is in Russia’s interest..
Asking for last comment during that interview, he unpretentiously delivers the punchline
We go not from Russia, we go from the Soviet Union. Russia needs the reform exactly the same like Ukraine
Given the security situation in Eastern Ukraine and — to a large degree — the not-so-high media skills of Ukraine’s news staffers, we are unlikely to find out what strategy –if any– stands behind yesterday’s bombing of the offices of the only remaining dead-wood newspaper publisher in Kramatorsk.
There are many constraints in each direction. But I am not too sure whether I want to be dragged into the information war narrative. I outright refuse to leave the goodwill message course that many have chartered for ourselves. Why do those intelligence-trained and state-funded information experts have to divert our youths’ attention from the huge amount of work we want to do to eradicate poverty, the Ebola virus — that is raging in West Africa now as never before in recorded history — global corruption. We want to empower the pensioner next door who has toiled his whole life in a 19th-century-styled coal mine in Donbass, we want his grand-children to grow up speaking several languages, making a high-speed train link between South Korea and Morocco a reality, rather than gradually killing herself with a daily dose of beer.
We need to understand that to reign over a destructive effort you do not necessarily need to BATTLE it out, fight back in the information WAR. Just stick to you GOODWILL message, live it, make it your system, your regime. The 30 million youths that Vladimir Putin says are to shape Russia’s future — those who are now masterfully drummed into the state of self-righteousness, just like many Eastern Ukrainians had been for the past five years — cannot be fully convinced into hating all things non-Russian. We have been through this last century. The Bolshevik narrative didn’t last long. The narrative of goodwill is still around.
Those who have eyes can see that the Eastern Ukraine crisis actors (or puppets, depending on your POV) are slowly discerning what is ‘not good’ for their local communities
Going about in search of things to steal or people to attack does not seem to equal defending Donbass from the junta in Kiev, for them anymore.
In terms of our activities to keep in check, campaigning to halt the ‘mysteriously-renewed’ funding of power supply to 10 TV transmitters in Donbass — those now broadcast only Russian narrative after the visit by ‘peaceful-protesting’ gunmen — should be something to continue doing.
Also if only, maybe, we could trade less in violent and anti-social Russia-sourced content at the upcoming Kiev Media Week in mid-September.
And as things calm down — as they eventually did even after The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) in what is now the ‘prosperous’ European Union — let us not resort to the easy-to-mould one-sided mythology.
Let’s give it the try of the century and accommodate the cheated Russian partners. The 30 million young Russians — some of whom I hope are to feed the last undernourished kid in Haiti and come up with the next Google — want you to stick to your regime of goodwill, even if Russia’s leadership has a different news bulletin to be broadcast tonight.