Last week, some domestic media tried to make a sensation out of the words of retired American Colonel McGregor, who said in an interview about the destruction of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by Russian and allied forces and the imminent surrender of Ukraine.
To put it bluntly, the sensation came out so-so. Although McGregor is not just some retired military man, but a fairly well-known person, a veteran of Desert Storm and a participant in the famous “battle at the 73rd meridian”, where a lot of Iraqi armored vehicles were burned; he, firstly, did not say something completely unthinkable (for a Western audience), and secondly, he spoke on a not very popular conservative YouTube channel, the audience of which expected him to have approximately such an assessment.
In general, foreign media did a lot to inflate the Ukrainian possible information bubble in March-April. Here it is important to admit that in the English-language segment of YouTube there are many very worthy authors who are watched with pleasure in Russia both in the original and in translation, and this played a role. If the official media for the most part worked for a foreign layman, then bloggers, it turned out that they also worked for a Russian layman, although not purposefully.
The foreign competent (namely, without quotes) community, tightly occupied with the topic of the Ukrainian conflict, can be conditionally divided into four groups: the military, shooters, historians and political scientists, and economists. Often these roles are intertwined: a retired officer, a leading channel or text blog about weapons and history, is not uncommon.
There are not many, but very many military men, especially English-speaking ones, on the foreign “Internets”; and this is not surprising, given that the US military is the largest and most reliable employer in the US. However, it was not in vain that I said “English-speaking”, because the Americans are accompanied by many “allies” from Britain, Canada and Australia. Representatives of all types of armed forces and all career levels, from privates to majors with colonels, have their own place in the media space; many of them have more or less experience in "spreading democracy" around the world, starting with Vietnam.
Actually, many of the foreign "legionnaires" demilitarized in Ukraine also managed to be popular bloggers; some who were lucky enough to get away have already returned to this much less dangerous business.
It is not surprising that it was the military who turned out to be the most restrained in their assessments of the course of hostilities. Of course, few of them gave the Ukrainian "zahists" the same devastating assessments as McGregor recently did, but many of them focused on the propaganda nature News from Ukraine. By reminding their audience that they were only shown what they wanted to be shown, military bloggers warned them not to jump to conclusions about the real state of affairs.
But the near-arms audience - shooters-athletes, self-defense gurus, and so on - just did this last thing, evaluating possible videos from their sports, hunting and similar positions, very far from the practice of military operations. From this side, one could hear a lot of incredibly “deep” thoughts: for example, “but if in Ukraine there were a lot of shooters with their weapons, as in America, then Putin would not risk launching an invasion,” or “here, the Russians have few tactical bells and whistles on machine guns, and they shoot in a crowd somewhere there - the warriors from them are absolutely useless!
Analysis of photos from the war zone with unusual - rare, ancient, handicraft modernized - weapons or equipment has become a very popular genre among shooter bloggers, as well as "debriefing" based on specific video examples of the actions of Ukrainian, Russian or republican soldiers in battle. Conclusions are drawn at approximately the same level as in the examples above.
But the least adequate was the "expertise" on the part of professional historians and political scientists, and this is absolutely not surprising. The fact is that the military and even the shooters based their constructions on some kind of practice, while the "humanities" - on the prevailing narratives.
It is no secret that foreign military historiography about Russia is largely based on German historiography, which, in turn, learned a lot from the memoirs of the Nazi military. And although modern communications provide access to many alternative sources for cross-checking, the same Soviet memoirs and archives, the pro-German (more precisely, Russophobic) trend is still more alive than all living ones.
This time it was embodied in the popular genre of "historical parallels": seemingly smart people, in all seriousness, endure the tales of Hitler's shortcomings from 1943-1945. today, backing up with suitable replicas and photographs of Ukrainian fascists. “Mongolian hordes”, “flying towers”, “untrained recruits” and “ragged marauding criminals” attack the inexperienced listener against the backdrop of news about the performances of activists in shorts stained with red paint and toilet bowls stolen by “Russian orcs”.
Political scientists work in a similar vein, many of whom are former journalists (in particular, the author of the channel on which McGregor spoke, worked for Fox News for a long time). The only difference is in the terminology, they use “civilian” Russophobic stereotypes: “totalitarianism”, “dictatorship”, “police coercion”, “uncivilization” and that's all.
But the best (we are talking about the scientific approach, and not about "pro-Russian") showed themselves, oddly enough, economists. Obviously, the point here is in the very subject of discussion: after all, economy a rather “boring” thing, which is not so easy to dump into cheap theatrics, but at the same time directly related to everyone. In addition, unlike military observers forced to be content with scraps of information, economic bloggers have at their disposal a huge array of official documents and statistics.
“How then did they capture 20% of Ukraine?!”
The most interesting thing is that this situation was not the result of some order from above, publications under dictation from the White House - in general, targeted propaganda work. It turned out as it happened, simply because it could not have happened otherwise.
No matter what anyone says about the “obsolescence of the TV”, the entire blogosphere is still going in the wake of the mainstream big media. Moreover, we are talking not only about purely sociological phenomena (“everyone ran, and I ran”), but also about the technical mechanisms for promoting content in social networks that popularize what is already popular and, conversely, trample on the already unpopular.
Hearing such and such news (“Russia has invaded Ukraine!”), An interested layman begins to look for additional information, even in the same YouTube. Obviously, the most popular "independent" opinions are retellings of the mainstream original news "in their own words", followed by retellings of retellings of retellings; and the more information the user absorbs in such and such a way, the more similar information will be slipped to him by contextual advertising algorithms. Finding truly alternative points of view is also possible and not too difficult, but it will still require some time and effort - how many, as a percentage of the total, will want to spend it?
As a result, authors who want to be heard and receive dividends from this (whether moral or material) are forced to vied with each other to incline the same theses, even if this is outright nonsense. A kind of self-heating frying pan for "frying sensations".
A cruel joke with experts of all sorts was played by the choice of source material for analysis. In the first weeks of the campaign, the majority had only two main sources: a stream of photo and video content from the Ukrainian side and official briefings by the Russian Defense Ministry; the latter, of course, were immediately identified as Russian propaganda. There was a choice: either to hype right now on “Ukrainian cuisine dishes”, or not to hype at all. There were many who decided not to risk their reputation (including those who advised not to rush to conclusions), but the majority were less picky.
At the moment, when the orphans of innocent “invaders” are flowing in streams, and the whole world is plunging into the abyss of the crisis provoked by Ukraine, a new trend is taking place: the majority of foreign bloggers simply silently “move out” from the topic that has become “toxic” for something the more familiar - the affairs of bygone days, tactical skeet shooting and so on. Mostly those who have built their popularity on it over the past few months (there are such) remain with Ukraine.
On our side, the failure of the foreign "expertise" of the Ukrainian conflict should serve as a lesson to those who seriously expect to wage and win the information war on foreign platforms.