Anyone who thought a pandemic was confusing didn’t know what war was. We are caught in a maelstrom of misinformation and sentimental half-truths. And yet this is no time for unrestrained comfort.
A skinny white-haired man skateboards like Tony Hawk after five espressos. He flips in the probably California sun, jumps, bounces the board off the ground, lands, grins, poses, it’s Bart Simpson in an old man’s body, one look. The video tells his story in dreamy units: He only recently learned to ride a skateboard and as you can see: It’s never too late to start! There is rapturous applause at the video, the commentators are rolling over their heads, everyone is now a cheerleader too. so much hope! Just gorgeous. Heart emoji, bicep emoticon.
If you google the man — he’s California skateboarder Neal Unger — it goes like this: He got his first skateboard at age five. The video is nothing but a treacherous lie aimed at the heart, a temptation to fall into error. Emotional lies are the worst lies because they make us irrational. And there is an invention that fires treacherous lies among men to the rhythm of a tennis machine: war.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is based on a fundamental lie: “genocide” against Russians in eastern Ukraine. This is “state propaganda”, said Gwendolyn Sasse of the Center for East European and International Studies at “Lanz”. Truth is the first casualty of war, according to quotes that are often (falsely) attributed. The war sage Sun Tzu said 2,500 years ago, “When we deploy our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are close we must make the enemy believe we are far”. This is the kind of lie Putin was spreading when he led the West to believe that he was withdrawing some of his troops. “This is the first result of impressive crisis diplomacy,” SPD chairman Saskia Esken triumphed briefly about the diplomatic prodigies of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Fog of War in the Digital Age
In the digital age, the fog of war is also lifting due to widespread misinformation. This includes emotionally disturbing clips such as a video distributed via Telegram of alleged leg amputations as a result of Ukrainian artillery fire. Good lies speak to the heart and give the brain a break. At the beginning of the amputation clip, you can briefly see that the victim was already wearing a prosthesis before the operation. Cases like these are analyzed, among other things, by the Bellingcat volunteer collective and checked for veracity. It’s hard, rewarding work.
Even Putin’s carefully staged escalation is partly a lie. Although, it’s not that “punctual” at all, because Putin’s wristwatch and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that he may have recognized the “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine before they appeared on television.
Compassion, hope and fear are gateways to purposeful deception. The desire for harmony feels good, but it can easily hide violence. Those who understand Putin and the lateral thinkers show this in a surprisingly similar way. The others say “not division”, they emphasize the human, togetherness. The bus driver who condescendingly “liberated” his passengers from their masks early in the pandemic is legendary. He too gave hope, like the lying video of the old skater, and basked in this role of hero. The participants of non-traditional meetings skilfully hide the fact that they violate the right to assemble and that the perpetrators from among them repeatedly attack journalists and police officers.
The armored hand slipped out of sheer misunderstanding
Some people who understand Putin also sound strangely gentle in their comments: they paint the Kremlin ruler as a hard-pressed, kind-hearted man whose armored hand slipped out of mere misunderstanding. At the heart of this cozy rhetoric of understanding lies a flagrant disregard for two closely related institutions: the legal system and the prohibition of violence. Putin disregards the state sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine and violates the ban on the use of force – this is nothing less than destroying the entire DNA of international law. it’s one world without International law.
Comfortable monitoring of events also includes a comfortable equidistance, an understanding “on both sides”. Donald Trump showed this when he spoke of “both sides” after the violence in Charlottesville. This “bothsiderism” or “bothsiderism” is a well-established term in America for the convenient, but only apparently fair, equal treatment of views on both sides of the legal system (or in relation to climate issues, e.g. science). Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Putin’s poodle for the annexation of Ukraine, also placed both sides on Thursday. He managed to make a statement, apparently to avoid becoming a rotten foot of social democracy. There are many errors, as he writes, “on both sides.” Leva Sahra Wagenknecht said it similarly “all parties share” would participate in the escalation.
This is nothing but a comforting understanding of a war crime. It’s too convenient. Germany set the world on fire twice, in both cases sentimental self-pity among the population played an important role. Law and the prohibition of violence, these pillars of modern society, become as soft as wine gum when you wrap them in a lot of sentimental words.
harmony is not enough
These pillars also collapse when one settles in one’s own ignorance. The background to the conflict is complicated, Eastern Ukraine seems far away, a mishmash of world history and international law, well mixed with new lies every day. “I don’t understand any of this, I just don’t want war” is easier to say than “Russia illegally invaded Ukraine”. Not having an opinion about the situation is the easy way out.
But harmony is not enough. German history is not a lesson in peace, it is a lesson in attitude. The Auschwitz Memorial, otherwise not very well known as a commentator on daily political events, warned on Thursday that one had to draw the right conclusions from a too passive attitude in the 1930s. That the Bundeswehr is, in the words of army inspector Alfons Mais, “empty” is due to the politics of the last decades – but also to a majority of the population that does not care about security interests. Similar says former Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
But the attitude requires at least an attempt to remain responsible in the fog of war. like? It helps orientation to law and expertise. Anyone who thinks that every journalist is a liar must naturally feel lost. A respected, established and discourse-hardened media is a better choice than Russian state propaganda and the internet guru rumored to be Putin. Experts from universities (e.g. the aforementioned Gwendolyn Sasse) provide better information in Mamifor than Petra93 – the latter is therefore less frequent in Deutschlandfunk’s morning talk or on “Lanz”.
boom for learning
The fog of war is not a steam bath to hide in: let’s conquer maturity. Many media are now vying for attention, for example the Ukrainian news from the “Financial Times” is currently free to read. A number of TV stations bring their journalists to the brink of exhaustion, private ones like ntv, ProSieben and Welt, public ones like Phoenix, Tagesschau24 or Deutschlandfunk. If you want to be more direct, you can follow many journalists directly. Daniel Drepper recently collected the accounts of trusted social media specialists – from so professionals. AFP journalist cites cases of misinformation. This is how you can arm yourself.
That’s why I think it’s completely wrong that some people are now tipping for their own state of mind less consume news. The opposite is true: reading, watching and learning are now booming. It is the right time to stand up to lawlessness and war. And there is no time to relax.