What’s new, what’s new from the right: Maybe the Ukrainian war is fake? End-shutdown

Since I spend time, for better or worse, swimming in the trash of right-wing influencers and Trumpists, I can often see things before they become fully popular, or rather before their existence is picked up on in the news. media. In recent days there has been an outburst of claims that something is not quite right in the Ukaine War, that it could all be made up. Maybe it’s a potemkin war. Perhaps the Ukrainians are just crisis actors, as we sometimes hear asserted about the victims of mass shootings in the United States. The ‘questions’ are characteristically vague and open-ended, designed to sow doubt without stipulating any clearly refutable assertions.

The particular statement or question is, where are the images? Why aren’t there more reports of war as we have seen with all other wars? How is it possible that one world leader after another world leader can visit kyiv in relative safety?

I only ask questions as they say.

Here’s just one example posted to Twitter by a right-wing podcaster/influencer named Kyle Becker. His biography notes that he started at Fox News and has worked on The Blaze, TimCast and Rubin Report. So he started at Fox, found it too mainstream, and then moved to increasingly explicitly white nationalist and fascist news organizations. He is now the “CEO of Becker News”.

This is what he posted on Twitter yesterday.

I was sick and tired of the lack of images from the Ukraine. I worked in cable news. Am. If it bleeds, drive. Where is the war material? Where are the Pulitzer Prize winning photos? This smacks of scam and the American people are fed up.

Produce documentary evidence or STFU now. We are not going to send our sons and daughters to die for the corrupt politics of an undemocratic country without documentary evidence. We don’t give a shit about your Russian ghosts. This is not a matter of US national security. So hold on or shut up.

Of course, in the real world, the Russo-Ukrainian war is probably one of the best documented in world history. Volume does not equate to quality or knowledge. But aside from the nonsense we’re discussing here, there’s a deluge of video, photography, and satellite records of this conflict that really has no equal in history. Like so many other things, much of it stems from the existence of the smartphone: most civilians and combatants have smartphones that allow them to create high-quality event logs in real time. These circulate on social networks and encrypted distribution networks such as Telegram. Drones also play a role. Everyone is generating video coverage, whether it’s surveillance drones or just recording the final moments before crashing or detonating.

It’s a good time to remind you that I’ve created two pretty good curated lists for reputable sources on the war. This Twitter list covers the progress of the war in general while this one focuses specifically on military analysts.

But why does this happen? Why this seemingly sudden new chorus questioning whether all the conflict is going on? Part of what’s hard about answering these questions is that in the far-right media ecosystem it’s often hard to unravel who believes fiction and who creates it. The best way to understand this world is to recognize that the dividing line is much blurrier than it seems. Dominion’s lawsuit trove shows that the bright line is often present. But professional liars have a way of partly convincing themselves, and recipients have become accustomed to absorbing lies. You ‘believe’ what is useful to believe. ‘Belief’ of a certain kind becomes a kind of fractured information age aggression: a postmodern way of owning freedoms.

Part of this creates the hotbed for a new crop of conspiracy theories. Just in the last day I’ve seen these. One says that the fake Ukraine War is being used as a ruse to send all of America’s heavy weaponry abroad, presumably to strip it of defense against some unidentified adversary. Another links it to the cottage industry of conspiracy theories about the “Biden Crime” family embezzling aid money from Ukraine. Basically a degree or two away from what you hear from House Republican research chiefs.

On a more basic level, like so much propaganda and misinformation, this material is bound to create confusion: a general mistrust and disinclination to believe that everything we hear is accurate, true, and real. This is true whether the sources are foreign or domestic, official or DIY. It would be wrong to assume that any political force, movement, or dispensation is based solely on rational deliberation over emotion and impulse. Irrationalism is part of the human condition and, at best, a domesticated force within ourselves. But in a contest between authoritarianism and civic democracy, confusion and force are friends of the former and clarity the friend of the latter.

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