With some theoretical groundwork done it´s easy to detect deceptive messages. Its even possible to write your own detective or crime play for that matter. Doing this, and adding some research to it, one could arrive at an interesting conclusion about the first evidence the Ukrainian secret service issued publically after MH17 crashed, evidence that purported the now most cited opinion concerning the cause of the crash.
The deceptive message
Most newsconsumers realize communication is not a straightforward mathematical phenomenon in which clear-cut unbiased information is delivered through neutral channels to be received by uniform processing readers or listeners. Advertising, Public Relations services, propaganda, we all know these branches exist, often operating in the the state-market nexus, producing messages that depict distorted versions of reality. Nevertheless they are ubiqituous and widely accepted in our society.
Communication is made possible by communicators’ mutually orienting toward general principles of cooperation and rationality. In this proces expectations, i.e. basic assumptions about how transmission of information occurs, play a dominant role. These expectations are governed by a cooperative principle which bases itself on maxims like:
Quantity: the package shows enough content to make a valid assessment about what is being said;
Quality: the source is trustworthy, information shows veracity;
Relation: the information conveyed fits expectations about its relevancy regarding the sender;
Manner: the way something is said, i.e. transmitted by specific language usage, is understood correctly.
Above has been suggested in our society deception is always lurking behind the production of (one-way) information packages, certainly when sensitive areas as political opinionmaking are considered. Information Manipulation Theory (IMT) studies when and how an information package shows deception, for as it is concerned with:
¨(…) the part of interpersonal communication process that deals with the way in which information packages (in the form of messages) are put together when being transmitted from a sender to a receiver in order to give an impression that is false from the perspective of the sender.¨
IMT suggests that ¨deceptive messages function deceptively because they violate the principles that govern conversational exchanges”, like the principle of cooperation layed down above in 4 maxims.
¨The deception by the receiver is experienced when the cooperation principle understood to occur is not adhered to by the sender.¨
This means that mutual understanding and the set of expectations in the maxims mentioned above have been breached one-sidedly. In other words, the conversational exchanges are being manipulated by information management performed by the sender in order to deceive:
¨Certain facts are placed in the message from an available amount of information while other facts are omitted, altered or falsified entirely.¨
In that way deceptive message design reflects “a continuum of covert to overt misrepresentation of information¨.
Benign use, but providing insight
Writers of ¨whodunnits¨ (detectives) also build up suspicion by selectively providing information, sometimes false or irrelevant, and by using loaded language contaminated with connotations and guided impressions.
However, in general a detective starts with some basic facts, like a victim who is murdered by an unknown perpetrator, a pool of people who were acquainted with the victim and someone finding his body. In between the unknown murderer performed his act of which we know nothing more at this time. More clues are given throughout the development of the plot, but in such distribution the reader goes through a series of suspicious persons. This leads eventually to a climax in which the truth is revealed.
The fun of reading is we know the plot starts deceptively. The quantity of the information given is limited, the quality is still doubtfull, as is its relevancy, and we know the information given and the use of the language to convey it are probably pushing us to the wrong suspects. We are deceived, but in this case with mutual consent.
Of course in real life this is not the case. But even so, the great narrators of the information packages we consume every day may use the same deceptive manipulations to lead us in a certain direction in order to serve their interests. To show how this could work, keeping the previous paragraphs in mind, we could build up our own story of deception.
I. The bare facts
Our first scene describes people who find a body. This dead person seems to be murdered. Plain and simple facts. For sure the quantity maxim isn´t met. Readers or viewers just know nothing and no other information is giving to direct them to a possible suspect. At this moment the suspicion the watchers or readers will have about the people finding the dead body equals zero (and, let´s say, they are in fact innocent as well).
II. Relation between victim and person(s) to be suspected
Then maybe scene zero is introduced, a flash-back of an event in which the same people meet the victim not long before the murder and seem to know him. The suspicion about possible involvement of these people rises as they seem to have had a relation with the victim before the time of his murder and therefore might have had a motive . The relation maxim says we expect this scene to be relevant to what happens next in the near future, that is: the murder. We are connecting both scenes in our mind with a sense of causality.
III. Selectively adding more (mis)information and guided interpretation
In the following scene(s) more information surfaces that in fact has no relation to actual guilt but yet enhances suspicion about the people who found the body. For example, at the crime scene they destroy some piece of evidence. Actually it is done by mistake, but the narrator chooses not to tell us that (so omits this fact and breaches the quantity and quality maxims if we would detect this).
Suspicion about these people rises even higher because they didn´t only seem to have had a relationship with the victim, but might also have acted to conceil proof of their involvement in the murder. The quantity maxim may hold us still back to draw a certain conclusion, but we still trust the provider of the information added (quality maxim) and we suspect the information to be relevant (relation maxim). How high our suspicion rises may well depend on the way the information is brought (manner maxim).
IV. Intervention, adding malicious intent
The next scene will show an intervention to manipulate much stronger the meaning of the acts and behaviour of the people who are now getting under suspicion still further. In this scene a frame of malicious intent is introduced by a trustworthy narrator or character. Sometimes this is done subtle, by putting a trustworthy third party expert on stage. Sometimes more directly, by issuing statements in the meanwhile portraying oneself to be an honest party.
In our scenario in this scene it is claimed the act of destroying evidence was done on purpose – though in reality it was not. Suspicion about these people rises really high now, though some very critical people may already have got doubts about the quality, quantity and relevancy of the information package.
Of course scenes III and IV could also be presented in a reversed sequence. Then the act of ¨conceiling¨ evidence seems to confirm what the narrator already told us.
V. (Circular) reinforcement
The final stage – but, importantly, in reality often also the starting point – could be the introduction of an established framework of meaning in which guilt is already implied before the development of the plot starts. In our play we learn the people finding the body – knowing the victim, accused of purposefully destroying evidence – are bad people, i.e. because we get to see a scene in which they acted criminally before. (Remember: for the sake of argument these people are nevertheless innocent with respect to this particular crime).
In the circular reinforcement of deceptive framing it all starts and ends with creating images, by what is called ¨demonization¨ nowadays. For the most spectators or readers suspicion will now rise close to 100% these folks are guilty.
Now let´s play the SBU ¨Confessions¨ and ¨Birdie comes to you¨ taps
I. Some basic facts, but deception already starts
The first video, with the intercepted calls from among others subcommander of the DNR forces Igor ´Bes´ Bezler, appeared on Youtube initially in Ukrainian at 22:11 local time on the evening of the crash. This was almost 6 hours after the MH17 disaster happened.
When reading the the full transcript of these intercepted calls, translated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the play starts with a scene stating some facts (though most video watchers know at that time a frame of guilt already has been established i.e. by statements from Ukrainian officials, confirmed by the first text displayed on the video).
Igor Bezler: We have just shot down a plane. That was “miner’s group¨. It fell down beyond Enakievo (Donetsk Oblast).
Vasili Geranin: Pilots. Where are the pilots?
IB: Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.
VG: How many minutes ago?
IB: About 30 minutes ago.
Actually the facts are simple to grasp. This is about the downing of a plane, that fell outside, or according to another translation, ¨behind¨ or ¨beyond¨ Enakievo. For quantity sake we could add at once that this is a long way from the MH17 crash site Grabovo (35 km), but this information is for obvious reasons not mentioned by the narrator.
Picking right these particular facts serves a clear purpose if the narrator wants to cast guilt on this character Igor Bezler. Relevancy is expected by most readers/viewers, so it is suggested these facts must have to do something with the downing of MH17, even when they in fact have not. Only a few very critical people will feel the narrator already has breached the quality and relation maxims.
Though only basic facts are given, actually the deception already starts with this selectively picking of information in order to link it to the MH17 downing. We shall see later on there is in fact a far more plausible explanation fitting the information of these taps when more researched information is added to the story.
II. Relation Bezler and victims explained
In our recipe for writing a story of guilt first some more selectively added information and interpretation frames were introduced to suggest an early relationship between the victim, the murder and the people who need to be put under suspicion. This part of the story could in this case be symbolized by another intercepted call that was released by the SBU, though later on, the socalled ¨birdie comes to you¨ tap.
The SBU starts this video by laying down a pre-established frame of guilt, putting in some demonization as well:
¨New evidence: the act of terror downing the civil jet-liner coordinated by Igor Bezler (aka ¨Bes¨ (Devil) lieutenant-colonel of GRU, Russia´s Military Intelligence Directorate.¨
This small quotation says quite a lot. The frame of guilt is supported by a statement from the category ¨mounting evidence¨, a soundbite we encounter quite a few times in the pro-Kiev reporting about the disaster. It seems to be reiterated time and time again to reinforce the frame of already established guilt still further, as repetition is obviously the key to good advertising.
Demonization is quite literally applied here. Bezler´s nickname is ¨devil¨ and his actions can therefore plausibly be described as acts of terror. (Bezler is obviously a ¨bad character¨ in this play).
Furthermore, direct Russian involvement is implied. We know at the evening of the disaster Ukrainian official Gerashchenko already pointed his finger to Putin right away urging the western powers for help in an epic battle of good against evil. This SBU text matches this idea perfectly, so it enhances the idea the manner maxim (the way information is formulated is understood by all the same way) has been met in this package.
The tapes resume with another piece of (mis)information, also visible in the headline of the video and maybe the most important act of deceit concerning this information package. It says the message Bezler receives from a ¨spotter¨ about an incoming plane (a ¨bird¨) has been transmitted just 2 minutes before the MH17 crash:
17.7.2014, 16:18 [Flight Recorder of the plane stopped at 16:20; HR]
2 minutes before tragedy [underscores added by SBU; HR]
Militant ¨Naimanets¨ reports to ´Bes´ [Bezler; HR] about detected plane in the air.¨
Bezler: Yes, Naimanets
Naimanets: Ptichnyk… Ptichka (¨bird¨) flew to you
Bezler: Did a ¨bird¨ fly to us?
Naimanets: Yes, she did. Alone, yet…
Bezler: Reconnaisance plane or a big one?
Naimanets: I can´t see behind the clouds. Too high.
Bezler: I see… Roger.
Bezler: Report to the commanders
After this conversation the SBU reiterates once more it was captured two minutes before the crash and there is no doubt it was this information that guided the downing of MH17:
¨The civil plane Boeing-777 of ´Malaysian Airways´ was shot down_
Two minutes after [larger font and underscores added by SBU; HR]
I. Bezler had reported the mentioned information to the commander.¨
So causality is suggested between the spotting and the shooting of MH17, but actually only on the basis of the quality maxim, the maxim that says in communication we are inclined to trust the narrator on his word (at first). Bezler reported a downed plane and, according to ¨new evidence¨. Bezler also received and passed on information about an incoming plane to the actual shooters, as is suggested: the ones shooting down MH17. So he ¨coordinated¨ this act of terror, as the SBU tries to make us believe.
But what if the reported information about the 2 minutes just isn´t true? Then we could see easily this event has nothing to do with the shooting of MH17 that took place on july 17th at 16:20 local time. We might conclude the spotter message may have something to do with that other downing Bezler was involved with, unrelated to MH17. Actually, based on content alone, it might have reported almost any other plane ever spotted by a rebel and caught on tape.
Spotter Naimanets also says the plane travelled ¨alone¨. From the facts we know MH17 flew through the airspace close to other civil airliners. Nevertheless he couldn´t see the plane because of the clouds. As a good soldier he reported it anyway, but it is doubtfull a Russian BUK without back-up from radar and command units would aim for this plane based on this information.
III. Intervention suggesting malicious intent
In the story the ¨Confessions¨ video displays, a direct intervention by the narrator occurs before adding more (deceptive) information. It is a comment made by the SBU, apparently meant to link the events of the first scene, with the simple facts about the shooting of a plane that fell beyond Enakievo, to the finding of debris and the victims of MH17:
¨Having inspected the scene of the airplane crash, terrorists decide that they have shot down a civil aircraft¨
It seems by this direct intervention an impression is conveyed that doesn´t follow from what is actually said. The narrative the rebels would have been becoming aware they made a mistake is something that emanates fully from the comment itself as it can nowwhere be deduced from the contents of the conversations in the taps.
Objectively one could observe the conversation about a downing of another plane has been linked suggestively to the findings on the horrendous scene after the MH17 crash, as if there is some connection between them. Furthermore this new ¨fact¨ is framed within the narrative a fatal mistake had been made.
Interestingly the first building block of the deceptive fatal mistake narrative is the manipulation of the deleted Strelkov_info message purporting an Ukrainian AN-26 transporter plane was shot down near the mine Progress. In our recipe for suspicion casting we could assign this to be scene III in which information accompanied with deceptive interpretations is selectively added. It is shown the people to be suspected destructed proof and they did this purposefully to conceil their involvement in the crime. Why this is a deceptive scene I have written down in another article, in which I lay down all fallacies and false assumptions behind this frame. See here.
Another intervention, but from outside this video, is casting guilt more directly. It´s a comment by neofascist politician Oleg Tiahnybok on twitter almost an hour before launch of the video, saying:
¨There is 100% proof that a passenger plane flying from Amsterdam to Malaysia was downed by terrorists of the Chernukhino checkpoint.¨
IV. Adding suggestive information: Some Majors and Greks
Then the taps resume with two new characters, ¨Major¨ and ¨Grek¨:
“Major”:These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
“Grek”: Yes, Major.
In fact it seems this tiny piece could well be related to the event from the first tapped conversation mentioned in this video. The rebels shot down a plane, not MH17, and shared some information about this event.
But then the second important deceptive manipulation of the information package transmitted can be detected. The next conversation between these two characters, allegedly the same persons, seems to be glued to the two lines before, as if these two conversations have a relation with each other. This impression is reinforced by the short time-interval the SBU is giving between the two conversations, 4:33 pm and 5:11 pm. So they seem to have occured 38 minutes apart.
In fact not only does it look like the events have no real relation with each other, it is also questionable these are really the same characters. The Grek from the previous piece is obvious a minion, submissively confirming the words of his superior saying twice ¨Yes, Major¨. Then the second Grek, the one from the following lines, seems to be higher in command than the second Major, as he is the one asking the questions.
Are these ¨Greks¨ and ¨Majors¨ the same persons? Is the second Major really a major? Major II seems to be a person who belongs to the reconnaissance group finding out what has happened with MH17, as he is ¨only surveying the scene¨. It looks like he is not a high-ranked officer, but someone reporting to Grek II.
That there were more ¨Greks¨ can also be read here. Second, it raises attention the second ¨Grek¨ is now put on stage as ¨Greek¨. A tiny mistake that shows the truth there are in fact two different ¨Greks¨ feautured here?
By the way, one of the Greks probably hadn´t the opportunity to engage in these telephonecalls allegedly on the 17th. He was in custody of the extremist Ukrainian battalion Azov at that moment.
“Major”: The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first “200” (code word for dead person). We have found the first “200”. A Civilian.
“Greek”: Well, what do you have there?
“Major”: In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.
“Greek”: Are many people there?
“Major”: Holy sh__t! The debris fell right into the yards (of homes).
“Greek”: What kind of aircraft?
“Major”: I haven’t ascertained this. I haven’t been to the main sight. I am only surveying the scene where the first bodies fell. There are the remains of internal brackets, seats and bodies.
“Greek”: Is there anything left of the weapon?
“Major”: Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.
“Greek”: Are there documents?
“Major”: Yes, of one Indonesian student. From a university in Thompson.
Of course it´s not that strange they found out these things, as the plane fell on territory they controlled. So it´s obvious, when those people were monitored, there would always be taps in which rebels communicated their findings after the MH17 downing.
So what is played out here is comprised of recordings about MH17, but apart from the suggestive impression the SBU tries to inflict, nothing in these conversations between the (new) ¨Major¨ and the (new) ¨Grek¨/¨Greek¨ seems to have any relation to the two parts of transscripted taps above about the Enakievo downing.
Then another tap about rebels finding out about the MH17 crash is shown:
Militant: Regarding the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez. It’s a civilian one. Fell down near Grabove. There are lots of corpses of women and children. The Cossacks are out there looking at all this. They say on TV it’s AN-26 transport plane, but they say it’s written Malaysia Airlines on the plane. What was it doing over the territory of Ukraine?
Nikolay Kozitsin (a Cossack commander): That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t be f…cking flying. There is a war going on.
Apparently, reading comments to this video made by pro-Kiev supporters, a message of regret would be conveyed here. We shot down this plane, but they shouldn´t have been flying there in the first place. The impression the viewers should get here is the mistaken perpetrators only want to justify themselves.
But let´s discard this suggestion and interpret what actually is said. Couldn´t it just be an outcry of someone in a kind of shock, after finding out a pretty heavy catastrophy has taken place? When one sees a kid doing some ¨stupid¨, dangerous thing, like falling from a wall, one might have the same state of mind, screaming: ¨But why on earth you had to climb on that wall in the first place?!¨
Besides, it is obvious these people know nothing about a shooting as they even got their – wrong – information from some news channel and react very surprised to that. 
Second, the connection between this conversation and the conversation between Major and Grek mentioning Chernukhino is reinforced by the use of the word ¨Cossacks¨. Actually Cossacks formed a pretty large part of the fighting forces as this article shows:
¨The Cossack factor (…)The supreme ataman asserted that about 5,000 Cossacks, citizens of Ukraine, are members of Cossack organizations in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions (together, the area is commonly known as Donbas). Apart from that, about 30,000 Cossacks from Russia “may come and do come” to help the separatists¨
So the Cossacks from Chernukhino involved in downing a plane, probably not MH17, could well be others than the Cossacks dispatched to search the crash site of Grabovo. Or maybe they are the same, but the events are either way not connected as they probably happened on various days. Of course this information is omitted in the SBU taps, breaching the quantity maxim once again. 
Showing deception by content analysis and research
A few times we have seen that adding more context and relevant facts provided by research shed more light about how the deception takes place. Additional research could be done to investigate if the information the Bezler taps convey could match passed events.
Official information shows which planes of the Ukrainian Airforce were downed or severely damaged in that period of time (NB: these are only the ones Ukraine confirmed). Also information provided by the rebels themselves could be researched.
The longlist of officially recognized losses provides these incidents:
Another list can be found here: http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/dblist.php?Country=UR&page=1
Looking at these lists the 16 July shooting of an Ukrainian SU-25 that fell (or was forced to land) near Gorlovka seems to be a good condidate.
“A Sukhoi jet was shot down over Gorlovka”; A Sukhoi jet was shot down over Gorlovka, it was leaving towards Mirgorod with a dense black smoke, it is not likely that it is going to make it.¨
In fact Gorlovka is located not very far north-west from Enakievo, so it could fit the information Bezler gave the plane fell ¨behind Enakievo¨, as seen from a Chernukino perspective (which is located even more to the east, see map).
Strelkov_info website, a pro-rebel source, mentions the damaged and smoking plane left for Mirgorod. This is a city a lot further to the north-west that is the home of the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade. So the purported information the plane fell ¨behind¨ Enakievo – in fact in the northwestern direction from the city, where Gorlovka is located – fits with the departing of the damaged plane in the direction of Mirgorod.
Apparently the plane flew some kilometers in northwestern direction after it was hit by the Chernukhino Cossacks, where it fell to the ground or was forced to land behind Enakievo near Gorlovka.
But who reveals the truth at the end of the plot?
A groundrule someone has to consider when executing a propaganda screenplay is that the first blow is often the most effective one. Ukraine has certainly kept this in mind when starting an Infowar after MH17 crashed. Within hours they issued a very plausible story of separatist guilt grounded on two building blocks, deceptively constructed as one information package to convey a message of a fatal mistake that had already been admitted as well.
Though with some effort it is possible to deconstruct this narrative, with the help of Information Manipulation Theory and research, this story has infested the minds of the (pro)western audiences up till today. Everbody seemed to know about the deleted Strelkov_info message and the intercepted confessions, both information craftly manipulated to cast suspicion in a efficient way. The fraudulent SBU/Bellingcat trail of a BUK dragged to a defined launchsite on the 17th, disseminating a message of ¨mounting evidence¨, made the suspicion-rate almost 100%.
As it constructed a frame of reinforcement, mentioned in part V of our recipe, it served as a starting point for every information package that came next. It is not an exaggeration to claim that in pro-NATO countries it is almost impossible to find a media account that deviates from this perspective, which started with the video of the intercepted phone calls examined in this article.
When established that the origin of this tale of guilt can be found in a deceptive information package, one could try to speculate about the motives the manipulators had to disseminate it. At least it can be asserted without doubt they were eager to hang te separatists, guilty or not guilty. The story of casting guilt was played out immediately and with clear efforts put in by state officials like Tymchuk, Gerashchenko, Tahnybok and lesser gods of the Ukrainian Olympus.
Of course in a war truth perishes first and there is also a clear interest to divert any suspicion from oneself, also if not-guilty. In the most benign case imaginable the Ukrainians saw an opportunity to manipulate the meaning of the deleted Strelkov_info message and to create as fast as they could a well designed video with confessions made up by intercepted conversations taken from other days. If this scenario were true, this must have taken them only a few hours.
On the other hand, the small amount of time the Ukrainians obviously needed to concoct the narrative with this fatal mistake building blocks could also point to another direction. It would become plausible some planning in advance may have happened. But if the SBU could foresee rebel news outlets would provide a story based on false assumptions their militants shot down a plane (remember note ) and the video with the taps was already (partly) at hand, this would mean a sinister scenario could have laid the groundwork for playing out this screenplay.
In each case these taps may very well be just another bracket in the chain of false evidence the Ukrainian secret service seemed to have constructed carefully. But of course readers could assess for themselves if the writer of the story (s)he is reading now, fullfills all maxims to meet the cooperative principle of mutual understanding clear information. Maybe they can even try to use the method layed out here to help perform a critical investigation of the ¨Khmuryi taps¨ and the ¨Get-away taps¨ (see Appendix).
 A screenplay written after a book of the famous Dutch writer Harry Mulish plays with this phenomenon and won an Academy Award with it. In ¨The Assault¨ a collaborator with the nazis is murdered by the resistance. Because the dead body of this man is found in front of the house of the family of protagonist Anton, he and his family are captured and their home is burned to the ground. Except Anton himself his family perishes in the deathcamps, because the nazis made a connection between the murder and the place where the body was found, though the people living there had nothing to do with the act. That such a connection can raise (possibly undeserved) suspicion is all the more clear when MH17 crashed in rebel controlled territory.
 Interesting, and not in favor of the rebels: these last two characters don´t seem to know civilians were flying over Ukrainian airspace.
 By the way, also technical analysis performed by Michael Kobs showed this particular conversation was probably manipulated by the SBU:
¨Die Tonspur von Kozitsin ist derart offensichtlich zerstückelt (Abb. 9), dass man beim besten Willen nicht sagen kann, ob die Gesprächsfetzen jemals in dieser Reihenfolge gesagt wurden. Und da man nicht sagen kann, wer der „Rebell“ ist, ob das Gespräch je stattgefunden hat, ob der einzelne Gesprächsteilnehmer seine Worte je in dieser Reihenfolge und diesem Sinnzusammenhang gesagt hat und ob er sie zur angegebenen Zeit gesagt hat, ist die Beweiskraft höchst fragwürdig. Kurz, ein Gespräch zwischen Kozitsin und dem Weihnachtsmann könnte nicht überzeugender gestaltet sein.¨
The Bellingcat Launch Site, Michael Kobs, (p. 5; See also p. 5-8 for Bezler recordings)
Other source here
The method layed down here, text analysis based on a theoretical framework backed up by social-media research, leaves this further aside for the moment.
Appendix: list of videos containing intercepted telephonecalls
Birdie comes to you taps:
(25 July, in English) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emfVpkBKoow
Video Bezler, Kozytsin, Major, Grek, confession tapes
Original SBU (22:11 EEST): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5E8kDo2n6g
In English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbyZYgSXdyw
JIT call for witness: Get-away taps
(30 march 2015, from 7:20, Russian spoken with English subtitles) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olQNpTxSnTo