Part 1, preface: Generating “mounting evidence” in 5 examples
In the information war that was ignited moments after MH17 crashed, a lot of stories appeared in (pro)western mainstream and social media in which statements from separatists were misinterpreted. This was done to construct a story that actually an implicit admission of guilt was conveyed. Actually in all cases the conclusion was based on rather biased and sloppy thinking or even on deceitful intentions.
In a series of blogposts I will show 5 examples of this way of thinking. Topic of the first part, in this blogpost, will be a brief explanation how biased, sloppy and unsound reasoning was used to create evidence against the separatists. Of course, the quintessential example will be mentioned shortly – the famous retracted message about a downing of an AN-26 on a message board that was in name dedicated to DPR commander Igor Strelkov.
Also the interview Vice reporter Simon Ostrovksy had with Cossack commander Nikolay Kozytsin will be reviewed in this first part of the series. Kozytsin played his part in that other famous cornerstone of the “fatal mistake narrative”, the video of the Ukrainian secret service (SBU) with intercepted calls, published 6 hours after MH17 crashed..
This series “How to use sloppy thinking for disinformation” also contains the following blogposts:
Of course, most important example of disingenious thinking to provide evidence about separatist guilt was the story that was fabricated around the retraction of a posting from proseparatist message board “Strelkov_info”. In two blogposts I deconstructed the narrative that commander of the DPR forces, Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, had deleted a posting in which he tacitly admitted having shot down a Ukrainian cargo plane AN-26, which appeared to be flight MH17 later on.
One of the sources behind this apparent fabrication was proKiev propaganda organization Euromaydan, that posted a message on Facebook only 54 minutes after the Strelkov_info message board – a fansite, not related to the commander himself – posted the information they had retrieved from other sources on social media.
“Apparently, the terrorists shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane. Strelkov brags on Vkontakte. There are videos.”
Also Ukraine Crisis Media Center followed with a posting mentioning that:
“Terrorists probably mistook passenger plane of Malaysia airlines for Ukrainian transport aircraft.”
Also many others were very eager to draw the wrong conclusions, ie. Jeffrey Lewis, aka ArmsControlWonk, part of the anti-Russian OSINT community.
Consensus of opinion throughout the (pro)western world. Kiev propagandists, the Ukrainian secret service, reporters, newspapers and also the State Department assure that backgound of the MH17 crash was based on a fatal mistake. Disinformation and fake intercepts were enough to make this narrative accepted.
The constructed narrative spread itself over the internet and finally even ended up in a “Note of Suspicion” that the Ukrainian judiciary wrote about Igor Strelkov Girkin (see screengrab below).
The use of certain hidden premisses, false assumptions and unsound logic was behind the construction of this story, as I wrote in my first blogpost about this topic. It was assumed Strelkov himself had written the report about a downing of an AN-26, with his fingers still on the trigger.
Statements from a source high up in the chain of command suggested knowledgde of inside information close to the event and so it was preconceived that the information arrived from first-hand witnesses implicated in an actual downing. At the same time other possibilities – ie. (official) sources receiving information from others, local residents for example – were cancelled out.
This is a method that is repeated over and over again, as we shall see in the following parts of this series of blogposts.
Another example of the recipe used, was shown by German filmmaker and engineer Micha Kobs. In his elaborate report “Haunt the Buk”, p11, he wrote about an interview that Vice reporter Simon Ostrovsky had with Nikolay Kozytsin, the Cossack commander that played a role in the intercepted conversations that the SBU published within 6 hours after the crash.
Below you will find screenshots from the conversation, as copied from the Kobs report.
He replied “не скажу”. Of course “no comment” sounds a little guiltier than the quite simple translation “don’t know”.
Anyway, the online translation of dic.academic.ru might help with all the possible translations.
Here is one example of the use:
A: Который час?
B: Я вам не скажу-у меня неm часов.
A: What time is it?
B: I couldn’t tell you (I don’t know because I’m not wearing a watch)
All the elements are present in this example. Source is a separatist high up in the chain of command, so there can be made assumptions about a certain level of first-hand knowledgde about the event; There is a statement from this source, from which allegedly can be derived – by subjective conjecturing towards a preconceived idea of guilt – that he tacitly also admits this guilt; Then a slight manipulation of the translation of his wordings mixed with these elements reenforces the suspicion.
The circular reasoning involved holds as an axiom that because a particular interrogated separatist belongs to a guilty party, also all his statements and actions should or could be interpreted as manifestations of this guilt. The conclusion drawn from this faulty, biased interpretation is presented as just another example of this guilt, adding to the impression evidence is mounting.
I will present 4 examples more that followed more or less the same path of misinterpretation and manipulation, reenforced by unsound logic, creating – as was said – mounting evidence that separatists were involved in downing the wrong plane. Also these 4 examples played an important role in the information space from which ordinary citizens had to draw conclusions about the backgrounds of the MH17 disaster.
Its very important to give this attention. Apart from the false evidence emanating from the Strelkov_info fabrication, also one other example of the 5 other cases described here, entered the official complaint against the Russian Federation that Ukraine sent in to the International Criminal Court of Justice (see part 4 of this series).
It is not my duty to exonerate or incriminate any party here. However, evidence should be sound and beyond doubt. For me the most important motivation is that stories like these permeate the collective memory and in that way become part of the narrative. And so of our history. Moreover, its my strong desire to live under an honest version of the Rule of Law.
With this blogpost I try to establish a counterfactual story as a wall, how small it may be, against the threat that false evidence enters the collective mind of humanity.
This series also contains the following blogposts: