In his 1979 book The Third World War: August 1985, General Sir John Hackett identified that the public generally disregards the possibility of war. He wrote about the role media embedded in combat units would play in his hypothetical war, bringing home different aspects of the conflict from what had been experienced in previous wars. What he didn’t predict was the role of mobile devices sending video and photographs from war zones like those we see on social media posts from Ukraine.
At the time, when I was returning to Iowa after leaving military service in West Germany, Hackett’s book was a page from the lives of everyone like me who participated in making battle plans to defend Western Europe as Soviet army units attempted to penetrate the Fulda Gap. Hackett was right about new methods of reporting from war zones. The experience is more immediate after the rise of Twitter and social media. It changes everything.
It is difficult to winnow kernels of fact from streams of social media. While something real goes into images posted there, their meaning and veracity, is an open question. It is not helpful that certain photos, like those of children in a bomb shelter, get the most views. I mean photos like this.
We should take video and photographs coming out of Ukraine with a grain of salt. We should resist confirmation bias and let the events tell their own story. That may not be possible, yet it is important to how we determine what political action our country should be taking.
For example, is this photograph posted on Twitter real or fake? I separated it from the accompanying text which appears below.
The post appears to be real. While the reliability of this reporter is known, there has been an attempt to create a fake profile of him as part of a larger disinformation campaign by the aggressors.
Most reasonable people know social media posts are hardly unbiased information. We should remind ourselves as they become a major source of information about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.