So let’s try this again. My MacBook Pro appears to be fine. Clock and calendar are correct, everything is where it should be, I think I just lost sight of where the battery was in regard to its charge and it ran down on me. Anyhow, it was a weird day. All the major reporters and analysts covering Russia turned it up way past 11 this AM because the Duma started passing all sorts of weird stuff. A law that makes it illegal for Russian military personnel to surrender, as well as to refuse to fight and a few other things. Then it fast tracked legislation regarding general mobilization and war. Before that had even cleared the upper chamber and been signed it was posted on an outward facing website as signed into law. Also, the LPR and DPR announced they would be holding referenda this week to formally join Russia, or, as they’re putting it, re-join Russia, as will Zaporizhzhia. And this was all topped off by the announcement that Putin would be giving an address at 8 PM Moscow time and that when he was done, Minister of Defense Shoigu would speak. It looked something like this:
It is expected that Russian president Vladimir Putin makes a special statement on Ukraine today at 20-00 msk, after that a statement from minister of defence Sergey Shoygu is expected
— Elena Chernenko (@ElenaChernenko) September 20, 2022
Kremlin pool reporters now saying Shoigu will speak alongside Putin. https://t.co/W61GiMnyor
— max seddon (@maxseddon) September 20, 2022
The Carnegie Endowment’s Tatyana Stanovaya made this prediction:
Tatyana @Stanovaya whose predictions of the war have sadly for all of us been consistently true says the Kremlin with the Duma vote today and referendum announcement is gearing up for an "all-out war" unless Ukraine and the West back down.
— Nataliya Vasilyeva (@Nat_Vasilyeva) September 20, 2022
And, of course, the usual panic set in among Russians who might have to actually fight Putin’s losing cause.
The Ukrainian MOD basically said: “Want some, come get some!”
Ruscist reconstructionists in the occupied territories never tire of repeating the Nazi referendum on the Anschluss of Austria. They are expecting 1938 results. Instead they will get Hitler’s 1945 outcome.
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) September 20, 2022
Then about 9 Moscow time, RT’s editor ordered all Russians to bed!
“Go to sleep,” RT editor Margarita Simonyan writes. Seems like we may not be getting a Putin speech today https://t.co/xiOU6vBOeP
— max seddon (@maxseddon) September 20, 2022
So just your average Tuesday!
Before we move on, my assessment here is that the plan was, and may still be, that Putin is going to state that the LPR and DPR and other Russian occupied parts of Ukraine are all historically really part of Russia. Now that Ukraine has counter attacked and pushed Russia way back in Kharkiv, is making progress in Kherson, and appears to be gearing up to continue the push from Kharkiv east and south, Ukraine has invaded Russia. And, so, reluctantly, Putin has no choice but to declare war and move to a more general if not a fully general mobilization to repel the Ukrainian Banderite NAZI invaders. Invaders who are being backed and supported by NATO and are committing the most horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Russian people.
While all of that is bullshit and would continue to be bullshit if he says it, just releases it as a press statement, or it is put into an interpretive dance. But the thinking is that Putin’s concept of what is happening and what he needs to do is rooted in a seemingly unshakeable belief that if Putin suddenly calls what he is doing a defensive war against invasion, then NATO will fracture and stop supporting Ukraine. This is part of his overall thinking that NATO members will simply get tired of supporting Ukraine and just drift away over time. I don’t think this will work, but I’m also not fully enthralled by an alternative history and mythology I helped promote and now can no longer discern from actual reality.
None of that happened today because Putin’s address was called off. So we wait to see what the Moscow Circus has for us tomorrow.
And now back to last night’s post, but today! After the jump!
Sunday night several of you asked if I could address how to counter information warfare. So after we run through the basics tonight, I’ll do my best to answer that question.
Here is President Zelenskyy’s address from earlier today. Video below, English transcript after the jump:
I’ve just taken part in a high-level meeting on food security. This meeting took place within the regular UN General Assembly.
The topic of food security is strategically important for our country. This is where we have – and must retain – a global role. This is what gives us economic strength and strengthens our moral leadership. The leadership of people who help others even when they themselves are in extremely difficult circumstances.
We participate in the implementation of the UN World Food Programme and help African countries. We have resumed our seaborne agricultural exports, and this enables us to export our agricultural products to countries already on three continents.
We are working on opening the markets of Latin America and other important parts of the world for our producers.
Tomorrow I will participate in the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly. Obviously, in a video format. But no matter what the format is, the position of our state will sound, as always, clearly and strongly. Especially since the visit of the First Lady of Ukraine to the United States has already begun, meetings within the UN General Assembly have begun.
Olena has already met with the First Ladies of Poland and Lithuania – this is our format of the Lublin Triangle. And she also met nine wives of presidents and prime ministers from different countries at the Ukrainian Institute of America in the framework of the Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the first such event within our cooperation format. I expect important decisions after the meetings of Prime Minister of Ukraine Shmyhal with the leaders of the states in the framework of the General Assembly.
Today I spoke with the American friends of our country within the Clinton Global Initiative. And also with representatives of the leading American investment circles. I felt a great interest in Ukraine, in our reconstruction, in our capabilities. Unequivocal faith in Ukraine. Good knowledge of the situation in our country. We are developing our relations with the US at all levels.
I spoke with President of Türkiye Erdoğan. The key topic is security.
Head of the Office Andriy Yermak had another conversation with US President’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan today. A very useful, substantive and efficient conversation.
We continue stabilization measures in the areas liberated from the Russian occupation. The regular facts of Russian atrocities are recorded – people show where the occupiers had torture chambers, where they hid the bodies of the murdered, testify about who helped the occupiers.
I am thankful to all law enforcement officers involved in establishing the truth about the crimes of the occupiers. I am thankful to everyone who helps them. This is a colossal job that is needed for the sake of justice, for the sake of punishing everyone guilty of crimes against Ukrainians.
The situation on the frontline clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine. Our defenders very carefully and very bravely fulfill the tasks set by their commanders.
Today, I would like to particularly note the 81st separate airborne assault brigade for its courage in liberating settlements in the Donetsk region. And also the 93rd separate mechanized brigade – for the heroic defense of Bakhmut and Soledar. Thank you! Gratitude to all our heroes!
Of course, today there is quite high-profile news from Russia. Lots of questions about this. But what actually happened? What did we hear that had not been heard before?
Our positions are clear and well known. Only this should interest us. Not what sounds somewhere, but what is our task.
More support for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, more support for intelligence, more support for the Special Operations Forces, more support for the Security Service of Ukraine, for the National Guard, for the police, for the border guards – for everyone who is gradually restoring our territorial integrity.
Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.
We inform all subjects of international relations about what is happening. And we see understanding not only from our partners, but also from those states that tried to stay away from our struggle. There will be steps in support of Ukraine in such circumstances from key international associations as well.
So let’s maintain the pressure. Let’s preserve unity. Let’s defend Ukraine. We are liberating our land. And we are not showing any signs of weakness.
And I thank all friends and partners of Ukraine for today’s mass principled firm condemnation of Russia’s attempts to stage new sham referenda.
Glory to everyone who defends our state!
Glory to our beautiful people!
Glory to Ukraine!
Here is the British MOD’s assessment for today:
Here is former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s most recent assessment of the situations in Izium and Kherson:
IZIUM /2345 UTC 19 SEP/ RU contact reports corroborate earlier info that UKR has established & exploited crossings of the Donets & Oskil Rivers. Geolocated photographs confirm that UKR has liberated the important junction town of Yarova; this gain exposes RU positions in Lyman. pic.twitter.com/6Mg7OzTkyA
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) September 19, 2022
KHERSON/1215 UTC 20 SEP/ Over the last 24 hrs, UKR Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) missions destroyed 5 Russian air defense complexes. With RU Air Defense impacted, UKR conducted 15 Close Air Support missions against RU troop concentrations in the Kherson AO. pic.twitter.com/fVPaFmKpKH
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) September 20, 2022
I know there’s some frustration with his analysis, including his maps. Let me clarify a couple of things. First, this is how military intelligence, at least US military intelligence presents these things. You’ll notice that he indicates sources, but he doesn’t provide a specific detailed citation. That’s because this isn’t an academic paper. When he references Russian communications, I can guarantee that some of the information is coming from here:
Russian WarGonzo reports that Lyman, which has been under 'siege' for about two weeks now, is currently being attacked from two sides. Cites words of the "defenders": "We have losses". pic.twitter.com/W3bDqEJ8wQ
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) September 19, 2022
No info in Russian sources at the moment. Last mention was 2 hours ago saying Belohorivka is under Ukrainian control from Colonelcassad. That's 10km from Lysychansk. But it was the same yesterday. https://t.co/T35ZCWjjwW pic.twitter.com/0GHcm2PZri
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) September 19, 2022
Pro-Russian "Vostok" battalion commander Aleksandr Khodakovsky says Ukraine continues transferring forces in preparation for further offensives in such a way that prevents Russians from even thinking of advancing themselves. https://t.co/SRVdz0PVyn pic.twitter.com/FmbzRROzgM
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) September 19, 2022
Hope that clears that up a bit.
So this happened!
The Wagner website has been hacked:
“Ukrainian IT Army here. We now have your website personal data. Welcome to Ukraine. We’re waiting for you 😈” pic.twitter.com/iPOSNW6TVe
— Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko) September 19, 2022
And I think that’s a good entry point to a brief attempt to satisfy your curiosity regarding how to counter information warfare. The entire point of information warfare is to influence the targets. Sometimes that is to try to mobilize that audience to do something they might want to do, but ordinarily wouldn’t. In social learning we’d call this the promotion of definitions that neutralize prohibitions against certain behaviors. A good chunk of the Russian information warfare directed at Americans over the past eight years or so has been intended to create a permissive environment for some Americans to act on their most extreme, negative, and destructive impulses. Other messaging is intended to demoralize and thereby demobilize the audience from taking action. This would be the equivalent to what is referred to in social learning as creating definitions unfavorable that then prevent action.
Leaving the social behavioral theory aside, another element is to shock the targets. Seizing an entire information node, one that is considered critical, and then threatening to or actually disseminating the protected information from that node creates that type of shock. What’s just happened to the Wagner site, especially if the hackers decide to release the information, is intended to shock Prigozhin and his mercenaries, which itself has a demoralizing and demobilizing effect.
So how do you counter this. Some of it is to simply flip the script. Russian hackers, usually with the GRU, but also with Russian organized crime have a long history of doing this. Doing it to them is the informational equivalent of punching them in the nose.
Another way is to do what the Fellas/NAFO bubbas and bubbettes are doing. They are basically flooding the informational space, which overwhelms the Russian messaging. And it doesn’t matter if that Russian messaging is factual though slanted or outright disinformation, misinformation, and/or agitprop. Flooding the information space overwhelms the ability of the original message to be embedded because it surrounds it with so much counter-information. As a result, the informational hooks can’t be set in the intended targets.
You all may recall Bannon’s line about flooding the zone with shit. The zone he’s referring to is the informational domain. Flooding it meant putting so much material out there, some factual if slanted, most of it misinformation, disinformation, and agitprop, that it would overwhelm the news media’s ability to actually deal with it. This would then train the publishers and producers, the editors in chief and managing editors, the assignment editors, and the reporters to focus on what the people creating the information overload wanted them to focus on.
What the Fellas/NAFO have demonstrated is that this process can be reversed in an almost aikido like way. By taking the messaging that the Russians are attempting to plant, moving with it, and overwhelming it with information that wraps it all up and makes it impossible to easily travel through the Information Domain. This effectively neutralizes it. When a Fella identifies a target to counter, they invoke NAFO’s Article V – a play on NATO’s Article V – using a hashtag and all the Fellas who can respond do. Which just drowns out the initial messaging. Their in joke is that they’re using the SuperBonker 9000 weapon system to do this.
I’ve covered the Fellas a few times here before, but here’s a recent piece by DW about them:
A single tweet in May launched an online movement that has become the kryptonite of the pro-Russian trolls that have long ruled corners of the internet.
“For many years, Russia has been waging a serious information war globally,” said Ivana Stradner, a NAFO member, advisor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and writer for the Kyiv Post newspaper.
This information war imbalance has been corrected to an extent by NAFO, or the North Atlantic Fella Organization, a play on NATO that creates humorous memes to satirize Russian claims, for example, that it is not invading Ukraine but simply liberating it from Nazis — ironic considering Ukraine has a Jewish president.
With Russia justifying its invasion as a pushback against NATO expansion, the fellas like to claim that “NAFO expansion is non-negotiable.”
NAFO rose up spontaneously in May when the Twitter account @Kama_Kamilia offered a custom “fella” — a Shiba Inu dog avatar — to collect donations to the Georgian Legion that supports the Ukrainian military.
A gender-neutral dog cartoon character inspired by the long-running “doge” internet meme, the fella soon became the mascot for pro-Ukrainian mockery of “vatniks” who spearhead Russian propaganda online.
An especial focus is the “whataboutism” of professed anti-imperialists who justify Russian aggression in light of past NATO-led wars in the Balkans or Iraq.
One month after NAFO was born, Russian ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov was drawn into a debate with a pack of fellas that significantly raised their profile across the internet.
Jordan Maris, head of the #NAFO delegation to the European Parliament, where he also works as a researcher, said previous attempts to combat Russian propaganda with truth were rarely effective.
“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even put its trousers on,” Maris told DW, referring to a famous quote often attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
So why are the NAFO memes mocking pro-Russian accounts so powerful?
“We aren’t trying to disprove their propaganda, because it’s extremely easy to make up lies and very hard to disprove them,” he explained. “Instead we are openly mocking them.”
Stradner said that countering official Russian narratives with ridiculous cartoon dogs has been effective, in part, because “humor is tremendously important for the Russian society.”
Instead of debunking Russian claims, NAFO launches memes against Russian diplomats that are “so absurd that they cannot really counter that and respond,” she said. “This is where I think NAFO is doing quite a marvelous job.”
There’s much more at the link, including the picture below of a NAFO sponsored Ukrainian tank:
The takeaway here is that authentic, meaningful responses if directed at the right audiences and then amplified can make a major difference. Basically overwhelming the disinformation, misinformation, and/or agitprop.
— Pete (@BravoKilo6464) July 15, 2022
I think that’s far more than enough for tonight. And last night too!
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