The number of people across the world looking on in horror and willing to amplify Ukrainian messaging vastly outnumbers the dwindling cohort of useless idiots who will push pro-Russia messages. The country’s supposedly unassailable info ops are reduced to noise on the sidelines. This is true even within Russia, where Putin enjoys huge control over state media, keeps independent journalism on a tight leash, and has muted most of social media. There are limits to what Putin can get the Russian population to believe. People living in countries with controlled media are not stupid: they quickly learn to take everything they hear with a pinch of salt.
Putin cannot manufacture pictures of cheering Ukranians welcoming their liberators – they simply don’t exist. He is unable to show anything from the “special military operation”, which is all Russian outlets are allowed to call the invasion. But Russia and Ukraine are close – people share relatives, friends and more – and, on the quiet, Russians are hearing what is happening. Influencers within Russia, normally well outside the usual opposition to Putin, are calling the invasion a “war” to their followers – who often number in their millions. When you have spent months telling your people their Ukrainian neighbours are their people, it becomes impossible to justify bombing them for your own ego. [Continue reading…]