Something which many have observed is that there is a bit of a .. dysjunction between what we might tactfully term ‘enthusiasm’ about Ukraine ‘driving back’ Russia, being able to ‘win’ the war, etc. etc. … and the actual facts of the conflict as they become apparent day to day.
That is natural. People have a side that is the underdog – and everybody likes an underdog, especially if it has been attacked.
We also have a natural desire to believe ‘Good News’. The Ukrainians have weaponized this (and to be sure – this is not something unique to them. Pretty much every power or group in history has done something similar even where they are winning), and put out some very, very “would make for an excellent movie” style ‘information’ that has later turned out to be almost unbelievable … precisely because it actually was, as it happened, blatantly false.
Some of that may even not be deliberate – but the result of that much-invoked concept ‘the fog of war’. But much of it almost certainly is, at best, ‘willfully’ ignorant of the actual realities being avoided in the process.
And, as I say – this is not a specific thing to the Ukrainians, it is not meant as some sui generis moral injunction against them alone. If I or anybody else was in a position of my country being invaded, and all I could do to try and keep the fire alive and enlist desperately needed foreign assistance was entirely artificially manufacture a narrative of ‘we’re already unbelievably winning!’ – well, it is not hard to see how these things take hold.
However, as the Russian advance continues to grind from East to West, as Cities fall or are encircled in areas that were supposedly victoriously retaken by the Ukrainians – and as contemptuous remarks about Russian troops behaving like WWII Soviet Pulp depictions and/or Orcs as cannon-fodder [i.e. incapable of complex thought, tactics, and therefore victory] … give way to what appears to be a rather impressive operational double-envelopment which cuts off Ukraine’s biggest concentration of forces in the East …
The question is left hanging: how are the people who are currently still enthusiastically cheering on Ukraine as the ‘plucky little country that could!’ going to react to all of this?
At present, people sharing facts about the Ukrainian military situation are easy to dismiss as ‘puppets’ of Putin – as Kremlin-sponsored bots, and all the rest of it. If you don’t like what you hear, you simply say that it is false and malicious propaganda.
However, sooner rather than later, this conflict is going to produce its own spectacle of a ‘Comical Ali’ (also known as ‘Baghdad Bob’ – and more accurately as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Minister of Information under Saddam Hussein in Iraq).
Apparently, many are too young to recall this person – but we remember well the circumstances in 2003, wherein this Governmental mouthpiece would give the most outlandish briefings. Boldly declaring that American troops were dying, defecting, deserting in the hundreds if not the thousands – and that they were nowhere near cities or strongpoints which had, in fact, fallen or become the subject of fierce fighting earlier in the day or week aforehand.
This reached apexes of ridicularity when he tried the *same thing* in Baghdad – continuing to insist that the city was safe and that the invaders were / had been repulsed … even as you could begin to see American armour appearing *literally in the background* of where he was standing.
This is where we are heading with Ukraine and the ‘piquant’ informational picture coming out of various people speaking about it now.
Then, as now, the side getting invaded had a very … piquant propaganda engine dedicated to convincing people they were winning.
The major difference now is that instead of Comical Ali being ridiculed every time he gets up to speak – people are enthusiastically buying into that narrative.
We are, as it were, on the ‘other side of the glass’ from where we used to be.