The English theologian and philosopher William of Ockham (1285-1347) explained that the number of entities required to explain an event must not be multiplied beyond necessity. This is the famous Ockham’s razor, which, more simply expressed, says that the simplest explanation of a thing is generally the true or correct explanation. It is not a typically accepted excuse that a dog ate a student’s homework. Therefore, it is even less likely that an alien canine species from Mars intercepted the student on his way to school and feasted on his assignment. No, the truth — the most likely explanation — is that the student simply failed to complete the work. This rational principle thus insists that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence; without which the hearer is not obliged to accept as true the fantastic claim.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine (24 February 2022), the Ukrainian government and media have made some truly extraordinary claims of the exploits of the Ukrainian military, of the armed civilian resistance, and of the behaviour of Russian soldiers. In the beginning they presented us with the ‘Ghost of Kyiv,’ an unnamed fighter jet pilot who was single-handedly defending the Ukrainian capital in the air twenty-four hours a day — shooting down everything Russia threw at the city. In the streets below, people could sleep in peace, safe in the knowledge this mythical hero — a true superman — was facing down the entire might of the Russian Air Force. This ghost was of course a myth. He never existed. Then, out in the Black Sea, there were the servicemen on Snake Island who, when contacted by the Russian warship Moskva, defiantly replied: ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself,’ before being fired upon and killed. Ukrainians puffed out their chests with pride to hear this tale of giants. But even this was a lie. The servicemen turned up alive, prisoners of the Russian Navy.
Righteous victims do not need to tell lies. As the innocent victims of foreign aggression, they have innocence on their side. In war, only the bad guys need to hide their deeds behind a veil of propaganda and lies. Yet, Kyiv has been caught in an entire web of lies and deceit, and it has been spinning this web from the start of the war. In fact, the evidence would suggest many of these fantastic dramas were written and rehearsed months before the Russian invasion began. With the help of the CIA and Britain’s MI6, the Ukrainian government put together an entire compendium of propagandistic fables ready for dissemination as soon as they were required.
Hundreds of thousands of NATO dollars have been spent in Ukraine on public relations; on PR firms connected to western intelligence agencies which have constructed a ready-made narrative for the western media — the purpose of which has been to present the Ukrainians as whiter-than-white victims fighting for freedom, democracy, and the American way, and the Russians as subhuman ‘orcs’ and ‘marauders’ raping and murdering their way across a wholly innocent and defenceless ‘western’ nation. Pretty blonde haired and blue eyed female Ukrainian journalists, trained in military intelligence media programmes like Britain’s Institute for Statecraft, have been given platforms in American, British, and European newspapers and television networks to give immediate and highly emotive reports — in English — to western audiences. All of this was in place well before the Russians crossed the frontier.
This theatre of the information war was from the very beginning put in place to serve the purposes of western anti-Russian propaganda. It would function as a smokescreen to hide the ugliest inconvenient facts — the 2014 right-wing coup, the Nazi regiments in the Ukrainian army, Kyiv’s ethnic cleansing of Russians in Donbas, and the state-sanctioned terror campaign of the national-socialist Azov and Tornado battalions — and afford the US-NATO narrative a headstart in the West to reinforce the righteousness of a war against Russia. A good lie, as the saying goes, is halfway around the world before the truth has its boots on.
Naturally, when first confronted with an extraordinary tale, the rational listener must be prepared to give the teller the benefit of the doubt. The story they are telling might be true. This was very much the case on 6 March (2022) when Radio Free Europe, a notorious CIA instrument of ‘black propaganda’ during the Cold War, reported the shelling of a humanitarian corridor in Kyiv that killed a woman and her two children. This was caught on camera. The Radio Free Europe cameraman just so happened to have his camera pointed in the direction of where a Russian shell would land — an almost unrealistic coincidence most war correspondents never get in their entire careers. But this seems to have happened, and this cameraman seems to have been in the right place at the right time. Here, on camera, the western news showed the evil of Russia. The camera doesn’t lie!
On 3 April, the whole world was rocked at the news of a massacre and mass graves in Irpin and Bucha north of Kyiv; atrocities that were discovered when the Russians had withdrawn from the area. Western corporate media was awash with images of dead civilians, some with their hands tied behind their backs, strewn over the streets and heaped up in alleyways. This was a hellish scene, but it certainly didn’t stand up to much scrutiny. The Russian army had left seventy-two hours before the atrocity was ‘discovered’ — and this after the mayor had returned to the town and proclaimed its liberation and the Ukrainian security services had conducted a sweep of the area looking for ‘saboteurs’ and collaborators. It did not help that the many of the dead were wearing white armbands and were found with Russian army humanitarian boxes. There had indeed been a massacre, but the question of who had perpetrated it led to some troubling conclusions.
It has been far from easy for western media consumers to continue to give these fabulous tales the benefit of the doubt. In spite of the $33 billion ‘lethal aid’ package from the United States and the $9 billion a month from NATO, the propaganda — or the ‘information war’ — of the Zelenskyy regime is fast coming undone. But rather than come clean, the machine has been turned up a notch; aiming to strike the emotions of the western audiences right where it hurts — women and children.
Inna Sovsun, a Ukrainian parliamentarian, posted to Twitter on 1 May the harrowing details of a Russian war crime:
Russians killed a woman. Then they tied her live child to her corpse… and put a bomb between them. When rescue workers tried to save the child, the mine detonated.Inna Sovsun, Twitter (1 May 2022)
What an awful story! What a truly unbelievable story! Russian soldiers, the soldiers of a professional army with a chain of command, murdered a woman (possible) and strapped her still-living child to her before risking their lives to place an explosive between the mother and child (possible, but not very likely)? And the bomb was good enough not to detonate with the struggling of the helpless babe, but wait patiently for rescue workers (oh come off the grass!). But Ms Sovsun is sure of this because the fable was ‘confirmed by the Ukrainian Minister of Defence’ — the same Minister of Defence, Oleksiy Reznikov, who confirmed the Ghost of Kyiv, the martyrdom of the heroic servicemen of Snake Island, and the Russian crimes at Irpin and Bucha!
On the list of things that did not happen in this conflict, ugly as it is, following Ockham’s razor, is this utterly fictional atrocity. Of course, it was a story reported to Sovsun. She did not see it with her own eyes, she did not see a picture, she was not given any evidence — and neither did she offer any. Someone somewhere said it happened, it involved a mother — the martyr’s martyr — and an innocent little Ukrainian baby, and so without any evidence whatsoever it is reported as news. It is propaganda. Like the fib of Russian women telling their boyfriends and husbands to rape Ukrainian women and girls, it is war propaganda. Nothing more.
What is true, however, is that Inna Sovsun gained her seat in the Kyiv parliament immediately after the 2014 CIA-backed right-wing coup. She had no political experience and yet was awarded — after the violation of the Constitution and the removal of a democratically elected government — with a ministerial brief. And Sovsun has not been the only person playing this dirty little game. Lesia Vasylenko, a parliamentarian from the same party with the same political credentials, shared the traumatic scribble of a child in a tweet in which she wrote:
This is how an 11 year old boy sees the world after having been raped by [a] Russia soldier in front of his mother. I find it hard to read reports like this, even harder to tweet about them, and absolutely impossible to remain silent. The world must know the truth.Lesia Vasylenko, Twitter (1 May 2022)
The world must know the truth! Indeed. Quite coincidentally, this story of horror was posted on 1 May too, hinting at some level of coordination between the two deputies. Yes, a child may have been raped by a soldier. Horrible and disgusting things happen in war. This story is possibly true. But it was done — for added effect (on the reader) — in front of his mother. The Russians are just this beastly. Apparently. Again, all we have is a dark scribble in black crayon. No name, no place, no photo, no nothing — just an assertion; a fabulous tale the reader is meant to accept because it comes from political neophytes who benefited from a CIA-backed right-wing coup in the context of a geopolitical power struggle that led to a NATO-Russia proxy war under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. How very convenient. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
This is the nature of the information war being fought by the Ukrainian government — the side that is the righteous victim, the side that does not need to tell lies, the side that has innocence on its side. Yet, the multiplication of the entities of these stories — their details — point to them being fictitious; they push the boundaries of believability. One such outrageous and unsupported tale may be true, perhaps two or three. But this is a war of many fabulous and propagandistic stories. Audiences can only suspend their disbelief for so long before the basic requirements of reason insist on evidence, and this is the one thing the Kyiv regime is not offering. Time and again, this regime has been caught in lies and fabrications intended to win western support for a NATO war with Russia. The Zelenskyy government, the Security Service of Ukraine, and western intelligence influenced media outlets like Radio Free Europe have all been found to be party to these dangerous manipulations — and yes, this does point to a conspiracy. It is a conspiracy, and more likely than not it goes all the way to NATO High Command and the White House.
Jason Michael McCann, M.Phil. (TCD) Conflict Studies The author holds a postgraduate degree in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, and an academic fellowship in the study of conflict from the University of West Flanders. He has published on the history of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the murder of the Hungarian Jews in 1944.
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———. “The ‘Russian Shelling’ Video.” Standpoint Zero, March 11, 2022. https://standpointzero.com/2022/03/11/the-russian-shelling-video/.
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