Peter W. Singer Profile picture
Feb 28 42 tweets 14 min read
Why has Ukraine been so successful at information warfare/propaganda vs the supposed Russian masters of it?

A thread 🧵 of 10 persuasion messaging themes working for them:
1) Pre-Bunking
In the past, Russia was essentially pushing against an open door.
This time, a network style coalition got ahead of it and preempted and pre-bunked the Russian goal of justifying a long planned invasion as an emergency response.
Elements ranged from UKR govt to Biden administration and US intelligence agencies to key NATO states (Baltics especially) to online democracy activists to OSINT trackers.
They documented the Russian military buildup in overall ways Image
And in close up, visuals Image
Another part was directly debunking the various Russian statements and provocations as utterly pre-planned. One example was showing the meetings didn't match their timing claim, by tiny details like the watch times: Image
Overall, it showed 1) what Russia was planning and also 2) took away the Russian claimed messaging that they were the victim Image
Once the war began, it pivoted to the next series of themes.
2) Heroism
Pushing early stories of Ukrainians standing up to fight against the odds.
Probably the most successful was fighter ace #ghostofkiev
(Also, illustrates how much is likely a mix of truth/ exaggeration) Image
3) Martyrs
Related to Heroes, but with the sacrifice element

The Snake Island defenders and their iconic "Go F+ck Yourself" message to the Russian commander is the example here Image
UKR has also kept that up with regular posts about soldiers that died in some heroic manner, such as blowing up a bridge or delaying a Russian convoy.
4) Man of the People
Volodymyr Zelenskyy has set the new standard for this classic tactic.
Remember, he went into the conflict not that well known outside Ukraine, while inside Ukraine, some polls have him negative -34 favorability, amid general distrust of office of the presidency. Basically, he was the most popular of a set of unpopular leaders. Now a global icon.
The former performer has done so with personal bravery and deft use of messaging Image
A key in this is to remember the multiple audiences he is aiming at. One is UKR people and soldiers, the power of a leader who is right there with them, literally in the streets
Another, of course, is to contrast with Putin ImageImage
But there is also the key audience of the West and its leaders. The response of
"I Need Ammunition, Not A Ride"

To US offers to evacuate him
Or, even more pointed, the call out to the Italian leaders, when they were delaying aid and blamed a missed call. Image
Again, every act in #likewar is about connecting this online show to a real world goal Image
5) Civilian Harm
Messaging that shows off the victims of the Russian attacks are the UKR people in vivid ways.

It does so with examples of Russian strikes that don't just resonate, but also are clearly and inarguably civilian in nature, such as a missile hit near a playground. Image
Or in front of a grocery store
(I'll get to cat images later) Image
This is also about showing war crimes: Image
6) Civilian Resistance
This war, in both cause+info side, is about political legitimacy and popular resistance. So hugely important thread is showing citizens fighting back.
"Put sunflower seeds in your pocket so they grow when you die"

is most viral
But also many, many examples of this swirling, from people blocking tanks
To regular people preparing for the next fight with home-made molotov cocktails Image
7) Bandwagoning

This is about motivating others to join/aid a cause that is popular and growing. It is also a bit about shaming those that aren't doing so yet.
'Others are doing it, why not you too?' ImageImageImageImage
8) Humanizing
Showing off the personal side. 'The Ukrainians under attack are just like us.' 'They like the same things I do.' 'I could imagine myself in that situation.'

This is where the cat is the most lethal weapon of information warfare. Image
And when I wrote cats are "lethal" in information war, I meant it...

(Note: I am deeply dubious of the Panther of Kharkiv" but now I want to adopt it.) Image
9) Card Stacking
This is about showing off singular example of your individual wins, to shape the narrative of the overall flow of the war.

Playing up the early defeat of the defeat of the (insanely badly planned) Russian attack on Hostomel airport is a great example Image
These cardstacking examples might be clinical, such as video of a successful drone strike

(side note: the fact that the Russians still allowing slow UKR drones to operate, despite all their airpower, is amazing display of ineptitude) Image
Or it might be personalized, such as a UKR soldier in the wake of an ambush of a Russian column, walking about with the unmistakable swagger of a victor
10) Mockery
Russia's hope for a quick win, both vs UKR, but also the West in its potential response, depending on over-awing a dispirited foe.
Mockery inverts that, making the attacker the butt of the jokes, making them seem small and absurd to accept as the victor. ImageImage
Showing off captured POWs is example of that ImageImage
Making fun of how unprepared they are
And generally just turning Putin into a joke Image
Is the above working?
It really matters about the audience:
1) Inside UKR, by most accounts, it has. This is proven most by very fact the UKR government and society didn't dissolve and collapse the way Russia hoped would happen in the first few days.
2) Inside Russia is a different matter. There is too much government control of the media, active govet messaging of them winning and righteous cause, censorship and arrests, and different social networks that aren't seeing much of above (Twitter vs VK, for example).
But the longer the conflict goes, the harder this gets for the Putin regime. Death news is harder to control, narrative of an easy win harder to spin if it lasts weeks, the story of UKR being the victims that you are rescuing is harder to sustain if you are leveling Kiev etc.
This is also something that this network I wrote of is actively going after. For example, Russian POW families are reportedly being contacted on the VK social network to let them know their kids are alive, but also with some added mustard to the message... Image
3) The West and the US. The UKR side in the information war has definitely won.
The best example here is the 180 degree pivot in just 48 hours by political leaders on the right

(yeah, I still see you @mikepompeo )
Or the narrative change on cable news:
"Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that."
"Ukrainian civilians volunteer to fight for democracy"
I gotta go pick up my kid from the bus, so finis for now.
Hope this was useful.

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More from @peterwsinger

Feb 26
Why are we not seeing many drones in UKR war?
A few quick answers:
1) Equipment/Acquisitions: Neither side has woven significant numbers of armed UAS into their armies yet in major way
2) Air Defenses: Both have em, still active, all the way down to MANPADS.
Also both sides still flying fighters. Back to above, the drones they do have are highly vulnerable to that. Gotta take down both to get the value of current generation of slow UAS
3) and most significant: Operations/Strategy:
Russian strategy so far was assumption they could collapse UKR govt from inside with sabotage and SOF, combined with a few missile strikes and quick thunder run convoys into the cities. All in 1 day. It didn't work.
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