September 27, 2023


Українська світова інформаційна мережа | Ukrainian Worldwide Information Network has published the next, the 93rd disinformation monitoring report “Discrediting independence, trying to cause disenchantment of the US”.

How did see the misinformation this time? Here are the main theses:

  • Criticizing any action in preparation of Independence Day
  • Trying to show that Ukrainians are poorer than during Soviet times
  • Threatening with “the Afghan lesson” for Ukraine
  • Zelensky’s either weak or a dictator, or both
  • Crimean platform “irrelevant”
  • Learn how different topics raised by Russian disinformation have evolved over time with our interactive visualization

Let us dwell on these theses.

First: “Criticizing any action in preparation of Independence Day”. Yes, there was criticism; we also criticized. What is the misinformation here? That criticism took place? After all, criticism is not information as such, by definition, and it is an expression of opinion. If we see disinformation in the very event of criticism, it is a restriction of freedom of speech in its most primitive manifestation. This is exactly the restriction of freedom of speech that took place in the USSR.

Second: “Trying to show that Ukrainians are poorer than during Soviet times”. This thesis is fully related to the above. But here we have an even more primitive idea of misinformation, when it is the “attempt to persuade” that appears to be a fait accompli. Of course, after the collapse of the USSR, in independent Ukraine, Ukrainians began to live better in some ways, but in some ways, perhaps worse. Thus, views (opinion) on this may be different depending on the breadth of coverage of the topic and the depth of its study. But what’s the point of misinformation here?

Third: “Threatening with “the Afghan lesson” for Ukraine”. I will go back to what was said above, but I will repeat the question: what is the point of misinformation?! “Frightened” is definitely not disinformation, but a phenomena of a completely different order. Well, as for the “lesson of Afghanistan” for Ukraine, it is a topic for a serious conversation. I am thinking of writing an article on this topic, in which I want to show both Ukrainians and Americans how thoughtless and costly it is to export/import political ideas (in this case, Western democracy) without taking into account national traditions and customs. In twenty years, the Americans have spent a trillion dollars on Afghanistan, and now we see how all these efforts have turned out. The United States has invested much less in Ukraine (it will be interesting to calculate). What did these funds go to? Something was taken offshore, something went to the construction of palaces in the suburbs, something was hidden in mattresses… And only a handful went to the apparent “reforms” and insignificant projects. Exports/imports of extreme liberalism from the west faced exports/imports of “Russian world” from the east. There is no conscious force in Ukraine that can unite the infantile degraded Ukrainian society, raise the level of its national consciousness and civic maturity, make systemic changes and start building a successful and prosperous Ukraine on the basis of Ukrainian national traditions and customs.

Forth: “Zelensky’s either weak or a dictator, or both”. Here we come! I do not want to repeat, but what is the disinformation that must be refuted by the American grant? What is it here, let’s use a synonym for the word “disinformation”, a lie? Nobody doubts that Zelenskyy is weak as a president, as a politician, as a person. And he doesn’t even seem to be going strong. I personally wrote about this back in 2019 during the presidential race. Is he a dictator? Someone may have reason to say so, and such an view (opinion) is clearly not disinformation. Yes, in Zelenskyy’s case, there is a noticeable tendency towards dictatorship, and those who stand behind him probably want him to grow into a dictator. What are the chances of a “weak dictator” to survive in politics? None! It is sad that under the guise of combating disinformation, a solid independent resource is showing its dependence.

Fifth: “Crimean platform ‘irrelevant’”. And again — a clear water view (opinion): someone considers the “Crimean platform” important, and someone — unimportant. There is no disinformation here! In my opinion, it is very good that this discussion has been organized in Ukraine. But I think it would be much more important if Ukraine finally (sic!) initiated a summit in the Budapest Memorandum format and the Helsinki Accords revision and renewal, ie the fundamental principles of security and cooperation in Europe and thus around the world (for more see my book “Budapest Format”).

Here is the object of attention of analysts:

“¹mainstream Ukrainian sites, all news (topic names reflect manipulations used in the topic. Accordingly, news on Ukrainian mainstream sites on the same topic may completely differ from manipulative materials)

²mainstream Russian sites, all news

³local Ukrainian sites, all news

⁴Ukrainian clickbait sites, manipulative news only

⁵Russian sites targeting Ukraine, manipulative news only

⁶Pupular in Ukraine telegram channels, all news”.

It is very good that was able to analyze 18,000 publications (the list of Internet resources provided at the end of the report is also impressive), which revealed attempts to “discredit Independence” and the Crimean platform, to provoke “distrust in the United States”, etc.

It is remarkable that one of American think tanks, National Democratic Institute, funded this study. But as an American taxpayer, I would not want these think tanks to pay for such insignificant research as this pseudo-scientific but overly propagandistic project.

Unfortunately, the article does not mention what research methods were used, or whether the concepts and categories “information” and “analytics”, “news” and “views” (“opinion”) were clearly distinguished. If researchers sought disinformation in analytics and views (opinion), then it practically destroys the scientific value and quality of research.

Such suspicion is suggested by the first paragraph in Roman Kulchynsky’s message on LinkedIn, where he mentions pseudo-experts, pseudo-sociologists and political PR people. These categories of people are easily associated with analytics and views (opinions), but they have nothing to do with information and news production.

There is no doubt that in information (news) publications of monitored resources you can find a huge amount of real disinformation. But what is the point of bringing under the clear concept of “disinformation”, something that clearly does not fall into this category and probably belongs to the evaluative judgments?

Obviously, it is necessary to fight against evaluative judgments (views, opinions) that harm Ukraine and the Ukrainian cause, as they are not part of purely informational (news) journalism, but propaganda.

However, avoids talking about it, and therefore there is an explanation: this resource often shows its propagandistic nature. On the eve of Independence Day, my attention was drawn to a clearly propagandistic article about Ukraine’s achievements during the years of independence.

The publication in question is also not without this drawback. Also pay attention to what wording is used in the article to prove the existence of disinformation: “criticized”, “tried to persuade”, “scared” and others.

This gives grounds to conclude that has resorted to the substitution of concepts and categories, topics and subjects of study. From a scientific point of view, this study acquires questionable value. I claim this as a theorist and methodologist of journalism.

It is unfortunate that a solid resource, which in many respects differs favorably from other think tanks in Ukraine, is misleading and, positioning itself as independent, is in fact under the influence of forces that cannot be called Ukrainocentric.

I had an attempt to communicate with the founder, Roman Kulchynsky. I would like to focus more on the systemic problems of Ukrainian nation and state building.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kulchynsky remained in his position as a supporter of “small steps” and situational reforms. He is not interested in the idea of creating a Ukrainocentric media system capable of clearing the information space and strengthening Ukraine’s information sovereignty, and thus protecting Ukrainian society from hostile disinformation and propaganda.

Prof. Dr. Volodymyr Ivanenko

August 30–31, 2021

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