A Call to Arms: Shaping the Future of Donbass Outside of Social Media

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By Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

15th June, 2016

This may be stating the obvious, but the children of Donbass are being physically murdered by the Ukrainian Army on the territory of Ukraine, not inside of a computer. It is only through viewing things in this way we can grasp a sense of perspective that allows us to distinguish and reflect on our presence in both the digital and analogue domains.

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“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” ~ Dante Alighieri

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2014, both pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan activists have utilised Social Media to convey their messages of choice. These messages have ranged from hashtags to memes, all with the purpose of garnering ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’. Two years on, it is safe to say that these messages have become very stale and have lost their impact. Thus, participation in the information war now requires an increasingly tangible presence…

While there is some difference of opinion regarding the lifespan of a tweet, some estimates say that it can be between 4-18 minutes. For Facebook, 75% of engagements on posts happens within the first 5 hours. With these statistics in mind, it can be said that for a post or tweet to be effective, it must contain artistic flair that even Leonardo Da Vinci would be jealous of.

But what does ‘effective’ actually mean? In this instance, for a message to be effective it must radiate outwards, as opposed to being a unilateral process. Thus, herein lies the immediate disadvantage of solely using Facebook and Twitter for ‘activism’ – it doesn’t exist!

Of course there are Headquarters and employees, but social media is not tangible. It is simply data being pinged to a server and back – upload/download. Interactions are queued up and are never simultaneous: If 2 people click ‘send’ at the exactly (subjective) the same time, the posts will have different timestamps. 

This is one of the reasons why social media can never affect groups of people the same way that tangible spacial actions can. Digital communication is formatted like a chain that passes through an algorithm. If people were to communicate existentially like they do on social media, the economy would come to a grinding halt as the labour force struggles to internally coordinate even basic processes. 

To augment this stagnation, these series-circuit actions can contain a ‘message’ that only retains its meaning inside the corridors of the Social Media. Generic hashtags and cyber-slogans are reified to the extreme, to the point where to replicate them in ‘real-life’ would be the equivalence of saying nothing at all, assuming the digital message was not a logical fallacy to begin with. 

Jen Psaki (photographed below) and the State Department as a whole knows very well that promoting the use of slogans on Social Media helps keep people confined in the digital domain. As a result of this,  mass social action is inhibited by the ‘laws’ of Social Media, a cul-de-sac where pro-ISIS accounts are seemingly allowed to disseminate propaganda, but anti-ISIS ones endure multiple bans. There is very little room to manoeuvre because of this strict regime, and generally speaking it’s a zero sum game.

It is for these reasons that actual TANGIBLE actions offer the best effort:success ratio. If an already informed person clicks ‘like‘ on a post about Kiev war crimes in Donbass, for example, what exactly, collectively speaking, was achieved? It would appear that there is a trend on social media where users  like to retain information inside a clique (Facebook group, Twitter followers). This can appear like an elitist club where those who are ‘uninformed’ are made to feel like they are somehow intellectually inferior or generally uninvolved in ‘activism’.  

So what exactly can be done to either replace or accompany social media interactions? Here are a few examples:

  • Petitions: While today petitions are seemingly created for the slightest minor grievance, some examples offer quite surprising results when people collectively act. A popular example is the petition to arrest Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival in the UK in September 2016. Even though the petition was laughed off by the UK parliament, it still made others realise perhaps that they are not alone in their outrage of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank. It should be said that petitions do not need to be digital, and can literally be on paper. They can then be presented to local members of parliament or regional bodies for consideration.

  • Lobbying: There is a misconception that lobbying in the US is reserved for Wall St and AIPAC. This is far from the truth, as regular citizens can go to or call their congressman and voice their concerns in person. How about demanding “aid” to the Ukrainian Armed Forces is stopped? How about going to the congress building with footage of the UAF Minsk violations and letting your frustration be known? Maybe some congressmen are uninformed about the events in Ukraine, like they were regarding the 28 pages of the 9/11 JIS report?
  • Distributing flyers: A simple yet effective medium that can be used to reach out to many people is literally paper. Paste it up on walls, on bus stops, anywhere!

Media: Due to the popular use of video sharing websites like YouTube and LiveLeak, a very effective method of transmitting a message is through motion pictures. This doesn’t mean simply syncing some rock music to images of clips from Donbass, which has been done far too often already. A very creative person will be able to think of a way of touching their fellow citizens in a manner to spark them into action. Every computer has basic software to create and edit videos, and if not, excellent free ones can be obtained from the Internet.

NGO work: Being a part of a network of critical, like-minded thinkers is absolutely invaluable in the Post-Modern era. In order to build something new, we must atomise what already exists. This involves deconstructing ideologies and reflecting on history. An example of an NGO’s work on the topic on Donbass can be found at the Center for Syncretic Studies webpage

Graffiti: We have all traveled past bridges or walls that convey a message in some form. As legally speaking spraying private property is punishable by law, there are lots of areas where it is perfectly legal. However, remember that in most instances (depending on the country) it is the state (enforcer of law) who is or has funded the Kiev regime in the form of “non-lethal” arms or with military advisors.

Novorossiya flag graffiti in Belgrade, Serbia

The French government supports the fascist regime in Ukraine, which kills it’s own people

“Wednesday, 22 April 2015, while Mr Poroshenko was on a visit to France, Bruno, an activist in favour of the People’s Republics of Donbass, decided to make some graffiti on the road along the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris, before singing the Marseillaise and the Russian anthem under their windows. The action, of course, was peaceful, but the embassy did not like it, who didn’t hasten to warn the authorities.

The police, upon their arrival, proceeded to arrest three supporters of the separatists, before the journalist from Agence Info Libre suffered the same fate. They were transported to the police station, sirens blaring, where they waited, handcuffed to a bench, to be told the confirmation that the arrest was illegal and therefore could lead to custody. They were summoned the next day to answer the questions of the authorities. No action seems to have been contemplated.”

Odessa we don’t forget
 The truth about Maidan – the snipers of Maidan were Polish

Demonstrations: A good example of a social action in Europe is the protest outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris in February 2015. Even though the employees inside the embassy could simply close the curtains and put their fingers in their ears, the swarm of cameras around the event ensures that the message of the event can be seen by people around the world. 

Madrid rally in support of spaniards who fought  and returned from Donbass only to be detained:

Rally in Halle, Germany in support of Donbass:

“A group of protesters rallied for peace in the Donbass region in centre of Milan, Saturday. The group distributed about 600 flyers to bring awareness to the residents of Milan”:

“Dozens of anti-fascists and socialist activists gathered outside the Ukrainian embassy in London to commemorate the second anniversary of the Odessa massacre, which killed 48 people and injured 200, Monday.

The rally was organised by ‘Solidarity with the antifascist resistance in Ukraine’ group (SARU). According to SARU head, Alex Gordon, “the atrocity that was carried out against the antifascists in Odessa must never be forgotten. We are here because we are commemorating those people and because we are calling for justice for the victims who died in the Trade Union House in Odessa and justice for all the victims of fascism in Ukraine and throughout the world.””

Video Translation: There is a growing need for videos in Russian, Ukrainian, English, French, German, Spanish etc to be translated into other languages. As an example, citizens of Ukraine, on camera, frequently denounce not only the regime in Kiev, but also the so called Anti Terrorist Operation. It is very important for their views to be presented to as wider audience as possible. YouTube has its own tool for adding subtitles, and videos can be rendered in free/pre-installed software like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. 

I wish to firmly state that the intention of this article is not to patronise those who are geopolitically active and share an interest in advocating peace. The comments and conclusions are based on observations of trends and behavioural habits across a wide spectrum of Facebook groups and Twitter users. It is my feeling that the intended ‘message’ that is being disseminated loses its meaning if it only ever stays in cyberspace.

We all must now manifest our thoughts and feelings into our tangible spacial environment. Tweets and Facebook posts are no longer enough to counter the vast budget the US government spends of spoon feeding toxic disinformation to idle-minded liberals. They say actions speak louder than words, but in this instance, lonely interactions on Twitter and Facebook are in actuality saying nothing at all.

The more connected people are existentially, the more difficult it is for the mass media machine to manipulate the collective conscious. The incentive can be seen in the humble eyes of a child in Donbass. INFORM those around you not just as far as the mouse can scroll.

Don’t wait for somebody else to act or for tomorrow to come. For the people of Donbass, tomorrow may never come.

To do nothing today is to accept that it will be your children who will be next in the line of fire. 

We are all responsible.

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