Patrick Lawrence on truth, lies and propaganda

The news that most Americans are getting about Ukraine is war propaganda.  That doesn’t mean that it is all false.  What it does mean is that it is next to impossible for the ordinary busy person to separate truth from falsehood.  Patrick Lawrence, a respected retired foreign correspondent, gives examples.

Ten days into the Russian intervention, the propaganda coming out of Kiev was already so preposterous The New York Times felt compelled to publish a piece headlined, “In Ukraine’s Information War, a Blend of Fact and Fiction.” This was a baldly rendered apologia for the many “stories of questionable veracity,” as The Times put it, then in circulation. I do love The Times for its delicate phrasing when describing indelicate matters.

There was the “Ghost of Kiev” story, featuring an heroic fighter pilot who turned out to derive from a video game. There were the Snake Island heroes, 13 Ukrainian soldiers who held out to the death on some small speck in the Black Sea, except that it turned out they surrendered, though not before Zelensky awarded them posthumous medals of honor that were not posthumous.

After railing against disinformation for years, The Times wants us to know, disinformation is O.K. in Ukraine because the Ukrainians are our side and they are simply “boosting morale.”

We cannot say we weren’t warned. The Ghost of Kiev and Snake Island turn out now to be mere prelude, opening acts in the most extensive propaganda operation of the many I can recall.

There was the maternity ward the Russians supposedly bombed in Mariupol. And then the theater, and then the art school. All filled with huddling citizens the Russian air force cynically targeted because “this is genocide,” as the ever-intemperate Zelensky does not hesitate to assert.

All of this has been reported as fact in the Times and other major dailies and, of course, by the major broadcasters. There have been pictures. There have been videos, all very persuasive to the eye.

And then, as evidence mounts that these incidents were staged as propaganda to frame the Russians and draw NATO forces directly into the war, a silence worthy of a Catholic chapel descends. We read no more of the maternity ward that turned out to be an improvised Azov base, or the theater, where citizens were herded, photographed in raggedy blankets, and sent away.   Ditto the art school: Nothing more on this since the initial reports began to collapse. No body counts, no mention of the fact that Russian jets did not fly over Mariupol on the days in question.


Bucha is a suburb of 35,000 souls a few miles north of Kiev and one of the cities Russian forces began to evacuate on 29 March as peace talks in Istanbul progressed. Two days later the mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, celebrated the city’s liberation in a selfie-speech to his citizenry. He made no mention of anything untoward in Bucha’s streets, backyards, or public spaces.

Four days later, 2 April, a special unit of the Ukrainian national police deployed to Bucha. And suddenly the place turns out to be a hellhole: bodies in the streets — 410, according to the Prosecutor General’s office in Kiev — evidence of atrocities galore, people bound and shot point blank. The whole nine, in short.

The outrage from Washington, London and Paris—“worldwide outrage,” this would be — was instant. No demand for an impartial inquiry, forensic inspections, or any such thing. No one asked why corpses left in the street for five days appeared to be fresh, or why the relatives of the dead left them there until Kiev’s commando unit arrived.  

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, was level-headed enough to state, “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.” This is the only sound position at this point. But we know from a long history how far SGs at the U.N. get with this sort of talk.


A Russian detention center in the Donbass is shelled and 50–odd Ukrainian prisoners are killed.  We are asked to believe that Russian forces shelled their own holding camp for reasons unexplained.  When we later learn the Russians were releasing, just before the shelling began, videos of the prisoners recounting the orders of commanding officers to torture any captured Russians, raising the question of war crimes at high levels, we are told this has nothing to do with it. 

… … We are asked to believe Russians are shelling a nuclear power plant their own troops have guarded since March. Here I lose the plot entirely. 

One day … … we read that Russian forces are cynically sheltering in the plant on the thought that the Ukrainians cannot send rockets into it—too dangerous.  The next day we read that the Russians are themselves shelling the power plant they were, one day earlier, reported to be sheltering in.  There is only one plausible explanation for this: The correspondents reporting this logically impossible junk are not there and rely on Ukrainian accounts; these accounts differ one day to the next, one official to the next.  


Eva Bartlett, a Canadian correspondent, … … traveled to a site nine miles outside Mariupol where it was widely reported the Russians had dug and filled a mass grave with—get set for this—9,000 Ukrainians. This is a lot of Ukrainians to bury all at once. But all the big dailies, never stopping to think things through, went with the story Ukrainian officials gave them. Nine thousand it was. 

No mass grave, Bartlett found.  Her piece featured interviews with local officials and witnesses, video segments, photographs. She found an orderly, undisturbed cemetery with orderly, undisturbed grave markers.  She showed us pictures of same. She spoke to the grave-diggers, who were mystified by the reports of a mass grave.  

… …  Bartlett reported from Donetsk City on a shower of bombs that dropped thousands of tiny, lethal mines all over the city. RT ran the piece. It is another close-in, on-the-ground piece. Her report carried the headline, “The West is silent as Ukraine targets civilians in Donetsk using banned ‘butterfly’ mines.”

Amnesty International issued a report on how Ukrainian forces have endangered civilians by putting bases and operating weapons systems in residential areas, including schools and hospitals.  This was not news to me, because I have been following the war on so-called alternative news sites.

Lawrence pointed out that war supporters did not challenge the accuracy of AI’s report, but simply accused AI of supporting Russia.  AI spokesmen responded in an e-mail to Reuters by saying that AI “deeply regrets the distress and anger that our press release on the Ukrainian military’s fighting tactics has caused.”

CBS News did a report indicating that nobody is keeping track of weapons sent to Ukraine and a large fraction may not be reading their intended destination.  Again, this was not news to me.  But CBS after being criticized backtracked, withdrew the report and issued a revised, softened version.


Please understand.  I am not arguing the Russian invasion of Ukraine is justified.  I do not think it is justified.  What I do think is that if you know all the facts, you will understand the reasons for the invasion, which is different..  

I’m not asking you to accept my opinion.  I am pointing out that U.S. propaganda is a distortion of reality.  I am saying that an opinion, to be valid, has to take all the relevant facts into account, and that if you are a passive reader or viewer of the news, you don’t know all the facts.

It is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.


The defactualization of America by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.  Source of the first two sections of direct quotes.

So Far As I Can Make Out by Patrick Lawrence for ScheerPost.  Source of the last two sections of direct quotes.

The Imaginary War by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.  More examples of fake propaganda.

The West is silent at Ukraine targets civilians in Donetsk using banned ‘butterfly’ mines by Eva Bartlett for RT News.

Ukraine fighting tactics endanger civilians by Amnesty International.

Why military aid may not always get to the front line by Adam Yamaguchi and Alex Pena for CBS News.  The revised version.

Ukraine’s Mystic Kherson Offensive Did Not, And Will Not, Happen by ‘Bernhard’ on Moon of Alabama.

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4 Responses to “Patrick Lawrence on truth, lies and propaganda”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    AI is attempting to apply some kind of moral equivalence here. And they are really reaching.

    The evidence is that the Russians torched the Azov POWs and blamed the Ukrainians for it. There’s a LOT of evidence, even in the pictures the Russians released.

    Human Rights Watch indicated that there is no evidence as to who scattered those butterfly mines in Donetsk. Since there’s no military rationale, it can only be done as an act of terrorism or a false flag war crime. Is there evidence of who fired the missiles? Recorded RADAR tracks? Serial numbers from weapon fragments? How many people died?

    The assertion that Ukrainians are endangering civilian populations by trying to defend cities is absurd. Can’t defend a city unless you’re IN the city. And an abandoned school with no students is just a building.

    This is not to say that Ukraine has not committed war crimes. Impossible to fight a war without some violations happening. Soldiers get pushed over the edge by anger or hate or fear. Commanders overstep their authority. I’m not seeing any evidence pointing to a *policy* of war crimes on the part of Ukraine. Which does not surprise me because they aren’t occupying hostile areas that need to be beaten and terrorized into submission.

    OTOH, the Russians are. Given their previous history in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Aleppo, they have a reputation to live up to.

    After the war settles down we’ll get a better view of what happened. It will still be almost impossible to get observers into Russian occupied territory.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. philebersole Says:

    The fallacy of moral equivalence consists of attempting to justify the misdeeds or crimes of Smith by arguing that they are no worse than the unrelated misdeeds or crimes of Jones.

    But there is an equal and opposite fallacy, which consists in saying it is out of bounds to say anything at all about the misdeeds or crimes of Smith because that distracts attention of the crimes of Jones.

    I think the attacks on Amnesty International were an example of the second fallacy. There was nothing in report about Ukraine that implicitly justified Russia. The authors of the report bent over backwards to say otherwise.

    In any case, my blog post wasn’t about moral equivalence. It was about the how the reality of events in Ukraine is hidden from us Americans by the veil of propaganda.

    I possibly gave a wrong impression by over-emphasizing how the news media are giving us false information about Russian atrocities and not reporting at all about Ukrainian atrocities. That is only part of what’s wrong.

    I would have done better to have emphasized how the news media is giving us false information about the military situation. Ukraine is not winning and Russia is not losing.

    I’ve written about this in past posts, and will write about it again. In the meantime, here some links on this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nikolai Vladivostok Says:

    People seem to continue to believe lies even after their preferred media outlets have admitted that it is false. I’ve seen this happen lately with Snake Island and Russian collusion hoax.
    It is nothing new. There are still people around who will tell you that the US found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
    It seems that if people receive, say, a dozen initial, fake news stories and later one or two that correct the record, they tend to better recall the first stories that they heard.
    This was demonstrated accidentally after the Colombine murders. Everyone remembers initial reports that the killers were bullied geeks but we forget later reports that this wasn’t completely true.
    I suspect there are people who have figured out this psychological phenomenon and are using it to their advantage, recklessly ignoring the need for fact checking as they rush to publish politically favourable stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Word from the Dark Side – illegal flag, kids don’t shag, prayer room snag and fungal swag | SovietMen Says:

    […] Lies and propaganda: […]


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