Washington turns to TikTok influencers to promote its narrative on Ukraine — Analysis
Reddit mercenaries and White House TikTok propagandists are way out of control in Ukraine
Since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, social media has been bombarded with one-sided hero worship, amplified and drawn into users’ timelines through the magic of the infamously mysterious algorithms that govern these platforms, whose functioning regulators worldwide have had trouble grasping.
There’s the fictitious tale of the Ukrainian Snake Island border guards in the Black Sea, which was widely amplified by traditional Western media. As the story went, upon the approach of a Russian warship, the guards told the ship over radio communication to “go f*** itself”, after which they were reportedly liquidated. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, even expressed gratitude for their courage. The good news is that he’ll now be able to award them their “posthumous” medals for bravery in person, since they’re apparently still around.
Then came the tale of the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a mysterious Ukrainian pilot credited across social platforms for single-handedly downing Russian jets left and right. This tale was also made from fake news and videogame footage. The social media sites, who constantly claim that they are fighting fake news, somehow allowed this propaganda to remain.
The internet is saturated with these outlandish fabrications before anyone can respond. It seems there is a concerted effort – facilitated by these online giants – to portray the conflict as a Superbowl-style showdown between “Team Ukraine/NATO” and “team Russia”, which requires everyone to pick the “right” side under severe peer pressure to conform to whatever is overwhelmingly promoted by these platforms. Previously, this meant fashion trends, style and makeup. TikTok’s top 10 influencers are models who profit from the beauty and fashion industries.
But leave it to Washington to ask, “What if we could get people known for nice handbags and trendy dances on TikTok to trash talk Vladimir Putin?” And that’s exactly what they did – by briefing 30 of the most popular TikTok influencers about the war in Ukraine. Ellie Zeiler (18-year-old California fashion blogger) attended last week’s meeting hosted via Zoom video by White House staffers including Jen Psaki, spokesperson, and National Security Council staffers. She was inspired to take an unexpected step to explain to her 10.5million followers why gas prices are so high.
And no, it isn’t because Joe Biden failed to secure North American energy independence via the Keystone XL pipeline with Canada, which he canceled to the great joy of Democratic Party donors invested in Saudi oil and the current railways that profit from transporting the fuel above ground, or the environmental NGOs that they fund in both the US and Canada. Nor is it due, at least in part, to the endless harassment and sanctioning of European companies that were on the verge of securing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to transport Russian gas into Europe via Germany – the literal fuel for European production of ethanol in car fuel.
According to the White House-coopted fashion influencer, who was sent to frontline in the propagandist war against Russia, the reason high gas prices are so high is because: “Russia is one of the top three producers of oil and it is actually their No. 1 revenue source. Now, with Putin starting this horrific fight between Ukraine and Russia, nobody wants to work with him and do international trade.”
When one is so busy selecting filters and music for videos, it must be easy to miss the small details, for example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent remarks contradicting the notion that no one wants Russia’s gas. “Europe has deliberately exempted energy supplies from Russia from sanctions,” Scholz said. “At the moment, Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way. It is therefore of essential importance for the provision of public services and the daily lives of our citizens.”
Frans Timmermans (Vice President EU Commission) admitted that the reduction of dependence on Russian energy can be difficult in practice. “The reality is that there’s quite a number of our member states who would get into real trouble if, overnight, all the energy would no longer be provided from Russia,” Timmermans said.
Others present at the White House meeting said that officials wanted to make sure influencers emphasize their message to their audience. “Russian troops are not happy with their own invasion,”To emphasize, Marcus DiPaola (journalist and TikToker) stated that “Russia is not going to win in Ukraine. Things have gone so badly for them that it’s just not possible anymore.”
A group of influencers called, “Gen-Z for Change,” noted on Twitter that they “joined the @WhiteHouse and @WHNSC for a briefing on the U.S.’ strategic goals in Ukraine so we’re better able to debunk misinformation.”
Think about how other conflict caused by US meddling abroad would have ended if only the White House could have its voice heard. Imagine how things could have been different for Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Syrians, Serbs, for example, if the US-backed wars that they survived had only been able to benefit from more American control over the narrative and fewer voices of dissent — sorry, “misinformation”.
“We truly appreciate the fact that this administration is putting an effort into young people and taking the time to uplift young voices!”This was the work of the group.
It’s no wonder, with the 2nd Brigade of TikTokers telling young people that things are going so well for Ukraine and so poorly for Russia, that avid Reddit users are now using the social media platform to voice their horrifying experiences after apparently deciding to avail themselves of a free trip to Ukraine to fulfill their Rambo-like fantasies of smoking Russian soldiers.
“All citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine … anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals,”Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, stated.
An American volunteer, however, complained about mistreatment of Ukrainian troops – the ones he had come to fight for. He claimed that Ukrainian officials are underestimating losses sustained by foreign volunteers. “It’s a trap, they’re cutting up our passports and sending us to the front,”He stated this in a video.
Anyone who is thinking of going to Ukraine as a volunteer should read this before they do. This information should be shared widely. pic.twitter.com/Hxr69eVJn9
— 🏴🏴☠️🦝Ohana Kaczynski🦝🏴☠️🏴 (@KaczynskiOhana) March 15, 2022
Redditor claimedAvoid disappointment “basically being bodies in front of the advancing Russians”As opposed to being “utilized as a unit with operational capabilities.”Yet another postedThis is a “guy tried shooting an [assault rifle]At an [armored personnel carrier] and got wiped out immediately.”
A Russian strike reportedly decimated a Ukrainian military base located near Yavorov, in Western Ukraine. NATO troops had used it for many years to train Ukrainian soldiers. According to Kiev officials, the missile attack resulted in 35 deaths and 130 injuries. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the missile attack destroyed all facilities. “International Legion of Ukraine”And killed “up to 180 foreign fighters.”
Even through the fog of war, it’s clear that the deliberate attempts to shape this conflict as black and white or good versus evil by recruiting influencers to reduce its portrayal to its most simplistic does a disservice to the ultimate objective of reducing casualties on all sides and ultimately achieving a resolution that works in everyone’s interests: that of peace and stability.
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