May 18, 2022

Social media clears ‘fog of war’ as reports confirm Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship destroyed

During World War II, the United States Navy Essex-USS-class aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) was damaged twice in Japanese air attacks, leading the enemy to report that she had been sunk no less than four times. However, she soon returned to combat, so much so that Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose dubbed her “The Blue Ghost”.

This colorful nickname was even adopted by the crew and air groups that served on the carrier.

another american EssexUSS class carrier Intrepid (CV-11) also survived seven bombings, five kamikaze hits and one torpedo hit; yet the ship continually returned to action after repairs, earning her reputation among the enemy of “The Ghost Ship”.

While in the past reports of a missing warship have often been “grossly exaggerated” – to paraphrase Mark Twain – in the age of social media, it might be much easier to confirm the destruction of an enemy ship. This is certainly the case with the Russian Navy’s missile cruiser Moscowflagship of the Black Sea Fleet.

Reports circulated on Wednesday evening that the ship had been badly damaged or even abandoned by its crew. The original source of the information was a military spokesman in Kyiv, who told several media outlets that the ship had been hit by a cruise missile, causing it to capsize and begin to sink.

In the age of smartphones and social media, it is much easier to confirm such “facts” and dispel the “fog of war”.

As has often been the case in wartime, history is written by the victor, and it was Ukrainian officials who first announced the destruction of the missile cruiser. Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, blogger, actor, political and military columnist, was among the Ukrainians who shared the video of the Moscow apparently burning in the Black Sea via his social media account (@arestovych).

“The flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, the cruiser ‘Moskva’ made a negative ascent in the area of ​​the island where it was sent,” he tweeted.

The unverified video had over 133,000 views as of Thursday afternoon. However, Wall Street Journal Foreign affairs correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) also tweeted: “Russia admits that its Black Sea Fleet flagship, the missile cruiser Moskva, is on fire and evacuated after Ukraine says hitting it with two Ukrainian-made Neptune cruise missiles. turning point of the war. »

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday that the Moscow “stay afloat” and that arrangements were being made to tow it to port.

Real-time analysis

The other notable change that social media has brought to the war in Ukraine is real-time commentary from experts. daily beast Journalist and Forbes.com contributor David Ax (@daxe) was quick to comment on what the loss of the guided-missile cruiser could mean for Russia.

“Even more incredible, kyiv only had one Neptune battery as far as we know. And SAVED it and its handful of missiles until it fired on the biggest Russian ship in the area. Patience. Discipline “, Ax tweeted.

He quickly added: “The situation is getting worse for Russia. It is out of the question that Turkey will allow one of the two remaining “Slava” class cruisers to enter the Black Sea to replace the “Moskva”. Russia has lost half its naval firepower off Ukraine and cannot restore it without going to war with NATO.”

Fight misinformation

Although it has been confirmed that the Moscow was badly damaged in the Black Sea, misinformation about the warship continued to make the rounds on social media. This included footage of another vessel on fire, which had been inaccurately labeled the Russian Navy’s guided missile cruiser.

The Associated Press was among news outlets trying to set the record straight, tweeting “A manipulated image is being shared online with false claims showing the Russian warship Moskva on fire in the Black Sea. It actually shows a ship on fire in the Kerch Strait in 2019.”

It seems that social media can provide real-time reporting and analysis of a conflict, and help dispel some of the fog of war – but the platform can still spread misinformation. No doubt Tokyo Rose would have launched a multitude of tweets on the Lexington and Intrepid.