“May you live in interesting times” is a proverb that’s not intended to be nice. It’s intended to be a curse—because interesting times are often hard times. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unfortunately now one of the many events that we’ve experienced in these interesting times. And while this may be a war that’s been brewing for some time, what surprised me most is something that I should’ve expected. As Russia invaded Ukraine, a massive amount of digital fog rolled in—not just over the battlefield, but over the entire planet.
Of course, Russian propaganda rolled out, but I’d argue it was mostly meh — as in, most people didn’t buy it on any side. What proved far stronger was the world’s embrace of the Ukrainian people’s plight. But arguably even stronger than that was the memes, the disinformation, and the viral nature of news generated by, well, everybody. This has created a digital fog of war that’s a rather new event in the history of conflict. From that fog, we’ve gathered some fascinating stories events, and we’ve observed how war can go viral.
The Ghost of Kyiv
Easily the most recognizable part of this digital fog of war has been the Ghost of Kyiv. Sandboxx editor Alex Hollings wrote a very detailed story on the Ghost of Kyiv, and it’s worth taking a peep at for a dive into Russian and Ukrainian air power. The Ghost of Kyiv took down six Russian aircraft in a single day, reportedly.
The Ghost of Kyiz became an instant legend, and no one seems to know how much truth the tall tale holds. To be fair, I don’t think anyone wants to debunk it. We want a brave fighter pilot defending his country, we want it to provide us hope, and we want to scare the Russians. Some reported footage is from a video game, believe it or not, but the Ghost existed before the footage, so maybe he’s out there… or maybe I too just want to believe in the Ghost of Kyiv.
A Samurai in Ukraine
Viral is as viral does, and one popular picture reported to portray the Japanese ambassador to Ukraine in Samurai armor with a sword. The caption often claimed it was his ancient family armor, and Samurai must protect the land they call home. It’s a neat picture, but sadly it’s not real (well, it’s a real picture, but the story associated with it isn’t).
“The Japanese ambassador to Ukraine stayed in Kiev,” reads the viral post. “His great-grandfather’s samurai sword and traditional armor was delivered to him from Tokyo, Japan. In a FB post, he declared that the samurai must protect the country in which he is.”
However, it’s easy to see why the initial confusion existed. It’s not the Japanese Ambassador to Ukraine, but the Ukraine ambassador to Japan. He was gifted the armor by a Japanese artist and donned for photographs and a Facebook video before the invasion.
The Boys at Snake Island
Defiance in the face of monumental odds inspires people. It’s why we remember the Alamo or Nathan Hale’s final words. It’s also why the tale of Snake Island became so popular. The story goes that 12 Ukrainian soldiers stationed at Snake Island were told by a Russian Warship to surrender. They replied, “Russian Warship, Go F*** Yourself.” The story states they were then bombarded and killed by the warship.
This is one of the pieces of digital fog that’s tricky. Those soldiers existed, and they did defy the Russian warship, and President Zelensky even confirmed their deaths, but it turns out the story of their deaths was greatly exaggerated. In real life, they repelled two attacks by Russian forces and only surrendered when they ran out of ammo.
Steven Seagal is Spetznaz?
Fat, washed up, and generally terrible person Steven Seagal has been reportedly working with the Russians as part of a Russian special operations unit. A picture of the alleged human trafficker popped up with the man in military garb as proof.
In real life, the photo of the obese action star came from some direct-to-video film called Cartels. Steven Seagal has been friendly with Russian strongman Putin in the past and maintains Russian citizenship, but there’s no evidence to suggest he’s joined this fight. Seagal has made public statements seemingly blaming the United States for the invasion of Ukraine, however.
Limited Edition Molotov Cocktails
The liquid fire bomb gained its name from the Finnish resistance to Russian aggression, so it’s only appropriate that the Ukrainians turn to the classic weapon to resistant 2022’s Russian aggression. Pravda Brewery shut off the beer taps and began using their expertise, their glass bottles, and brewing skills to come up with something a little spicier than a good lager.
Is Pravda brewery real? Are they really making Molotov Cocktails? Yep, and yep. We can check this off as true and not a result of the digital fog of war.
TikTok University Teaches Tanks
Another viral, social media, and Reddit-friendly headline went viral recently involving a TikTok user teaching viewers how to drive a tank! Well, it’s partially true and not necessarily an issue of digital fog, but it did come bearing a little misinformation. These TikToks exist, but they aren’t teaching people how to drive tanks.
Instead, they’ve been showing people how to drive APC-style armored cars. These armored troop transports are popular with Russian and Ukrainian military forces. The TikTok shows the user starting it and getting it moving with little difficulty. Some popular videos have also been proven to have been filmed prior to the invasion.
Russian Soldiers Swipe Right
Some stories are just impossible to prove one way or the other, but I honestly believe this one. Apparently, as Russian soldiers stormed into Ukraine, they left their Tinder profiles active. Ukrainian women reportedly began seeing Russian soldiers in uniform popping up on the app. This story is nothing new, soldiers are often young, and young men are—well, I don’t know what else to say about young men that we don’t all already know.
However, I can see an easy way for Ukrainian intelligence to catfish Russian soldiers and gain valuable intel if this rumor proves true.
Digital Fog Rolling In
As I type this, the conflict is only escalating. If the rest of the war goes anything like the beginning, it’s likely to get even crazier. The digital fog of war has grown rapidly over the last decade or so. With Russia and Ukraine being technologically modern countries, there is bound to be an uncontrolled amount of digital fog rolling in.