The conflict with Russia is almost exclusively experienced by people living outside Ukraine. It hasn’t been even close in that theater.
Virtually every one of the war’s most memorable images, a woman offering sunflower seeds to a Russian soldier, residents making Molotov cocktails out of old bottles, and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zilenskyy requesting ammunition, have been used to rally the world behind his country.
Although Ukraine might ultimately be defeated by military might, the power of war’s imagery won’t be underestimated.
The theme of David vs. Goliath has been the focus of news coverage. It captures both the strength and the suffering of the Ukrainian people, while the leaders have provided the material necessary to support the story.
Kenneth Osgood, a Colorado School of Mines professor and expert on propaganda, said that they seem to understand that this is a war of imagery as well as a ground battle. Ukraine is not a viable military option without international support. It is a political reality.
Few moments capture the imagination like the one offered by Ukrainian soldiers stationed at Snake Island in Black Sea when they were told by Russian warships to surrender or be bombed.
“Russian warship,” was the reply. “Go (expletive).”
Although initial reports claimed that the soldiers had been killed in the ensuing attack on their base, the Ukrainian Navy later confirmed that they were alive. The AP was unable to independently verify the accounts.
Marty Kaplan, professor at The Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in Southern California, said that the event was “as brave and courageous as it could be” “That was what the whole world was seeing. They spoke on our behalf to Russians.
Many stories have appeared in the news about ordinary Ukrainians who are taking up arms despite their age or inexperience.
Images of defiance were common as citizens in Chernihiv were photographed blocking Russian tanks from the road. One video clip shows an angry woman confronting a Russian soldier and offering to put sunflower seeds into your pocket so that they will grow after you’re gone.
Some cases show that Ukrainians have made Russian soldiers seem vulnerable pawns by humanizing them. One posted video shows a captured soldier calling his mother. The plaintive last text messages that a Russian soldier had sent to his mother before he died, was read aloud by the ambassador of Ukraine to the United Nations
The active Twitter account of the Ukrainian government is available here. It shared a map showing Ukraine’s relative sizes with the message “Realize the scale of Ukrainian heroism.” And it urged its followers to tag @Russia and let them know what you thought of them.
It retweeted Tuesday’s photo showing Stephen King in a shirt that said “I Stand With Ukraine,” with the message “we will prevail against those langoliers” (a reference to King’s creations).
To emphasize that civilians are suffering, the Ukrainians also highlighted civilian casualties. This is despite Russian claims to be seeking military targets. Unexploded bombs have been photographed near playgrounds and in front of grocery stores.
Reporters have found many examples of this on their own. The Associated Press published a story about doctors trying unsuccessfully to save a 6-year old girl who was injured by Russian shelling.
He tried to save her but a doctor saw the video camera of a journalist and said, “Show it to Putin.”
CNN’s Matthew Chance, Tuesday , walked past a column ofRussian military vehicle blown up by Ukrainian missiles. Some are still burning. He saw an unexploded bomb on the ground, and he carefully walked away.
Although it was memorable television, its meaning was not clear. Is this a sign of military success?
Zelenskyy, a tireless advocate for the Ukrainians, has appeared with his countrymen and given near-constant video addresses. Zelenskyy was a hero for many who saw him plead for help after refusing an offer to leave the country.
Video: He delivered a speech Tuesday before the European Parliament. His translator was at one point fighting back sobs.
Following Zelenskyy’s standing ovation MSNBC’s Willie Geist stated that “the Churchill analogies are exhausted at this stage.”
Osgood stated that Zelenskyy’s team has been very clever in describing things as they are. “They are delivering his message that ‘we’re standing against the giant’ with a refreshing type of bluntness and a hint defiant despair.”
The imagery tells a story that is much more than superficial. It almost certainly has galvanized support for Ukraine from other countries and provided momentum to military aid, sanctions, and other economic repercussions for Russian interests that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, stated Philip Seib, author last year of “Information at War”: Journalism, Disinformation, and Modern Warfare.
Contrary to Zelenskyy’s speech, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, has made speeches that have led people to whisper about his mental abilities. He is seen sitting at large tables far from any aides and appears to be isolated.
It is difficult to sell the Russian story of an invasion of a country neighboring for unknown reasons. Osgood stated that the Russians display a Soviet-era incompetence, which contrasts with their recent demonstrated adeptness in information warfare.
Seib stated, “This is part their overall strategy.” “What they didn’t consider was that there are many other voices out there.”
Other negative effects have also been caused by the momentum generated, such as restrictions on social media distribution from their state-controlled media outlets.
Despite the successes of the Ukrainians many news outlets were careful to point out that there are still dark days ahead.
Kaplan stated, “This is truly suspenseful.” We don’t know what the next step will bring. It could end in horror. It could be a triumph of the human spirit.