The images stream by like a dystopian slide show: Ukrainian farmers pulling abandoned Russian tanks from black soil. Bodies and buildings shredded in airstrikes. A young woman who jokes that bunker food is the pinnacle of fine dining. The stricken faces of refugees.
The scenes are shared online by ordinary Ukrainians who, like civilians in other conflicts of the digital age, provide visceral glimpses of life under siege, especially in areas that are inaccessible to journalists and aid workers. The first sense of the horrors in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb Russian forces withdrew from last week, came via shaky footage recorded as civilians emerged from hiding with the return of Ukrainian troops.
It’s easy for complexities to get lost in the emotional reactions to seeing the war through disjointed images of its human toll, said Rita Konaev of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University.
“The fog of war, the selectivity in reporting, the incentive to present certain information and hide other information — all of these factors matter, and I think that’s where the public perception kind of gets away from the details,” Konaev said.
Still, Konaev said, even with the caveats, it’s extraordinary to watch what she calls “the people’s history” of the war being written from the ground, in real time, through thousands of social media posts.
“We’ve always lived with this assumption in many previous disasters and wars that if people only knew, they would do something, they would help,” Konaev said. “Well, we can never say we didn’t know about this.”
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