During Desert Storm, I could not get enough of the 24-hour cable news update on how the US and allied forces (including forces who are generally considered anti-West) storm out of Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait and then later in 2003 when the US (with less allies) invaded all of Iraq to depose of Saddam Hussein's regime and in search of weapons of mass destruction.
All that was before social media like Twitter. There was the Internet for the second Iraq war in 2003 but this is nothing like what it is today with the war in Ukraine. I came away with a couple of observations.
- Twitter is very useful if you use it in a limited set of ways. During my searches for information about the war, I have learned a thing or two about urban resistance. Anyone who is laughing at me obviously have never seen Red Dawn. The original one of course.
- Twitter is filled with garbage and you can either let it in or keep it out. It is easy to do that. I've searched keywords about the war and when you do that, it seems like Twitter just lets everything in. The good, the bad, facts, made-up stuff (I am not going to say "made up facts"), information, and misinformation. But you can learn to filter things out - when something that seems a little too good to be true, it is.
- For instance, during the first week of the war, there was supposed an Ukrainian ace who downed six Russian fighter jets/bombers. It was not true. I am sure it did wonders for pro-democracy and the brave Ukrainian defenders and boosted morale but again, it was not true. It might have been based on a pop gun Ukrainian pilot who did take out a couple of Russian fighters but it was not six.
- Twitter was blocked by Russia and Twitter started blocking some Russian government accounts. I'm guessing that they also blocked a lot of bots (makes you wonder why Twitter did not do it before) and accounts in Russia that spread misinformation. This is why you get a few bad attempts by some who try to spread Putin's propaganda. There are accounts that are out there doing that but you can tell because when the bad spellings, grammars, and incoherent sentences are put together, the pro-Russian tweets merely repeats what is coming out of Moscow.
- Also interesting is that now Twitter is limiting access from Russia, the trolls that generally spread other misinformation and conspiracy theories are not as loud as before. Now, you get a lot of accounts from China and the Middle East who generally support the Russian invasion.
- MAGA tweets are not as pro-Putin as their leader, Donald Trump when it comes to the war. Most are quiet about the war or blame the current administration for not doing enough to help the Ukrainians - like sending in planes/tanks or implementing a no-fly zone. Very vocal about the Hunter Biden laptop though. But MAGA tweets seem to be down. At least for me.
- In Ukraine, the Russian army probably have access to social media that their fellow Russians do not have access to. I wonder what they are seeing on Twitter, news that are no longer banned, and on other social media. I imagine it cannot be a good - their advances have stalled, pictures of Russian equipments destroyed or commandeered by Ukrainian farmers, the low morale being reported in the media, and the six or so generals/colonels who have died for the Motherland. These are kids who did not want to be there, who were lied to, and wanted to go home.
Like I said above - if you use social media in the right way, there are benefits. There is a danger of being too immersed into something and locking one's beliefs without trying to consider other sides and social media lets you do that. Some social media like Facebook even encourages that. Twitter is far from perfect but it is no where nearly as bad as Facebook. Too much of Twitter can be bad too.
For updates like what I was looking for on Twitter, it works. You have to be smart about it. For the Ukrainian war, this is the first war I can think of that is being fought on battlefield front as well as the social media front.
Look, I'm not anti-Russia. I'm pro-people and definitely anti-bullies, anti-Putin, anti-Xi, and anti-despots (bonafide ones or wannabe ones, you know who I am talking about). Nor am I anti-Chinese. I just don't like the policies of these governments - wars (okay, we had a couple of we started and I'm not for them), great firewalls, and taking away people's freedoms in general.