The current conflict in Ukraine provides a plethora of examples of the power of doublethink in shaping narratives in order to justify any actions, beliefs, and statements that are either untrue or so grossly distorted as to be entirely unbelievable.
The novelist George Orwell coined the term doublethink in his classic dystopian novel 1984. He defined doublethink as “The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them...To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies.”
Although the concept is elucidated in a work of fiction, it has clear and unmistakable parallels in the real world that, like Oceania – the supranational state in which the novel takes place – is in a state of constant war, and seemingly has been from time immemorial.
For anyone following the situation in eastern Ukraine closely, and specifically the accusations made by Kiev against both the anti-government rebels and Russia, it seems that Oscar Wilde’s quip that “life imitates art” is undoubtedly true. For it is clear that doublethink is a fundamental part of how the regime in Kiev sees this conflict, its role in it, and the narrative it wishes to tell the world.
As the world’s attention has been focused on eastern Ukraine in the wake of the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, the rhetoric coming from Kiev (and its patrons in Washington) has been provocative to say the least. Referring to the eastern rebels as “terrorists,” the nominal government of Ukraine has accused the rebels of being responsible for shooting down MH17. According to their claims, the forces fighting the Kiev regime shot down MH17 with sophisticated Buk anti-aircraft missile systems supplied by Russia. Naturally, such accusations imply that Kiev believes that the rebels have the capability of carrying out such a highly technical and logistically difficult attack.
Indeed, Kiev’s assertions are supported by the US, with the State Department, as well as unnamed intelligence officials speaking with various western media outlets, echoing the sentiments of its client government in Ukraine. As the Wall Street Journal reported on July 19th:
“New US intelligence assessments indicate that Moscow likely provided pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine with sophisticated antiaircraft systems in recent days, matching evidence put forward by Ukraine and bolstering charges that Russia was the source of the weapon that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 this week, killing 298... US officials say they now suspect that Russia supplied the rebels with multiple SA-11 antiaircraft systems by smuggling them into eastern Ukraine with other military equipment, including tanks.”
And so, both Ukraine and the US have reached the conclusion that, not only did the anti-government rebels have the motive and opportunity, they had the means to down MH17 as well. Despite the fact that neither Kiev nor Washington has provided hard evidence to back up their assertions, they have continued to maintain that only the rebels, with Russian assistance, could have been responsible for shooting down a commercial airliner flying at 30,000 feet. They maintain that the rebels were armed by Russia and were entirely capable of carrying out this attack.
OK, so even if we might doubt the claims of Kiev and Washington,
at least they are consistent, right? Well, not exactly.
On Wednesday July 23rd reports out of Donetsk indicated that two of the Ukrainian military’s ground attack planes had been shot down near the area where MH17 was downed. While these latest developments are no surprise given the fact that Kiev’s forces are still engaging in military operations despite calls for a ceasefire to allow the MH17 investigation to occur, what is interesting are the comments from Ukrainian officials.
Asked about the downing of these two jets, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, stated, “They were not downed by terrorists [anti-Kiev rebels]...According to our preliminary information it was done from across the border.” So, despite having no evidence to support the claim, the Kiev authorities continue to accuse Russia, not the rebels, of downing the planes. As Neil Buckley of the Financial Times wrote:
“The Ukrainians alleged Russian forces were involved in shooting down a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane and another Su-25 last week before the Malaysian aircraft was downed over rebel controlled territory. In both cases Ukrainian officials said they did not believe the rebels had the technology to shoot down planes at the height at which they were flying [emphasis added]. Russia denied any involvement.”
Wait, what? We have been hearing for days that the rebels do in fact have the capability to shoot down planes at any altitude thanks to the Buk (SA-11 in NATO speak) provided by the alleged Russian backers. So, which is it? Either the rebels do, or do not, have the capability.
It seems that, rather than basing their assertions on facts and evidence, the regime in Kiev and its patrons in Washington have been playing fast and loose with facts, fitting them into their preconceived narrative in which everything bad that happens is because of Russia and “Russian aggression,” and any evidence to the contrary is seen as merely “Russian propaganda.” However, deflecting attention away from the facts can only get you so far. Eventually, people start asking questions and becoming skeptical of your credibility. Indeed, this is precisely the point at which Kiev finds itself today.
The doublethink is self-evident. The anti-government rebels have the technology and capability to shoot down MH17, and simultaneously do not have the technology and capability to shoot down the easier targets of the Ukrainian jets. Obviously, the statements coming from the Ukrainian authorities are based on political expediency rather than facts and evidence. Perhaps this is why, at every opportunity, they proclaim that Russia is behind everything that happens in eastern Ukraine. Because, as anyone who has ever lied knows, lies are like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill.
Orwell wrote of doublethink:
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.”
While Orwell was describing his fictional dystopia of Oceania ruled by “the Party,” he might as well have been describing Kiev’s mentality and public posture today. Of course, the same could be said for the US State Department and political establishment throughout this crisis. Indeed, the untruths, omissions, and distortions have reached new levels. In time however, their “carefully constructed lies” will all fall away, leaving their false narrative exposed for the world to see. For the sake of the people of eastern Ukraine, and those of us around the world who shudder at the thought of further US-Russia escalations, let us hope that moment comes sooner rather than later.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.