The Asymmetric Perception of Information

In light of the recent onslaught of American and pro-American accusations that blame Russia for all of Ukraine’s woes, the situation in Ferguson — a suburb of St. Louis, where on August 9, 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown was killed by a white policeman — has become increasingly resonant over the last several weeks.

It’s one thing when Obama authorizes air strikes in Iraq. After all, that’s just some faraway land, an ocean away from home. And everyone knows that Obama has every right to decide the fate of the world. For in Iraq there are militants running around from the Sunni group “Islamic State” (IS), Iraqi Sunnis, militants from the army of Saddam Hussein, and other little terrorist groups. They all pose an increased security threat in Iraq. In late June, they even declared their intention to establish an Islamic caliphate. And, well, that wouldn’t do at all for the U.S.

Therefore, it was absolutely vital for the Americans to help their brothers in the Iraqi security forces to regain control over the largest dam in Iraq, near the city of Mosul. After all, having seized the dam, Islamic State militants would have been able to use it to alter the flow of the river and flood major cities, which would mean American citizens and facilities could have suffered, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

And this “iron logic” can be used to justify anything. It can justify U.S. military operations in Iraq, it can justify Israel’s bombing of Palestinian territories, and it can justify the necessity of introducing sanctions against Russia in support of Ukraine. That’s somewhere far away, invisible. And that means the flow of information can become extremely skewed, allowing informational networks to resemble a mess of spaghetti.

But when something is happening in your own backyard, everything becomes a lot more complicated. In the case of the murder of Michael Brown, there turned out to be witnesses who contradicted police statements claiming that the young man received several bullet wounds while engaged in a struggle with the policemen in their car — in other words, accusing him of resisting a person of authority in the performance of his duty. The witnesses insist that Brown was unarmed. He was shot while standing with his hands up.

But that’s not all. More fuel was added to the fire by the fact that Michael Brown was African-American — as are the vast majority of Ferguson residents — while the policeman who shot him was white. This in fact became key to the story of Ferguson, as it unravels the myth of American racial tolerance. The governor of the state of Missouri was even forced to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew.

Judging by a recording from a store’s video camera, Brown was certainly no angel, and this was far from the first time he’d committed such crimes. But the world would probably never have heard this story if the robber were also white, like the policeman. But now, the word of an African-American has been pitted against the official information of the police.

But that, as they say, is the cost of the information industry. When we’re talking about some distant overseas land of bears like Russia, which has the gall to conduct military exercises on its own territory — an act which obviously poses a threat to the entire world — the American population accepts everything exactly as it is portrayed by the U.S. media.

Of course, it must be said that when it comes to protracted information wars, the Americans have been very successful. Indeed, the greater the distance from American shores, the more asymmetrically information is perceived. This is clearly confirmed by the events in Ukraine over the last few years.

Alexei Filatov is vice president of the anti-terrorism “Alpha” unit of the International Veterans Association.

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