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11 August 2008
Who is winning the South Ossetia propaganda war?
Both sides in the South Ossetia Conflict seem to be doing their best to prevent the other from getting their information out. There is nothing that Georgia seems to be able to do against the massive Russian information machine, but they had some limited success against South Ossetia's servers, and then the Russian team returned the favour and made Georgia's pages unviewable.

Let's take South Ossetia's internet presence first. There isn't much of it, and most of it is in Russian, obviously. There is one page that issues press statements in English, but the offerings tend to run to such gems as: "The nationalistic and fascist government of Georgia from the year 1989 support the policy of the annihilation and the impression of the aboriginal Ossetian population from the territory that they occupy." Yeah, that's about the size of it, pure Soviet style press releases that seem to be almost guaranteed to send people to sleep.

Perhaps luckily for South Ossetia their server went down on Saturday, so nobody could read this drivel. Not that there was much to read, anyway, as on Friday the site was only updated with two releases.

Just to remind everyone that Friday was the day when the Georgian army rolled in with its Israeli advisers. The fact that press releases were not flowing thick and fast tells you everything that you could ever want to know about bureaucratic jobsworths and their indolence.

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a pretty decent website, in the technical sense, but it is no more informative than its South Ossetian counterpart. It went off-line yesterday, but is back up at the time of writing. That said, most of the links don't work, so obviously they are still having problems due either to the bombing or a Russian hacking campaign.

Probably in anticipation of that happening, the Georgians created a Blogspot blog and are issuing press releases through that. I know, could I make this shit up? Anyway, that is what they are doing and the BBC is now giving out the link to the blog instead of to the original foreign ministry site. The blog has been updated five times today, as compared to not a single update at the S. Ossetian site, and the Georgian press releases do have the advantage of being readable by normal people.

So who is winning this information war? It looks to this writer as if the Georgians are just ahead, if only in the technical aspects of running a website. That said neither side is really getting to grips with the demands of a 24-hour rolling news cycle, coupled with blogs and other websites, all of which are screaming for news.

So, here is a tip, fellows. Let's have sites that are easy to navigate and in English. Give us lots of human interest stories and plenty of videos and photos. Trust me when I say that if you do that then we will use everything that is there. Oh, and update the fucking thing at least once an hour, and not once a day.

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Russia Today is doing an amazing job of reporting the conflict.

My mum bless her, was riveted to Russia Today, yelling at the TV.

RT is one "kick arse" station.

This conflict is only a stepping stone, for Bush's war on Iran.

RT is making sure that the US allies are graphically shown to be the nutters.

Georgians had people gathered for safety in a church... so the Georgians set the church on fire, with the people inside.

RT is broadcasting the graphic images of the dead.

It's a video diary of the atrocities being committed - by the Georgians/US Allies.

11 August 2008 at 13:18  

RT's Peter Lavelle

Georgia is poised to invade South Ossetia because it can. But South Ossetia is not the real aim of this. Abkhazia is the real target. South Ossetia is a test to gauge Russia’s reaction. Once active resistance is subdued in South Ossetia, Tbilisi will taunt Abkhazia with “See, your Russian friends didn’t do much for South Ossetia, nor will they really help you. Now come to the table and surrender.” This will be a huge miscalculation. Abkhazia is not South Ossetia.

Abkhazia is stable, self-confident and even rich - if investment continues. Abkhazia can also defend itself. A Georgian military operation against South Ossetia will have the opposite impact on Abkhazia – the latter will turn inward and cease to be part of any negotiated arrangement with Tbilisi. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Russia drew a line in the sand – that it will henceforth protect Russian citizens anywhere in the world (just like the US does today).

What will all of this lead to? South Ossetia, if invaded and occupied, will become a long-term headache for Tbilisi. A low-level insurgency will harass the Georgian occupiers. South Ossetian identity will only grow. NATO will also turn its back on Saakashvili - it will not induct a new member that is domestically unstable. Abkhazia will wait it out. Maybe in another 15 years the world will finally recognize the inevitable – Abkhazia is a viable nation-state worthy of independence. I am sure the Abkhazians are more than willing to wait for this to happen. Returning to Tbilisi’s fold is simply not an option anymore.

A parting thought: Saakashvili has it all wrong. The use of force or the threat of force demonstrates just how bankrupt his vision for a united Georgia is. He wants reconciliation by use of a gun. How can one truly and honestly resolve differences when one party puts a gun to the head of the other?

I have said time and again that Tbilisi has to take the hard road to unite the country. And that way is the “demonstration effect.” Make Tbilisi-controlled Georgia prosperous, safe, with a future, and not anti-Russia. When all of this really happens, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia might take a moment to reconsider their positions. Nothing succeeds like success!

To date, Saakashvili is one big loser.

11 August 2008 at 14:37  

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