How war changes. The media conflict and the doppler effect
War is a dramatic and profound rupture of daily life: getting news of loved ones from the front, learning how the fighting is evolving, waiting for the missing and mourning the dead. Or at least that is how conflict used to be experienced by the countries involved. From the outside, live broadcasts – starting with those of the 1991 Iraq war – recounted excerpts and decisive moments to those concerned. The involvement generated in the West by so many submerged wars has always been very limited and more often than not left to the opinion of experts and scholars. Not to mention the welcome for refugees, increasingly struggling with entire opposing socio-political alignments.
Today, for the first time, we are witnessing a media war, with all that this observation entails. And not only with regard to the use of social channels by Russian propaganda, characterized by fake news and evident distortions of reality. Not even with regard to the wise use that the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been able to make of social networks, creating empathy for his cause and putting the West in a position in which it cannot refuse to provide him with help and support.
The case of the increasing number of online social networkers uploading messages from the front lines is emblematic: superstitious rituals performed by soldiers, snippets of battles showing courageous defence, buildings destroyed by bombardments: all live, providing a narrative of a dramatic conflict, with the video always pointed at what is happening. Not to mention the heartbreaking images of divided families that portray the father staying to fight and the wife and children leaving for safety. Frames that have created the right climate to welcome refugees by leveraging the profound humanity that solidarity requires. And that it will always require.
Beyond being a special war in that sense, can the proliferation of material generated on the social networks allow us to take the due distance needed to come up with the reasons and a possible settlement to the conflict, which must necessarily take place at a diplomatic level? And finally, isn’t there the risk of generating a Doppler effect, an emotional anamnesis for which, between a fashion photo and a cooking video, the war is internalized for a few seconds, to then be removed immediately afterwards? The gravity of what is happening deserves serious reflection.