A New Bottom in Russian Propaganda: Detached Look at Horrific Photographs of Dead Ukrainians Hailed as Objectivity

S. Sasse – philologist, professor at the University of Zurich, one of the theorists of the history of art and culture founders of the center; translation: Liuba Gurova, Dekoder; “Dekoder” is a bridge connecting German and Russian mass media and science, a guide to the world of discussions between the two states.

What do we see – blood or for that matter paint? Did that dead body actually rustle? Or killed
are the bodies actually laid out like they are in WWII photos? Why did the photos start?
publish only a few days after the withdrawal of the Russian troops? What does metadata tell us?

These are the kinds of questions that are usually asked in order to expose liars. Photorensika – forensic
photo examination has become perhaps the most important tool in the search for evidence of war crimes. In 2014, the research group “Forensic Architecture” was able to prove that the regular forces of the Russian army in Donbas participated in the battles on the side of the separatists. The group called the study “Battle for Ilovaiska”, it used open source material, and the analysis was carried out with the help of a special program for processing videos, satellite photos and photographs.

Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, talks about an epistemological shift: the focus is now on the collection of material evidence, “what the thing shows” has become more important than the accounts of human victims and witnesses of crimes themselves. Nevertheless, he insists that the mere fact of the existence of things or specific objects does not make them evidence, since the “language of things” still needs to be “translated” or “interpreted.”

In such cases, forensic analysis does not help to search for evidence, but is used as a tool to analyze evidence extracted from an emotional background. It’s a cold, technical look. There should be no questions: whose body is it, who was killed, whose apartment was bombed and why? If you look at the photos of the war in Ukraine with such a limited perspective, the emotional level turns off, the pity for the victims of the war turns off, a habit is formed of looking at such photographs, doubting their authenticity. And such a habit is glorified as critical thinking.

“Expertise” as disinformation

Forming such a habit is nothing more than part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.

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