Passivity, manipulated outrage, and the solution

The Ukraine war perfectly illustrates how outrage regarding foreign conflict zones is generated selectively and handed to passive consumers, who drink stories like cans of Coke. Countless conflicts and even the names of countries are unheard of until someone decides to sell them.

With Ukraine, we are presented (through the international media and through social media) with a supposed reality in which a country (Russia) launched an unprovoked attack on its neighbour. This caused citizens all across the world to spontaneously denounce this apparent act of evil.

Ukraine seemed to come into existence in February 2022. People were given primers explaining what Ukraine is and where it is, so they can know better than everybody in Russia and in Ukraine itself.

Likewise, many conflicts and supposedly valiant struggles, such as in Syria, ceased to exist when the stories stopped, because the enemy (in that case the "Assad regime") was not being defeated as planned. As the manipulators lost interest, so too did the manipulated.

Bought outrage

Ukraine came to nobody's attention by their own will.

In reality, no citizen of any country denounced anything or rose up against anything that happened in Ukraine. The government and the international media simply decided to coax and convince the population of countries like Great Britain into thinking it was "the done thing" to condemn Russia. We used just the same approaches we use when marketing soft drinks to people, to get them to buy a ticket on the outrage bandwagon that the government thinks they should buy.

Setting aside the question of whether or not it is morally righteous for us all to fly Ukrainian flags from our windows, we should also be interested in knowing if we have strings, and if somebody is pulling them.

Consider whether the decision to care so much about Ukraine, as opposed to conflict-ridden Yemen or Ethiopia, was really your idea. Was it not in fact caused by your awareness of Ukraine, and complete unawareness of Yemen and Ethiopia? If so, is the one pulling the strings of your outrage in fact the one responsible for providing your daily news digest or delivering your evening news broadcast?

Where are all your other flags?

Which side are you on, between Morocco and the Sahrawis in Western Sahara, or between rebel Tigray and the forces of Addis Ababa? Between the Ansar Allah-led administration in Sanaa and the exiled government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi? Between Kashmir and the Indian occupation? Oh, of course, these places and combatants don't exist, because the media has not given you a primer on them and told you who the bad guy is.

Whose side were you on between Kiev and Donbass, during the eight-year-long phase of the Ukraine conflict before the Russian invasion? But of course, that never happened, because the media ignored that.

One could argue that some of those conflicts aren't worth choosing a side in, because they aren't severe enough and the casualties are too low, but why should that influence anything? Is the "bad" side really just the side that was reported to have caused casualties or escalated the situation at a particular moment of news coverage, and no history or context is needed? What kind of moral system would that be?

For many, only the things appearing on television screens or socially encouraged social media feeds exist or deserve any comment. Occasionally, someone might make a social media post trying to showcase horrors in their country, but if it wasn't on the news, most of us will just ignore it and move on, dismissing the poster as some liar or lunatic. The news media may later assert something with no evidence at all, and people will accept it.

Build your own news service

People have committed themselves to the silliest causes due to some minute of tear-jerking manipulation, while being blissfully unaware of other causes in the world, because someone else they can't even name is manipulating their news feed. People even ultimately end up giving their lives for that reason, too, misled like cattle by personages they know nothing of.

It is also really easy to break someone's control of your information. You can simply build your own news digest, using tools like or any number of news aggregator services, according to which you can select the sources you feel provide balanced coverage of world events. There is no reason to only be aware of a conflict or controversy that some talking heads think it is important to talk about, for their own reasons.

The person deciding if a country needs your support can easily be you, rather than someone else. It is in fact possible to know about every country in our world, to be aware of the strife or injustice taking place in all of them at all times. Is this not better than receiving the painfully abridged account that someone else wants to give you, covering a particular locale and a particular time favourable to them?

People have many buttons that can be pressed by others, wanting to control them like robots. It makes sense to at least try to guard some of them, especially the button of emotional appeal, so you are more independent of manipulation and able to come to independent opinions.