Russian media’s brief happy hour

Plenty of other evidence has been submitted to the court of public opinion since the Flight MH17 disaster, but early on, there were two facts that made it clear enough to me which side was directly responsible. For now, I’m leaving out the distinction between the separatists and the Russians, and the issue of preemptive responsibility for any harm caused by the fighting.

About an hour after the crash, and probably earlier, several Russian media sites, including RIA Novosti and MK, reported that a Ukrainian military transport turboprop, an An-26, had been shot down by the rebels. Strelkov-Girkin’s Facebook account – hastily and unconvincingly repudiated later – claimed the same, adding “also possibly a Su”. A picture of what later turned out to be smoke from the MH17 was attached to one of the media reports. There were no downed Ans or Sus that evening, it soon turned out.

The second fact is the LifeNews team arriving at the scene of the crash a quarter of an hour after the fact. I have little doubt they were invited by the separatists to film what they thought was debris from a Ukrainian military plane. Russian state TV has a weakness for such gloating reports.

A few days later, the Russian defense ministry came forward with a bunch of unconvincing theories and “28 questions” to Ukraine. When I see a long list of “questions to” someone – rather than “theses against something” – I expect to look up at the interrogator and recognize a conspiracy theorist or a propagandist. I’ve seen so-called “guilters” offering 100 (or 200, or 300) “questions to Amanda Knox”, and the principal argument of 9/11 truthers is a list of “suspicious facts”. The “if you’re innocent, how can you explain this” approach is a near-certain sign of a bad-faith debater.

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