Ukraine has been the scene of recent civil unrest. Clashes with police in the capital city of Kiev have become commonplace. Looting, fires, injuries and fatalities are on the rise. Even the use of catapults has been documented.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of provoking the turmoil by creating violent factions within the protesters. Sowing the seeds of dissent has long been an effective way to quell large protests. This strategy incorporates the basic Roman principle of “divide and conquer.” Nothing new there.
Of particular interest are the recent actions taken by the Ukrainian government. Laws restricting the right to publicly assemble have gone into effect. There has been a crackdown on wearing masks and helmets. Erecting tents and sound systems now require special permits.
But the greatest concern revolves around something that occurred on January 21, 2014. An ominous, bulk text message was disseminated. It targeted everyone in the vicinity of the protests.
“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
From an Orwellian perspective, this is like feeding any hope of a social contract between a government and its citizenry directly into a paper shredder.
Exactly where the message originated from remains a “mystery.”
Three wireless carriers (Kyivstar, MTS and Life) denied any involvement or collusion with the government. Kyivstar, the largest mobile communication service provider, suggested the possibility of a “pirate” cellphone tower being used to propagate the information.
The phrasing of the message seemed purposely designed to intimidate its recipients. The specific jargon appears carefully attenuated to echo the sentiment expressed in recent oppressive laws governing the right of assembly.
The ramifications of such an unsolicited, mass text message are designed to set a lingering, menacing precedent. It doesn’t take a degree in clinical psychology to determine the lasting societal impact.
While this incident is certainly unsettling, it raises an even greater concern as to the prospect of fomenting an artificially generated stampede. The unfolding crisis in the Ukraine reminds us of just how powerful words can be. Take a moment and reflect on the consequences of other hypothetical messages and what could happen to unsuspecting crowds elsewhere.
While the mass text in the Ukraine was certainly part of a vindictive agenda, there was still a modicum of restraint. What would happen if the message incorporated an extreme degree of malicious intent? An engulfing, blanketing message designed to have a mentally suffocating effect. If people were to panic, it could get physical really fast.