Wednesday, 14 October 2015

something else they don't tell you about the world wide web


It's still a couple of weeks until the start of this years NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month although I think I'll be giving it a miss this time around.

I did idly consider some kind of Colder War theme, but I think I'd be better off fixing some of my previous writing attempts.

Strange to relate, I recently had another book published. This one wasn't under the name 'rashbre' but instead under my real name and was with a bunch of accomplices. It's been a longish project and finally made the light of day in time for a conference in Frankfurt.

It's more technical than my novel-writing attempts, and doesn't really belong in these pages, so I won't say more here. Instead, back to the Colder War.

My background thinking for a new story theme was to consider the effects of a Colder War in a socially connected world. The ways that webs work. However, with current global conditions, the real-life events are already operating faster than I can make anything up. I'd considered something about border incursions to stir unrest, and how long it could remain undetected in the era of Twitter.

The reality has already unfolded with the tragedy of the MH17 plane disaster. The Dutch investigation is reporting that the plane was shot down by a surface to air missile. That's where the social media kicks in, tracing what could have happened...or as some are saying, could have been faked.

Top of the post I've shown a representation of a BUK Surface to Air system. There's the command post, a snowdrift radar unit (the thing that looks like a solar panel), the rocket launcher (shown is the more modern M2 with its flatter radome) and a backup truck with more missiles. The missiles shown are the most recent type with short fins for extra manoeuvrability. Bottom line: It's not an easy convoy to hide.

So when social media started to lace the MH17 situation together, they assembled a set of photos and videos of a BUK convoy on flatbed trailers in Russia, heading towards the Ukrainian border just a couple of days before plane was shot down. These are supposedly from random dashcams and similar. Here's an example video:

There's another video of an assembly of BUK equipment near a filling station around Alexyevka. At least some of the convoy travels south following the Ukranian border towards Kamensk-Schactinsky, which is itself about 15 km inside the Russian side of the border.

Then there's another photo from Paris Match, around Snizhne, inside Ukraine, of what looks like a similar BUK missile launcher, this time on a civilian flatbed lorry.

Although it is under camouflage netting, the shape of it suggests it is one of the older launchers with the bulbous radome. They have the long finned missiles and a different type of equally lethal shrapnel in the warhead. The type that carves a T-shaped bow-tie pattern.

Above, it's the same flatbed and launcher captured in a video sequence also in Snizhne, about to head up a hill to forest, which on google also shows a couple of large clear areas.

Most of this data was available a day or two after the plane crash over a year ago. Even with video footage of the launcher moving through Snizhne, there's been challenges to the authenticity of every aspect.

It includes a counter suggestion about a Python missile fired from a Sukhoi Su-25 jet fighter which was then subsequently shot down by a Russian plane. There's even a fancy control room reconstruction of the airspace, from the Russians and showing the Sukhoi SU-25 alongside the three civilian planes in the 17:00-18:00 timeslot.

All of this has been playing out on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, with some incredibly polarised factions in the discussions. Further speculation includes that Putin was flying through the same airspace about 40 minutes before MH17. Presumably the Russian leader's plane would have IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) systems to identify it, like they now fit as standard to American and Canadian commercial planes?

What I'm coming around to, is that beyond the tragedy of the situation, there is also a complex web of jitterdata, which is now generated at spectacular velocity. Social media is fully in the mix and a few well-planted stories can quickly guarantee good coverage for just about anything. So if we are to get a Colder War, we'd better get used to looking for the webs and avoiding getting caught in them.

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