The recent scandalous publication of data, ostensibly, of an opinion poll conducted in the occupied part of Donbass, surprised even not with the results of the study, but with the fact that, perhaps, for the first time, discussing it on the air of television and radio channels, the expert community openly and massively asked the question: what was it for published right now?
Thus, quite ordinary, as a matter of course, a well-known, but hushed up trend was voiced to the general public: in Ukrainian realities, sociology and information in the media have long ceased to be just sociology and information, but are a tool for manipulating public opinion.
That is, what we consider to be a mirror, in fact, does not reflect the reality, but shows it to us in such a way that is beneficial for someone, so that the common people would see it like that. Social networks, with their troll factories, have brought this situation to an absolute. On the basis of a distorted vision of reality, people do not hesitate to take completely absurd ideas for gospel. For example, of a one-sided "peace" during the war. Or the economic support of those who are at war with you…
It would seem that the absurdity of these ideas is obvious! But if they do not explain to you what exactly is meant by the gracious word "peace", and the economic support of the terrorists is called "cheapening of electricity tariffs", saying that it is already approved by the majority of your fellow citizens, then a person is a social being, - few people are able to go against the opinion of the majority… And even fewer people are capable, or, more precisely, are accustomed to analyze what they are being told with reference to authorities or opinion of the majority…
The question of manipulating sociology and information always arises during elections and other political campaigns (the same referenda, for example) particularly acute. A vivid illustration of this is the last parliamentary race.
The dirtiest in this regard was the campaign of Opposition Platform – For Life. Not because the politicians gathered in it are trickier or meaner than others. It is just because its political strategists had to solve the tasks more complicated than the banal receipt of more mandates in the Rada.
The fact is that the electoral "ideology" of Opposition Platform – For Life was built precisely on absurd ideas. For example, on the improvement of relations with Russia, despite the fact that Russia annexed our Crimea, unleashed a war in the Donbass and deprived millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians of their homes.
It would seem impossible to justify explicit and public rape, because it is an obvious fact. But! If we say that the victim herself provoked the rapist with clothes and figure. If we state that everyone around has long been aware of her poor moral reputation. If we add the suffering of wives, whose husbands looked not at their feet, to this a description… Then the picture is totally changing. And the public opinion is already on the side of the rapist…
So, in order for people to vote for the ideas men, at first, you need to legitimize the idea in the society. And sociology is the main tool to achieve this goal – especially, if the idea is "upside down".
Everyone knows that one of the main goals of Moscow on the Donbass front is to fix the interstate conflict as an "intra-Ukrainian crisis". This removes Moscow from responsibility for thousands of deaths and looting of the region. Get it out from international sanctions. And creates the prerequisite for the actual federalization (read – fragmentation) of Ukraine – for which, in fact, the Kremlin has been spending money on the "people's republics" all these years.
That is why after their trips to Moscow, Medvedchuk and Boyko constantly talked about the need for direct negotiations with Donetsk and Luhansk. But how to explain this to people, if most of them consider the conflict in the Donbass a war with Russia? This is where not very scrupulous sociologists come in handy.
A joint poll "of the Ukrainian Institute for Social Research named after O. Yaremenko and the Social Monitoring Center", published on June 20 (in the midst of the election campaign) is an example.
According to this study, "43% of the respondents called negotiations and compromise with the leadership of Russia, as well as with the so-called "DNR/LNR", the main way of achieving peace in the Donbass".
This news immediately became the top one in the Russian and occupation media. It (by chance, of course) coincided in time with the campaign "Zelensky, recognize the choice of Donbass!", which was actively staged this summer in CADLO on orders from Moscow.
Moreover, it gave a handle for political statements and accusations by the leaders of the "republics" of the President of Ukraine, who "does not hear the opinion of his people: Ukrainian opinion polls say that people are tired of the war and want to end it, more than half of them supported direct negotiations with the leaders of the Republics".
Surely, the argument that 43% of Ukrainians consider negotiations and compromises with the "DNR"-"LNR" leaders "the main way to achieve peace in the Donbass" sounded in Minsk and other international venues.
That is, this opinion poll has become a factor in the geopolitical game. Not the Ukrainian game. But how objective is it?
It is interesting that today the press release and presentation of this poll on the website of the Social Monitoring Center, where the links from the relevant media news lead, are erased, and this part of the survey has been deleted from them…
But as the phrase goes, manuscripts do not burn. The question to the respondents was: "How to achieve peace in the Donbass? Please provide one answer". The options are given. Among them: "By means of a direct conversation with the leaders of Russia, as well as with the representatives of the DNR and LNR, it is necessary to come to a peaceful resolution based on a compromise"…
Sorry, but what if I consider "peaceful" (are there any other?) negotiations with the aggressor country normal, but I am against meaningless negotiations with its puppets in Donetsk and Luhansk?
That is, there is an obvious manipulation when one possible answer contains actually two opposing positions. But since it contains "magic" words: "peace", "negotiations" and "compromise", - people tired of the war give a predictable answer…
It turns out that Medvedchuk with his party seems to be right - 43% of people support the Kremlin in that we have a civil war…
Naturally, Medvedchuk's television channels began to actively drive this sensation into the heads of their viewers. And not only they. Without going into the study of the opinion poll and wording of the questions in it, quite authoritative Ukrainian information resources wrote about 43%. And all the rest after them…
As a result, sociological manipulation became the informational special operation designed not only to force voters to vote for the political power Russia needs in Ukraine, but also to legitimize the "DNR"-"LNR" in Ukrainian society as separate political entities.
Let us consider another striking example of sociological fraud. The characters are the same: Ukrainian Institute for Social Research named after O. Yaremenko and the Social Monitoring Center. There again, at the height of the election campaign in June of this year, they published the results of another poll, which showed that 49.5% of Ukrainians support the idea of the Donbass autonomy.
Now let us pay attention to how the question asked to the respondents was formulated. "Would you support the decision to grant autonomy to the uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts within Ukraine to end the hostilities and peacefully resolve the conflict in the Donbass?"
It is important how the question is formulated to get the right answer. The answers in this study are already programmed in the question itself. People are ready to do a lot "to end the hostilities and peacefully resolve the conflict in the Donbass".
But, if we put off the emotions and simply simulate the consequences of such autonomy, then it does not at all guarantee an end to the conflict. The probability of a civil war in the event of autonomy of a Russia-controlled, overstocked with weapons region is at least 50 to 50. But sociologists ignore this probability, putting pressure on people's emotional fatigue from the war.
What if the question asked to the respondents would be: "Would you support the decision to grant autonomy to the uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts within Ukraine, if it carries the likelihood of a civil war in Ukraine and the transfer of the theater of operations to other regions?". How do you think, would there be 49.5% of the autonomy supporters?...
The fact that this question in the opinion poll is manipulation is confirmed by the data of another poll of another sociological organization, which also clarified the attitude of Ukrainians towards the possibility of granting autonomy to the Donbass. The Razumkov Centre conducted a study in early October, which showed that only 10% of Ukrainians agree that the so-called "DNR"-"LNR" create autonomies within Ukraine.
By the way, the wording of the issue of autonomy for the "DNR" and "LNR" - "for peace" in the survey of the Ukrainian Institute for Social Research named after O. Yaremenko and the Social Monitoring Center, which was mentioned above, – is not the only neuro-linguistic manipulation that infects Ukrainians with Moscow's narratives. It is important for the Kremlin and its repeaters in Ukraine to anchor namely Moscow’s interpretation of the Minsk Agreements in our conscious. Since they do not have the term "autonomy", but mention "special status", the authors of the questionnaire of this social research decided to homologate these concepts (as they have been doing in Moscow for a long time).
The question was about the options supported by the respondents for resolving the problem of the uncontrolled territories. One answer was: "Granting these territories a special status, which provides for the autonomy within Ukraine". "Special status" provides no autonomy!
It is interesting that the "autonomy" was the most peaceful possibility of ending the conflict in the list of answers to this question. Others envisaged either isolation of these territories, or return of control over them via the military means… For some reason, sociologists did not provide for the possibility of maintaining the status quo, for example, or strengthening the sanction pressure on Russia. That is, there again, people who are tired of the war were led directly to the right answer…
Once again, without bothering to study the sociological questionnaires, almost all authoritative Ukrainian media carried the idea that "49.5% of Ukrainian citizens are ready to support the decision to grant autonomy to the uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts within Ukraine to end the hostilities and peacefully resolve the conflict in the Donbass".
That is, almost all the Ukrainian media, at the behest of Ukrainian sociologists, poured water on the mills of Medvedchuk and (!) Russia, which is at war with us!..
Sociology is the subject of manipulation in the cases under consideration. Ukrainian voters are an object. But the media are that tool that provides a neural connection between the subject and the object, makes this manipulation effective.
In my opinion, the ultimate responsibility lies with the media. Which made themselves a tool of manipulators either for money or through stupidity. Indeed, if we, journalists, did not chase spectacular headlines and simply looked at what we were writing about, our President would most likely not have been in the illusion that the Ukrainians would accept the "special status" of the "DNR"-"LNR", because "there is a request to end the war in the society". That is exactly what he said at his famous "press marathon". Of course, we have a request to end the war. But we had it both in 2014, when the volunteer battalions were formed, and in 2015, when the most difficult fights were taking place… Of course, we need peace. But it should be fair!
One more example of the sociology manipulation, quite obvious, but still, for some reason, released into the world by the Ukrainian media. This case is interesting because sociologists themselves have become a victim of information manipulation of the politicians. Well, the media… Judge for yourself.
At the beginning of June, almost all the Ukrainian mass media were full of headlines convincing the voters that "most Ukrainians want to see leader of Opposition Platform – For Life Yuriy Boyko as prime minister". Moreover, thereference was made to a sociological survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. For some reason, the sociologists of this respected organization really bothered to find out whom the Ukrainians "personally wanted to see as Prime Minister after the presidential election". Among the candidates proposed to people, the first place was really taken by Yuriy Boyko. BUT! Only 12.9% of the respondents saw Boyko as potential Prime Minister - this is by no means the majority of those surveyed!
Moreover, 36% of the respondents found it difficult to answer the question of sociologists. That is, the majority of Ukrainians just did not see anyone from the list of politicians as prime ministers. Including Yuriy Boyko.
Everything would seem obvious! But this did not stop Yuriy Boyko from publishing a story on his personal website under the heading "Ukrainians want to see Yuriy Boyko as prime minister".
The news claims that "the majority of the respondents, of those who decided – 12.9% – would like to see founder of OPPOSITION PLATFORM – FOR LIFE Yuriy Boyko as Prime Minister of Ukraine".
It is noteworthy that the main channels for spreading of manipulative information were media close to the leaders of Opposition Platform - For Life. Moreover, most of the published news items were seemed to be just copied.
"Most of the Ukrainians who decided would like to see founder of Opposition Platform - For Life Yuriy Boyko in the chair of the Prime Minister of Ukraine. This is evidenced by a survey of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS)".
Please note: the expressions "of those who decided" do not appear in the questionnaire or in the KIIS press release. It is important! First of all, it does not correspond to reality, and 12.9% of Boyko's supporters are from 100% who answered the question, and not from "those who decided". Secondly, this phrase is contained in the manipulative story on Boyko's website. This gives reason to believe that the media that used it in their materials, although referring directly to the KIIS, were copying the news from the website of the customer of publication of this news.
Other media, apparently, visited the source before publishing the necessary to Opposition Platform – For Life (read – the Kremlin) message to Ukrainians. But for some reason, they still have spread the manipulative statement about "the majority of Ukrainians" into the minds of their consumers.
"Most Ukrainians would like to see leader of Opposition Platform - For Life of Yuriy Boyko Prime Minister of Ukraine. This is evidenced by a survey of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS)".
"The majority of the respondents surveyed by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology see representative of Opposition Platform - For Life Yuriy Boyko in the chair of prime minister".
After all this, Medvedchuk's political strategists had only to develop and consolidate the obtained effect: the parliamentary election was no longer positioned as a battle for mandates in the Rada, but as the "last battle" for real power in the country! The power that implements all of Moscow's wishes and desires in Ukraine and brings "peace"… This was meant to mobilize the pro-Russian electorate and put the mockers on political groups competing in the same electoral field, for example, Opposition Bloc.
"Peace should finally be established after the elections in Ukraine. This was announced by candidate for prime minister from OPPOSITION PLATFORM – FOR LIFE Yuriy Boyko during a conversation with residents of Shchastya city, which he visited as part of his working trip to the Luhansk oblast.
… "Having won the election, the first thing we will seek is the inclusion of representatives of the parliament in the negotiating group in Minsk. We will initiate the start of direct negotiations in the quadrangle Kyiv – Donetsk – Luhansk – Moscow. We will use all the available political tools for Kyiv to implement the Minsk Agreements and ensure their coordination with all parties to the conflict. We will return peace to Ukraine, because this is a requirement of all citizens. This is the key for which we are going to the parliament. We do not care what the pseudo-patriots say about us. We will do everything so that people no longer hear the rumble of shells and there is no war", - Yuriy Boyko emphasized".
As we can see, all, it would seem, intra-Ukrainian, political and technological manipulations again boiled down to the main goal of Moscow: "direct negotiations in the quadrangle Kyiv – Donetsk – Luhansk – Moscow"…
Someone took one thousand dollars for the appearance of "innocent" question in the questionnaire, someone - 500 dollars for publishing a news item based on this survey, but as a result, we got the informational special operation of the hostile special services…
To summarize all that has been said, manipulative sociology is a harmful virus that is useless without its spreading by the media. It is the infected information space in which the voters live that is the carrier of infection, which can not only bring the agents of the aggressor country to power, but also mislead their own authorities and their voters.
At the same time, despite all the obvious threats to national security, the issue of legislative regulation of sociological activity in Ukraine has not yet been resolved! Not at all!
"There is no legislation, as well as regarding scientific activity. There are corporate policies, a code of ethics. Careless or unprofessional sociologists can only be morally condemned". - Famous Donetsk political scientist and sociologist Volodymyr Kypen answered to my question about the legislative regulation of sociological activity this way.
I should say that the journalists and sociologists themselves tried to solve the problem of the legislative gap. So, there is a wonderful project on the "Texts" website "Texts" – "Sellers of ratings. Pseudo-sociologists database". It collected "data on 101 pseudo-sociological services and 176 hidden PR managers, who published or commented on mixed results over the past 15 years".
However, such database does not prevent these pseudo-sociologists from actively making money on all kinds of election campaigns and even "making a fuss" throughout the country via reputable, authoritative media.
Moreover, the same project also provides a list - "ten at most" - of those sociological services that, supposedly, can be trusted.
"On the eve of the 2014 presidential election, the Board of the Sociological Association of Ukraine (SAU) expressed confidence in the following sociological centers:
Institute of Sociology of the NASU
Kyiv International Institute of Sociology
Ukrainian Institute for Social Research named after O. Yaremenko
Social Monitoring Center
Research & Branding Group*
As you can see, the top ten contains heroes of this publication, who became an illustration of manipulative sociology…
Probably, nevertheless, there is not enough market self-regulation in such an important issue as the formation of public opinion, especially in the context of the information war. National security issues should be regulated by the state. It is necessary to legislatively introduce licensing of sociological companies and a ban on the publication in the media of polls conducted by unlicensed structures. Let them conduct, if there are customers, but such data cannot be published. Because after publication, a poll is no longer a poll, but a weapon of mass destruction.
If the opinion poll is supposed to be published, the organization conducting it should have a license, which, in turn, will give the public confidence in the professionalism of this survey. In case a licensed sociological firm is still caught in manipulations, it needs to be deprived of a license. There is something to think about for both lawmakers and respectable sociologists. The latter should be interested in cleaning their market like no one else.
Well, what should ordinary consumers of information do in order not to become a victim of sociological and information manipulations right now?
While the Ukrainian authorities are concerned not about the information war with Russia, but about the implementation of the "request to end the war", suggested via social scientists, people continue to exist in the infected information space. Even after reading this article, not everyone has the opportunity and time to check the information. The trend is such that everyone reads the headlines and few people delve into even their correspondence to the texts, not to mention checking the published data.
You cannot directly trust the information in such a situation, but you can trust its sources. There is a situation when a reputation becomes an asset again. This is a mutual concern of respectable media and respectable sociologists – to help each other recognize sociological manipulations and create each other's reputation that the consumer can trust to. Moreover, we have only one. And the country we live in is one.
Serhiy Harmash, OstroV