Lies, damned lies and vranyo

Reg Hoare

One of the defining features of Russian propaganda over the past few years has been the endless stream of lies it spews out. These often take the form of “doublespeak”, a term derived from George Orwell’s novel 1984, which distorts or reverses the meaning of words. Thus Russia blames Ukraine for every massacre of its own civilians and even the British for its other war crimes.

We observe this daily on social media in tweets from official Russian channels, whether from its local embassies, UN representatives or government officials. A simple example is the use of the following phrase in a recent tweet dated 18 April: “West shows total intolerance towards alternative views”. A breathtaking twisting of reality, when as we know Russia has closed down all independent thought. Indeed, one reads it and wonders for which audience it is designed – Russia’s dwindling cohort of aficionados, apologists and appeasers?

This culture of deception originates from the Russian concept of “vranyo”. This is a term derived from one of two Russian words for lies. Put simply, it means this: “When I lie to you, you know I’m lying to you, I know you know I’m lying and I still lie to you.” Russia has launched vranyo into overdrive for its war in order to confuse, distort and obfuscate and as means to exert power over its appeasers.

Meanwhile, we observe at home, the British Prime Minister being accused of being a serial liar. The latest meme on the topic is a word cloud created by his accusers to somehow prove their point, albeit it may suggest that he attracts bullies, not merely that he is prone to sophistry.

Given Mr Johnson’s pride in being a swot, one can speculate that he knows only too well about vranyo. Indeed the genesis of this blog comes from the fact that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who trained at the end of the Cold War at Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy, is reported as being familiar with the concept, and therefore so must be the Prime Minister.

One can therefore speculate that Johnson is deploying (skillfully or clumsily, depending on your take) the art of vranyo with the British public when it comes to Partygate. Whether he gets away with it is another matter but suffice to say the Russian regime got away with it for years – and arguably is still toying with its appeasers, who nod earnestly at every deception.

Johnson may not be so lucky, given the inevitable cycle of British general elections and the voting booths of public opinion.