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Editorial: When War News Goes Viral

Analysis

Photo by goodluz / Shutterstock.com

I was struck the other day by a phrase used by a seasoned foreign correspondent: she described the war as having gone viral. She meant the way in which photos, videos and updates are being shared on Twitter and TikTok, how Russians and Ukrainians alike are using Messenger and Telegram to keep in touch.

Humankind has a long and inglorious record of not learning the lessons of history but instead resorting to war to settle grievances. And for each conflict, it seems, there has been a new technology to report back on it. It started with word-of-mouth and long-distance running (Marathon), then came needle and thread (the Bayeaux Tapestry after Hastings), the advent of specialist war correspondents (the Crimea), film (fighting was captured on moving pictures in the late 1890s in Greece and South Africa, but it was World War I that was the cinematic breakthrough), TV (Vietnam) and 24-hour news channels (the first Gulf War).

But it isn’t just viral in the sense that news is shared so widely. The Russo-Ukraine war, so new I don’t think it yet has an official name (let’s all agree “special military operation” is as silly as it is inaccurate and ignore that), is simply everywhere.

You are almost certainly following developments to our east through a multi-channel approach. If our website (budapestbusinessjournal.com) or daily newsletter Hungary A.M. is part of that smorgasbord of news provision, you will almost certainly have noticed that we prefix all relevant stories “Ukraine Criss.”

We deliberately took that approach early on because we wanted to make it as easy as possible to navigate toward such stories (and, equally, to avoid them if you are “war-weary,” although, tragically, that is not a luxury afforded the people of Ukrainian). Editing Hungary A.M. the other day, it dawned on me that this war touches absolutely every aspect of our lives in one way or another. And now energy has entered the mix as well.

Viewed from the sidelines, the unity of what we used to call the Euro-Atlantic alliance, members of NATO and the European Union, has been impressively rock-solid. It was just one of the miscalculations Vladimir Putin made when he launched his invasion. But I wonder (and worry) whether this might become a point of tension between the United States and the United Kingdom, both of whom have announced they will end Russian energy imports, and others in the EU, not least Hungary.

You can understand the logic of the U.K.-U.S. approach. On the one hand, we introduce a raft of sanctions to strip money away from those in Russia who are in power and their supporters, while on the other, we continue to buy Russian gas and oil. The problem for the EU, and especially the likes of Germany and Hungary, is that they are all but dependent on Russia to heat homes and power factories.

“Extending the sanctions further to the energy sector, to the oil and gas sector, would mean a disproportionately large burden for Hungary,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after a meeting with his Visegrád Four and United Kingdom peers in London on Tuesday (March 8). “That’s why I made it clear that while we condemn Russia’s military attack and condemn the war, too, we will not allow Hungarian families to pay the price of the war.” I hope I am wrong, but I fear Euro-Atlantic relations are heading for choppy water.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief

This editorial was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 11, 2022.

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