The Private Citizen 126: The Scourge of Fear-Based Journalism


Love the episode. However, the main example you used to illustrate your points from the start (“the nuclear train”) left me somewhat puzzled.

Disclaimer: I’m not with the armed forces, and most of what I know about warfare is either from the open sources or from my military training back in the medical university. Of course, they trained me to act as a medical officer at the time of war, not as a “proper” officer. We were given some access to classified materials during that training, but, understandably, not much of it is relevant.

I can’t say I read through the reports of “the nuclear train” carefully (to be honest, I didn’t care enough to investigate), but my initial thoughts were certainly not “total bullshit, dismiss it”. My train of thoughts was more along the lines of: obviously not ICBM-scale stuff, would make no sense → should be some tactical stuff, something like those 2 kT shells Tyulpans use at distances up to 18 km, or those 4+ kT nukes that Pions throw 30+ km away → wouldn’t really change the military situation if used, but would provoke a massive hysteria because it’s NUCLEAR!!!111 → escalating without really escalating fits Putin’s MO perfectly → this one has a potential to backfire like hell, not that it ever stopped those people → man, do I live in interesting times! → on a sidenote, I wonder how they found out that those were nukes and not conventional charges → I probably should read into it → nah, screw it, I have more urgent stuff at hand.

Was there really something about this story that should have flagged it as total bullshit for me, or did you really simply not think about the tactical stuff?

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Great episode Fab. I’ve come to a similar conclusion over the last few years that virtually all news is a combination of fear based, and/or a teasing clickbaity title which is purely to generate a click - without there being any substance behind it.

My questions is how can a person keep themselves informed on world and current events, but without subscribing to the addiction of mainstream media? What sources do you regularly follow, and do you have a way of consuming news media that doesn’t get you hooked on continual “breaking news” stories?

And a point regarding the nuclear threats issue. I’m not an expert in this area though I’ve heard talks from people who are supposedly well informed (mainly serving and retired high ranking British military officers). Someone explained to me that for Putin to use a nuke (e.g. a small tactical one), would be more about signalling and posture - “we’re strong and are actually prepared to use them” - much like the USA did to Japan at the end of WW2 - “we can keep doing this to your cities if you don’t back down”. Obviously this doesn’t work against nuclear armed states (MAD), but it might be possible for Putin to perform a test shot of a small nuke on a deserted RF territory to send a signal, it would be a huge escalation/provocation as nuclear tests haven’t been done for years, but not one which would immediately provoke a retaliation from NATO.

Personally I think this is possible, but unlikely.

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I agree with that statement. I don’t think the US strikes in Japan at the end of WWII would apply though, as at that point, only the US had functioning nukes, and no one had ever seen what a nuke would do. At this point in time, everyone knows what a nuke can do, and everyone knows Russia has them. Honestly, they could still have a functioning Tsar Bomba over there, and it was so big that it caused the whole world to go “nope, we aren’t going that big”. I think any “tests” we see will be more along the line of energy weapons and satellite disabling weapons, where they can show previously unknown technology.