I learned a new word this week.

The Russians have long been masters, both during "hot" wars and cold ones, at matters of deception and what we now call information warfare, so much so that a number of Russian words and concepts around this area have become useful for discussions on the subject.

Readers of the late Tom Clancy and those with an interest in matters military may well be familiar with the word "maskirovka which is a Russian term for deception, particularly a plan to deceive and trick a current or expected future military opponent.  

This week from a piece on "The Article" by Alexander Woolfson, I learned the Russian word, "Vranyo" for a lie which the speaker does not expect anyone to believe.    

I have seen this explained as follows:

"A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.'"

This was written in terms of some of the things Vladimir Putin and his regime come out with - particularly denials of responsibility when anyone comes down with Novichok poisoning.

Frankly, when anyone is poisoned with this substance. the Russian state might as well have left a calling card. It's not just murder or attempted murder but they want you to know they did it - it's a deliberate attempt to intimidate and the denials are meaningless and not even meant to be believed.

I'm not, however, going to start using the word Vranyo" when referring to things said in the West, because if it becomes common currency in political debate here the word is going to be over-used, just as words like "lie" already are.

There is too much lying in current political debate, but there is also way too much refusal to take seriously that someone with a different opinion to you might actually have a point, know something you don't or even believe what they are saying.

If "Vranyo" started to be used in debate in modern Western democracies it is, sadly, far too likely that it would be used, not as in the words attributed to a "Russian friend" above, but to mean 

"I disagree with this statement so strongly that I refuse to entertain the idea that anyone else might believe it, so I shall assume without even thinking consciously about it that anyone who says it is a bare-faced liar."  


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