Category: misc

People On Social Media Think A Cat Is Helping Ukrainian Soldiers Dodge Russian Sniper Fire

According to the legend of the “Panther of Kharkiv,” a vengeful house cat has been using his superior feline vision to spot the telltale red laser dots from sniper scopes and warn Ukrainian soldiers they’re targets before snipers can get off a shot.

I imagine it goes something like this:

“Dude, there’s a red dot on your face.”

“You said that 42 times in the last hour.”

“Well, it’s true. Give me my treat as a reward, otherwise I might forget to inform you next time.”

“If I find out you’re lying…”

“Treat, now! Thanks…Mmmm, that’s good. Oh look, there’s another red dot on your head! Quick, take cover and give me another snack!”

Either that or kitty is just launching himself at Ukrainian foreheads, chasing the ever elusive red dot.

Of course you don’t need us to tell you this viral social media story is nonsense, do you?

ukrainian-army-cat
Mmmmm, Elmer’s!

Hundreds of thousands of people have proven themselves more credulous, and continue to share the Panther of Kharkiv posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok and other platforms despite warnings that the story isn’t true. The accompanying photo, while real, is from 2018.

“Complete garbage,” is how Liam Collins, a West Point faculty member and former defense advisor to Ukraine, put it.

Others see these stories as evidence of new frontiers for psychological operations, propaganda and counter-propaganda.

Psy-ops have long been a part of war, from Alexander the Great’s armies leaving giant-size helmets and breastplates in the ruins of conquered cities to seed tales of impossible huge — and unbeatable — Greek invaders, to a CIA-devised plan to drop condoms on Soviet territory.

“Condoms?!?” you ask. “How exactly do condoms help a war effort?”

Because they were intentionally manufactured in ludicrously huge sizes marked “Medium” and “Small” with “MADE IN USA” prominently stamped on the packaging, which would be left for the enemy to discover and, the thinking went, to kill their morale. (There are also reports that US psyops left footlong condoms on the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam, leading terrified Vietcong to hide their women.)

And, famously, US Army psyops drove around in up-armored Humvees during 2004’s bloody battle of Fallujah, blasting the South Park creators’ “America, F— Yeah!” from military sound systems as Marines engaged insurgent forces.

The point is to raise friendly morale, destroy enemy morale, or both, and it makes perfect sense that psyops would move into the digital domain in a war in which cyber warfare has become a major part of the hostilities.

The Panther of Kharkiv, like tall tales of wars past, collapses under scrutiny.

As Snopes correctly notes, snipers don’t actually use little red laser dots. Not only would they be counter-productive at the distances snipers work, when things like atmospheric conditions and wind speed come into play, but using lasers would alert the enemy that they’re being targeted and give away the location of the sniper(s).

The entire point of a sniper is to take out targets over long distances without giving themselves away. They’re not equipped for routine firefights, and the last thing they want is to be stuck somewhere relying on a sidearm while riflemen flank them. That’s asking to get killed.

The second absurdity is the idea that cats can be reliably trained to do anything of military value. The CIA already tried that in the 1960s with Project Acoustic Kitty, when they outfitted cats with listening devices and released them in the vicinity of Soviet targets in an attempt to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Twenty million dollars, a few years and several failed attempts later, the CIA concluded training cats as spies was “not practical.” The problem, of course, is that you can train cats all you want, and maybe the cats even have the best intentions, but then…Oh hai is that a bird? Is that a bird? Yes, it is! I’m chasing the bird! Wait, birdie! Oooh, what’s this on the ground? A bag with a half-eaten burger? How delicious! …

Cats are easily distracted, easily bored, driven to do their own thing, and not really open to suggestions when it comes to telling them where they should walk or lounge.

The Panther of Kharkiv joins The Ghost of Kyiv as a creation of social media, wish-fulfillment figures of legend for the age of information. The latter has been earning praise as a supposed ace fighter pilot who has been terrorizing Russian Su-35 pilots from the cockpit of a Soviet-era MiG-29.

A surprisingly realistic video of the legendary pilot has been making the rounds on social media, but the footage is actually from Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) World, a game made by developers so obsessive that they even model things like the effect of recoil from mounted guns on aircraft operation.

In the viral video, a Su-35 screams overhead as two Ukranians chatter in the background. A shaky camera tracks the jet until a missile fired from out of the frame blasts it to pieces. The MiG-29 follows a millisecond later, dipping its wings in a celebratory gesture as one of the observers says “Oh shit!”

When a simulator looks like this, it’s easier to understand how people could mistake out-of-context, long-range footage for the real thing:

Now if you put a cat in that footage, wearing goggles and flying wing, people would know it’s fake. On second thought, maybe they wouldn’t.

Viral FB Post Claims Cats Have One Emotion: Contempt

You have to feel sorry for the people still stuck in the Zuckerbergian cesspit that is Facebook, spending their days wading through tedious political arguments and “SHARE IF U AGREE” shitposts written for the paste-eating crowd.

Unfortunately, the platform’s rampant misinformation is not limited to politics. Here’s one of the latest viral posts:

Facebook Derp
Derp derp derp! A derp a derp derp derp!

And this is what it looks like now, to protect people like your aunt who keeps sending you email forwards about Pizzagate:

Facebook: Derp!
Despite the flagged warning, people are still sharing the post. “Big Tech doesn’t want us to know the truth ’bout cats!”

Whenever I encounter stuff like this, my first instinct is to dismiss it as nonsense no one would actually believe. Then I remember our dubious track record when it comes to critical thinking: a third of millennials are flat-Earthers, one in four Americans thinks the sun orbits the Earth, and more than 16 million Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Some futurists and ethicists thought the world wide web would bring an end to conspiracy theories and outlandish beliefs, with the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips and the disinfectant power of the truth. But falsehoods have remarkable staying power, and the internet is happy to oblige any conspiracy theory no matter how far removed from reality, with sites like this one that says it offers “no-bullshit truth”:

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Why do cats purr

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Why do cats only feel contempt

So at the risk of stating the obvious, purring has nothing to do with a cat’s heartbeat, and cats experience all the same primary emotions we do (happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, nervousness) as well as quite a few secondary emotions, like jealousy, disappointment, contentment and confidence.

The idea that animals like cats and dogs are emotionless automatons went out of favor more than half a century ago, and modern technology has made it possible for scientists to peer into the minds of our domesticated friends and witness brain activity that mirrors our own when we process emotions. There is no debate: Cats have very real emotions, which is another compelling reason to treat them well.

What Animal Is Your Heart?

I stumbled into this on Twitter, and it’s a reminder that amazing things can still exist in this cesspit we call the internet.

Teacher Kate Clanchy writes: “What animal is your heart? Is one of my favourite poetry questions. But I’ve never had an answer like this.” She’s referring to this poem by one of her students, 17-year-old Kyla Pereles:

“My heart is a cockroach caught in the mouth of an alley cat.

This cat has not always been feral. It had known the warm spot on the rug in front of the fireplace. But on a summer’s day someone left the door open.

The cat, not knowing any dark thing, leapt away from love. (My heart leaves open cans of sardines for the alley cat. Every runaway full of regret deserves to be fed.)

The cat makes a bed of missing pet posters the wind tore down.

And the cat is hissing at shadows in its sleep.

And the cat is shivering in its matted fur.

And the cat is meowing at the restaurant backdoor.

A waiter, who is also my heart, leaves the back door open so the cat can be warm for the rest of his shift.

But the cat is feral. The owner of the restaurant shoves him back into the snow with a broom.

The cat sleeps until the snow reminds it of the rug. Small things seem sadder when they are alone.

So the cockroach does not mind being in the jaw of something just as lonely.

A little girl follows the paw prints that made a snow angel around the cat. Despite the cockroach in its mouth and its matted fur, she picks it up.

And the cat, who knows of dark things now, spends summer in the lap of the little girl, who is also my heart.”

Kyla’s got a hell of a career ahead of her if she chooses to pursue writing.

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