Anyone recall the campfire game Telephone?

In the game of Telephone, someone, typically sitting around the campfire, whispers a phrase to the next person who in turn whispers the phrase to the next person until the message is passed to the final person who reports what he heard.

Inevitably, the final result is nothing like what the first person said.

I have a modern day prime example as well as a Mish boy scout example to report. Let’s start with the modern day example.


Telephone Part 1: BBC reports “Around a dozen Russian light tanks have been seen heading for the Ukrainian border, as a Russian aid convoy remains parked near the frontier. The BBC saw the tanks early on Friday morning, but there was no confirmation that they were going to Ukraine.”

Telephone Part 2: The Guardian reports  “a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.”

Telephone Part 3: Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Says Russia Invaded Ukraine with 70 Pieces of Military Equipment

Telephone Part 4: Ukraine President Claims Russia Invaded Ukraine, and Ukraine Destroyed Russian Military Convoy

Thanks to reader Sergey for the first three links. I picked up and reported part 4 earlier, doubting the story from the moment I read it.

Mish Telephone Experience

I know full well how bullsheet like this spreads. It all goes back to the game of Telephone. Every listener (in this case writer) has a strong temptation to embellish the story to gain readership. This is how 12 becomes 40, becomes 70.

I learned an early lesson. In boy scouts, I purposely changed a message to something totally unrelated to what I actually heard. I never did it again because a counselor embarked on a binary chop method to figure out where the story went wrong.

Fortunately for me, the counselor stopped two people short.

Regardless, this is precisely how bullsheet spreads, and I now try hard not to be part of it.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock