Russia’s army mounted a massive invasion of Georgia over the weekend, bombing the capital Tbilisi and assassinating President Mikheil Saakashvili. Except none of it actually happened. The terrifying scenario was played out in a chillingly realistic news report on Georgian television, causing widespread panic across the country. “Less than two years after the very real war between Russia and Georgia, thousands of viewers believed that history was repeating itself – at least for half an hour. The programme, which aired at prime time on the Imedi television channel, described opposition politicians protesting the results of elections, Russia taking advantage of internal chaos, and – after a manufactured ‘incident’ in the breakaway region of South Ossetia – beginning an invasion of Georgia. Beforehand, the anchor had made a brief statement that what followed would be a ‘simulation’, but during the programme itself, as pictures were shown of the Russian Army flooding into Georgia, there was no on-screen caption explaining that the events were not real. At one point, the action even moved to Washington, where viewers were told that Barack Obama was making a live statement.”
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