Disinformation Investigation Smolensk

TVN disinformation campaign on Smolensk crash


Polish National Broadcasting Council  

Skwer Kard. S. Wyszyńskiego

01-015 Warszawa, Poland


RE:   “(Im) pure theories” program broadcast in “Black on White” series,  TVN24, broadcast October 11, 2016, and posted online.


On October 11, 2016, TV station TVN24, a Polish nationwide network owned by TVN, broadcasted in the prime time a report by Peter Świerczek entitled “A (Not) clean theory,” as part of TVN disinformation campaign on the Smolensk crash. This program was shown under TVN24 “Black on White” series led by Patricia Redo. Damian Denel and Mariusz Ćwik were responsible for photographic and video montages. Two people appeared in the program: a publicist Michael Setlak and a former participant in the Smolensk Conference Michal Jaworski.

Subsequently, this program was made available to the worldwide audience on TVN24 website and is still available via Internet in Poland, USA, and around the world at the following address:http://www.tvn24.pl/czarno-na-bialym,42,m/czarno-na-bialym-nie-czyste-teorie,683172.html.   On the Internet, this program is very popular. For example, until November 16, 2016, the report was transmitted just by Facebook 4982 times. The program “(Im) pure theories” represents a brutal and dangerous disinformation attack on the experts of the Parliamentary Committee and the current State Subcommittee for the Investigation of the Smolensk Crash (“Subcommittee”). The purpose of this disinformation operation is to discredit individual experts and the entire Subcommittee in order to obstruct and frustrate the investigation of the Smolensk crash of April 10, 2010, in which the entire highest-level delegation of the Republic of Poland led by the President of Poland was killed.

The program presented by TVN contains premeditated manipulations and blatant lies. It presents carefully fabricated material in a refined, professional manner in order to gain the trust and convince the viewers of the Russian version of events about the Smolensk crash. This is yet another disinformation campaign with regard to the crash of the Polish military airplane that killed the Polish President and the Central Command of the Polish Armed Forces in Russia. Disinformation on this subject aims at changing the attitudes of the Polish people against the ongoing investigation, thus negatively affecting the ability of the Subcommittee to properly investigate the cause of the Smolensk tragedy and any efforts to take corrective measures.  Thus, TVN24 and its owners TVN and US-based Scripps Networks Interactive (acquired in 2018 by Discovery Inc.) violated the Broadcasting Act of December 29, 1992, which requires that the broadcaster provide reliable information to the public and prohibits broadcasts that promote illegal activities, activities harmful to the raison d’etat of the Polish State, attitudes and beliefs contrary to morality and social good.

Also, TVN24 violated the [Polish] Press Law of 26 January 1984, which imposes an obligation on the broadcaster to present truly and fairly discussed events. The program “(Im)pure theories” contains blatant lies and manipulations committed intentionally and with premeditation. In particular, it is aimed at the complete destruction of all credibility, scientific achievements, and the image of Prof. Binienda, who is a respected scientist of international reputation, a professor at the American University, a distinguished member of the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded with ASCE Fellow recognition, and editor-in-chief of a respected international scientific magazine “Journal of Aerospace Engineering.”

This complaint concerns the attack on Prof. Wieslaw Binienda. At the outset of “(Im)pure theories,” the narrator criticizes the exhumations of the Smolensk tragedy victims: “Opening the graves and the families ask: what for?” He then argues why exhumations are unnecessary: “The question is even more dramatic when it comes to light how Macierewicz’s experts challenge the official determination of the causes of the Smolensk Crash.”  Next, a brutal attack on the individual members of the Subcommittee begins with the following opening statement: • 2:30 – 2:46 Setlak – “… you cannot understand how people with the titles of professors can say such nonsense …”• 2:46 – 3:00 Jaworski – “… you cannot do this unconsciously, it’s not even manipulation, it is simply a fraud.” Everything that follows next is presented as exposing the “fraud” committed by these professors.

Defamation of Prof. Binienda

A person who is especially appallingly dishonored in this program is Prof. Wieslaw Binienda. In the attack on him, TVN24 committed forgery and disparaged him on an unprecedented scale, unmatched by any other attacks undertaken previously. Acting with a sense of total impunity, the authors of this program first falsified selected fragments of Prof. Binienda’s presentations in order to accuse him of forgery and fraud. Mr. Jaworski, who openly lies and deliberately confuses viewers, publicly states that Prof. Binienda committed forgery and fraud. The attack on Prof. Binienda was conducted by confusing and distorting complex scientific concepts, falsifying his simulations and explanations, presenting obviously incorrect translations from English, ridiculing his work, etc. To understand the perfidy and size of this manipulation perpetrated by the authors of this report it is necessary to delve into the field of knowledge on the strength of materials. Clearly, the authors of this charade prey on the ignorance of the public, which is not able to notice and understand their cunning manipulations. In the attack on Prof. Binienda, fragments of the several presentations available on the Internet were used. Various fragments were compiled in such a way as to convince the public that Prof. Binienda conducted research in a dishonest and incompetent manner. For this purpose, TVN24 uses the following presentations of Prof. Binienda: • Presentation of the First Smolensk Conference from October 22, 2012, http://konferencjasmolenska.pl/przebieg/16.mp4• Presentation of the UKSW Smolensk Conference from February 5, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sddq3BClo3I..• Presentation in English posted on the University of Akron website on 25 November 2012. http://blogs.uakron.edu/binienda/files/2014/09/WKB_english_Nov2012.pdf

Discrediting under the catchphrase “Errors of Binienda”

Challenging Knowledge and Competence

TVN attempts to crush Prof. Binienda using the strategy of “Operation Binienda” from 2013 conducted under the slogan “Errors of Binienda.” Between minutes: 4:25 – 5:30 the narrator shows a fragment of the presentation from 2013 UKSW Conference and comments: “… the joke is yet to come.” As we can see, Jaroslaw Kaczynski is watching a presentation by Professor Binienda.” In the background, the viewer sees Prof. Binienda speaking at the UKSW [2013] Conference.

Then TVN shows a fragment of his presentation from the 2012 Conference. Then, while showing a slide of one of the presentations posted on the University of Akron website, the narrator says: [President Kaczynski] “does not know that a simple mistake is hidden in there [the presentation]. One parameter “GHARD” equals zero, which determines if and how the airplane wing cuts the birch tree.” As alleging proof of this mistake, the camera shows a close-up portion of the instructions for the program LS Dyna Wood Material Model Mat143: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/04097/04097.pdf, where you can see information about the parameter Ghard = 0

TVN seeks to discredit Prof. Binienda by claiming that he incorrectly used the parameter Ghard = 0, whereas he used it correctly and it is not a mistake at all. On the contrary. This is the central and most important premise of the scientific method used by Prof. Binienda.

The method adopted by Prof. Binienda to analyze the impact of the wing hitting the birch tree involves the analysis of two extreme cases for the two extreme material models of a birch tree.

–          The first analyzed model is “basic,” which refers to a linear material model, or material with an elastic behavior, which represents the case of the smallest energy absorption. This model applies to dry wood.

–          The second analyzed model is extremely non-linear – that is – of the plastic behavior, which represents the case of the largest energy absorption by the birch tree when in contact with the wing. This applies to a wet tree.

If the simulations in both these extreme cases show that the airplane wing cuts through the birch tree, it means that all intermediate cases of energy absorption by the birch tree were taken into account, and

it can be concluded with certainty that the wing cuts the birch tree in all cases falling between the two extremes.

Both material models were presented with all their parameters and this method was well explained in the presentations of prof. Binienda used by TVN as source material. TVN ignored these explanations hoping probably that the viewer would not reach the entire original presentation.

For the extremely nonlinear model, which consumes the most energy, Ghard parameter must be zero. This is explained precisely on page 29 of the Instruction to LS Dyna Program: “A value of zero for Ghard will produce perfectly plastic behavior. The default value is zero.” Thus for Ghard = 0, the behavior of the material is the most non-linear, which means that when using the same force (stress) the greatest deformation (strain) is obtained. And because the impact force multiplied by the amount of strain gives the work of the airplane needed to cut the tree, it means that it is the most difficult to cut the [tree] material with the nonlinear parameter Ghard = 0.  This is due to the following formula for the unit volume of the tree material:

Work W = ∫ σdε

The work needed to cut the tree is represented by the area under the stress-strain curve, mathematically calculated by using the above integral. In contrast to prof. Binienda, who presented the research method, the adopted parameters, and the results obtained, his critics in no way show how the assumptions they make (eg. Ghard different from zero) would lead to different conclusions.  TVN does not explain that the rupture of the material corresponds to the “toughness,” which is the energy required to break the molecular structure of the material, which is represented by the area under the curve of stress and strain. The greater the deformation (strain), the greater the area under the curve, in other words, a more energy-absorbing material before rupture.

Thus, although from a scientific point of view, it is clear that the inelastic material model is stronger, TVN suggests that the opposite is true.

Discrediting by ridiculing the work of Prof. Binienda:

Animation, Play-Doh, Noodles, Graphics

Similarly to the earlier attempts to discredit the notion that Tupolev’s hull was destroyed by explosion by ridiculing the analogy to bursting hotdogs, this time Mr. Setlak tries to ridicule the work of Prof. Binienda by comparing the behavior of a birch tree in the presented simulations to Play-Doh and noodles and mocking scientific simulations as “animations”, i.e. mere products of free imagination. Mr. Setlak states: “After setting the parameter [Ghard], the wood behaves just like Play-Doh. We see it in these animations when the birch tree bends like noodles.” The use of the word “Play-Doh” and “noodles” in relation to the computer model of a birch tree with Ghard = 0 has to convince the public that the tree model used is weak, where in fact the opposite is true because the nonlinear tree model with the parameter Ghard = 0 absorbs the most energy in contact with the wing. The simulation clearly shows that the tree bends, but its trunk is not flattened at the point of contact. This means that comparing the tree to Play-Doh in this simulation is unacceptable because the Play-Doh would flatten as a result of this blow while the tree in this simulation bends. Therefore, the analogy to the Play-Doh is inappropriate and deceives the viewer.

The material used in the simulation does not behave like Play-Doh, since the diameter of the tree is not flattened as a result of the impact, in other words, the trunk is not flattened like a pancake. This simulation shows that the behavior of the given model of the birch tree is non-elastic (i.e. plastic), which means it causes large deformation when bending. In the event of an impact, such material absorbs the most energy. Materials that are subject to large deformation, such as low-carbon steel or aluminum, absorb the most energy during a collision. That is why they are used to build cars in order for the car body to absorb as much energy as possible during the accident, hence protecting the passengers and the driver. Thus, the more non-linear the tree model is the more energy [the tree] is able to absorb. So it is stronger. Such a tree is more difficult to cut. But Mr. Setlak suggests to the viewers exactly the opposite conclusion. Because such an interpretation is contrary to the fundamental laws of physics it must be assumed that the authors of this program consciously and deliberately lie and mislead the audience in order to discredit Prof. Binienda.

The very use of the word ‘animation’ instead of computer simulation, which represents a virtual experiment that accurately reflects reality, is inappropriate and shows bad intentions and negative attitudes of the authors of the program. Animations are cartoons made by a graphic designer or the artist to visualize desired imaginary pictures, whereas simulations represent visualizations of the behavior of the material and structures precisely calculated by a sophisticated computer program based on input data. These calculations are made on the basis of scientific studies that precisely define the initial and boundary conditions and the material model behavior used. Mr. Setlak thus lies when calling computer simulations as animations, and debases their importance. While showing a fragment of another simulation from 2012, the narrator says: “This image presented since 2011 supposed to prove that the birch tree had nothing to do with causing the crash,” and soon thereafter we hear a voice Prof Binienda “in none of the cases under examination the birch tree breaks the wing.” Thus, the research of Professor Binienda is here discredited as “this image” even though it is a scientifically calculated computer simulation.

Fraud in translation

In minutes 5:30 – 5:35 the narrator says: “while in the manual for LS-DYNA …, used by prof. Binienda, the value of zero means complete elasticity,” and the camera zooms at this moment at a definition of the parameter Ghard from page 69 of the LS Dyna manual, as shown below:

As shown in the above English text, the second to last sentence reads: “A zero-value models perfect plasticity (no increase in strength with increasing strain).” Although the used term here is clearly “perfect plasticity,” in other words “total plasticity,” the authors of this reportage put on the screen the following (Polish) translation of this text: “the zero value means total elasticity,” thereby wrongly translating plasticity as elasticity. In the science of material behavior, the notions of plasticity and elasticity represent two opposite extreme concepts – the opposite behavior of the material. “Elastic” means a linear behavior while “plastic” means a non-linear or non-elastic behavior. By using such an obvious and ostentatious error in translating a simple text TVN intentionally and deliberately misleads the viewers. [The English words “plasticity” and “elasticity” are translated into Polish as “elastyczność” and “plastyczność.”]

Falsification by manipulating simulations

Minute 5:40. TVN24 shows a simulation of an airplane wing hitting the tree that represents the non-linear material model Mat143, in other words, the plastic model. Then the narrator says: “Interestingly, after the impact on other materials the Play-Doh tree returns to the vertical position.” At this moment, the camera jumps from this simulation to the end of another simulation of the linear material, which is elastic, in other words no longer the “Play-Doh tree.” But the narrator continues that “the Play-Doh tree returns to the vertical position,” in other words he talks as if it was the same simulation, thus suggesting this way that we watch still the same (plastic model) simulation. Even though for a moment titles of the two different simulations are visible on the screen – that is the first simulation using a non-linear (plastic) model and the second simulation using the basic linear elastic not plastic model – with the title: “Models for Basic Materials”, the authors comment as if this was one and the same simulation. The camera quickly zooms on the trunk to hide the title, which disappears from the screen. The effect is ominous. The camera turns to smiling Prof. Binienda, sending the viewers a message that he is happy albeit wrong. In the background, his voice is heard: “… the ultimate effect is the same.” This is how TVN presents Prof. Binienda as a fool and fraud.


Hence, fragments of two different simulations, which demonstrate the behavior of two different material models of a tree, TVN combines and presents as one simulation. Prof. Binienda presents them separately under two different titles, as shown above. TVN, however, suggests that this is one simulation, which serves as proof of the errors committed by Prof. Binienda. It is a reprehensible falsification, an outrageous lie, and a deliberate effort to harm Prof. Binienda.

TVN does not show that on the previous slides of the same presentation, two contrasting models of tree material behavior were explained, and all their parameters were shown. TVN does not show that for the aluminum material also two contrasting models were analyzed and all the parameters used were shown.

TVN does not explain that in previous slides presented by Prof. Binienda, the parametric method of research is fully explained. This method, widely used in scientific research throughout the world, requires that two extreme models (eg. linear and non-linear) with extreme initial conditions are thoroughly analyzed. If each extreme model under the same initial and boundary conditions produces the same result it means that all models within the ranges studied must produce the same final results.

In this case, both results generated a negative answer to the question of whether a birch tree could cut the wing.   More specifically, for both models of the birch tree, that is for 1) the linear elastic model named in the presentation as the basic model, and for 2) a non-linear, plastic, or Mat143 model with parameter Ghard = 0 that gives the maximum nonlinear effect named in the manual as plastic and called by TVN as “the Play-Doh tree”, the effect is always the same:

the airplane wing cuts through the birch tree for all the density of mesh elements used, for all the angles of attack of the aircraft, and for extreme material models linear and non-linear.

So, it means that the material of the Smolensk birch must be within the examined range, hence it must produce the same result. This conclusion, made by Prof. Binienda as follows: “in none of the cases under examination, the birch tree cuts through the wing” is ridiculed by TVN. The analysis presented by Prof. Binienda is professional, interesting, and convincing. However, the TVN narrator manipulates the voice and choice of audio-visual combination, with the selection of facial expressions and gestures, in order to undermine the credibility of reliable scientific work, shown many times at international scientific conferences for experts in the field and published in the preeminent peered reviewed scientific journals.

Manipulations by omitting key information and explanations

6:00 – With the crash site in the background, the TVN narrator says: “Another presentation of Binienda was to prove that the fuselage could not fall apart the way it happened in Smolensk in any other way but as a result of a bomb.” Then, he shows a simulation of Prof. Binienda in which the middle part of the fuselage drops vertically at a speed of 9.8m / sec. This time TVN wants to draw the viewers’ attention to the title of the slide, whereas in previous passages either did not notice it or hid it. The narrator says: “Here you have to zoom in to small font at the bottom. Binienda drops the fuselage down and crushes it with a speed of almost 10 m / s. But he does not say that there was also 75m / s speed at which the aircraft was moving forward.”

This computer simulation shows how a fuselage would behave when dropped vertically. Prof. Binienda explains that the purpose of this simulation beyond the illustration of the behavior of the portion of the fuselage was to validate the computer model of the structure of the fuselage, which can be correlated with a similar real experiment by NASA Langley, which is described in the publication A SURVEY OF RESEARCH PERFORMED AT NASA LANGLEY RESEARCH CENTER’S IMPACT DYNAMICS RESEARCH FACILITY (page 7 FIGURE 11): http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= .8068 & rep = REP1 & type = pdf

On this point, TVN hides the fact that in the next group of slides of the same presentation, Prof. Binienda shows simulations of the entire aircraft striking the ground at the speed of 80m / s moving forward, at an angle of 10 degrees or 30 degrees, with the wheels down and up. TVN does not show a simulation included in the same presentation that was made by the Sandia National Lab. This simulation shows the tearing of the fuselage by an explosive charge that gives the same effect as the one visible on the crash site in Smolensk. This simulation can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PPDJzh2C9Es

The next series of slides from the original presentation of Prof. Binienda that was hidden by TVN included slides 32 and 33 showing a vertical straight fall and a vertical fall with the rotation. Slide 34 shows simulations by Sandia National Lab of a portion of the fuselage subjected to an explosive charge[i]. Slide 35 shows the destruction of the portion of the fuselage in Smolensk similar to the simulation results of Sandia National Lab. Slide 36 shows a simulation of the vertical drop of the fuselage after an explosion in the air. Slides 41-46 show the initial conditions for parametric simulation of the impact of the whole plane Tu154M into the ground with a speed of 80m / s and the results of this impact.

Falsifying conclusions of NASA findings

9: 30 min – pages from a NASA publication are shown with the commentary that this document proves the impossibility of a stable flight with a loss of 1/3 of the wing. This publication in its entirety can be read here: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20080034656.pdf.

However, this publication, in particular the research results shown in Figure 14 of this publication (Appendix 1 below), clearly shows that the pilots can counter the loss of a portion of the wing with the aileron on the other wing, even if the loss is as big as 55% of one wing. The pilots would have only to reduce the climbing angle to 2.5 degrees. With the loss of 33% of the wings, they may be climbing with an angle of 3.5 degrees. Hence the narrator intentionally misinterprets the content of the NASA publication.

9: 45 – Mr. Setlak misleads the viewers stating that “after losing such [1/3] part of the wing Tupolev could keep flying, could retain stability, but only at speeds above 650km/h.” Such assertion is clearly contradicted by the Pan Am airplane accident from 1965, in which Boeing 707-321B, after losing 1/3 of the wing, landed without any loss of life. Boeing 707 landed safely without 1/3 of the wing even though it had to slow down to come to a complete stop. While landing, it did not fall over, which means it was a stable landing. The whole event was recorded by a passenger and can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw2RW7xybmU

The cited NASA Publication and the Boeing 707 case clearly support the conclusions presented by Prof. Binienda and Dr. Berczyński and contradict hypotheses disseminated by Mr. Setlak on TVN24.

In light of the above, I hereby request that:

1.      The National Broadcasting Council (“KRRiT”) issue a statement condemning unethical and socially harmful actions of TVN24 resulting from a lack of due diligence by the broadcaster, which is responsible for broadcast content.

2.      Immediate removal of the libelous program “(Im)pure theories” from the Internet.

3.      Punishment of TVN24 with a fine proportional to the number of people who watched the defamatory disinformation “(Im)pure theories.” It is recommended that the fine be calculated as the product of (10,000zl) * number of viewers TVN24 * number of users on the Internet * number of days on the Internet.

4.      Requesting the TVN and/or TVN24 to produce a report with the participation of Prof. Binienda and other attacked experts to unmask and expose all manipulations and lies contained in the program “(Im)pure theories,” and to give prof. Binienda opportunity to exonerate himself in the eyes of the public opinion from the charges of lies, incompetency, and forgery.

5.      To cause that such program is shown by TVN24 in the “Black on White” series, in the same prime time as the defamatory lampoon.

6.      When making a decision on the renewal of the broadcasting license for TVN and TVN24, the National Broadcasting Council KRRiT should take into consideration this serious case of 1) the manipulation of public opinion through harmful action of disinformation to the detriment of Polish raison d’etat, 2) brutal discrediting of scientists who showed great moral courage and worthy civic attitude in the most difficult time for Poland since WWII.

 7.      To issue a recommendation to punish individual journalists responsible for the highly detrimental and malicious disinformation program and unethical behavior by the Association of Polish Journalists or similar professional association.


Maria Szonert Binienda, Attorney at Law
December 2, 2016

Attachment 1


In response to the above complaint, the Polish National Broadcasting Council issued a decision confirming the violation of the Polish Broadcasting Law by TVN in the program “(Im) pure theories” and called on TVN to comply with the standards of due care and diligence in its programming.



For the Polish language version of this documentation see:



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