Who is trolling?



Article by: Robert van Voren

Over the past months, the number of fake ‘concerned Russian citizens’ or Western ‘commentators’ have quickly increased. Clearly, in preparation for the annexation of the Crimea and whatever comes later the Kremlin has been very active on another front: information war. His main specialty: trolling. It is not the first time: on the eve of the Moscow municipal elections a massive amount of trolls or ‘trolliki’ were put in place to spread false information. They even found a cellar in St. Petersburg full with trolliki who were disseminating false information on the opposition candidate Navalny.

I have on my Facebook a considerable amount of pro-Putinists. Some are “honest” and spread information on how correct Putin’s policies are. I disagree with them, but can accept their opinions differ from mine and I keep them because I want to know their train of thought.

But some are basically there to mess up things. Spreading pure anti-semitic propaganda with images that would look quite fitting in ‘Der Stuermer’ in Nazi-Germany (e.g. Marina Stabrovskaya), some are disseminating calls for a ‘Russian uprising’ in the East, disseminating posters for meetings and other actions that are clearly focused on creating a pretext for Putin to show again his fatherly love for fellow Russians in neighboring countries who are being harassed and repressed. One of them is a Sergej Batalov, who is sitting in his house in Spain enjoying the sun and other European Union amenities but at the same time urging others to do the dirty job in Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa.

And then you have Westerners who work along with Putin, for whatever reason.

You have the old fellow-travellers, like the American scholar Stephen F. Cohen, an ‘expert’ on Russia, who already in the 1980s was trying to show that Brezhnev c.s. were actually quite nice guys who meant well for all of us. His pro-Putinism seems mostly based on the fact that when most people say “A” he cannot resist the urge to say “B”.

And then you have the dumb ones, like the American journalist who worked for the propaganda station RT and who recently decided to quit because of the nonsense she had to present. Some blame her for this, but I am more of the opinion that she saw the light, better late than never, and took the courageous step to quit and admit her own stupidity in public.

But finally you have the “hidden ones, those who hide behind a feigned façade of expertise and independence. A good example is a guy called Liam Halligan, a British ‘analyst’ who writes in The Telegraph and The Spectator, where he explains that – to put it simple – Putin’s policies are right and Western reactions are wrong. A good example is his piece ‘Putin is making the West’s Cold Warriors look like fools‘ in The Spectator.

However, the same Halligan is openly presented as a member of the strategic group of the very same propaganda channel, RT (good example: his article ‘After elections Russia has become more attractive for investors‘):

Here Halligan is mentioned as a chief economist of Prosperity Capital Management, a capital management group that clearly has big business with Russian capitalists and is based in London.

In the propaganda broadcast mentioned above, which was aired on March 13, 2014, Halligan has a very interesting message: due to the crisis, investing in Russia has become even more attractive… Definitely a unique point of view, which only a certain group of people around a certain person in the Kremlin would fully adhere to!

Robert van Voren is Professor of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and Ilia State University in Tbilisi, and was Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the Benelux for Humanitarian Affairs in 1994-1997.

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