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Character assassination – Russian style

Character assassination – Russian style
Article by: Thomas C. Theiner

Today I discovered that pro-Russia activists, pro-Russia trolls and reporters of Russia Today spread a screencap of a translation I tweeted as my words. As always they are in high excitement about the “nazi” thoughts contained within the screencap and post it as proof that most certainly Ukrainians and Ukraine’s supporters must all be “Nazis”. How embarrassing for them that the quote actually originated from a crude satire by Novorossiya supporters of the German Left.

To be informed about the thoughts and insane stories among German Novorossiya supporters I am (under an assumed identity) a member of pro-Russia forums on facebook, vkontakte and other social media sites. Last Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, I discovered a “political poster” in a forum administered by a rabid Novorossiya supporter from Bavaria. The poster was obviously a fake. In the above image I highlighted the fake aspects and here below I will explain them in detail:

  1. The first line alludes to the traditional Ash Wednesday party congress of the center-right CSU, by saying “Politischer Faschingsdienstag der CSU 2015” – in English: Political Fat Tuesday of the CSU 2015
  2. The name of the supposed politician, of whom I had never heard, instantly reminded of two German field marshals at the battle of Stalingrad: Friedrich Paulus and Erich von Manstein. Additionally “Eichenlaub” made it clear that this was a rather plump allusion to the Wehrmacht, as Eichenlaub was a grade of the Wehrmacht’s Kinght’s Cross decoration.
  3. After these two obvious fake aspects I visited the CSU’s website and discovered that the poster’s logo wasn’t the logo of the CSU, which instead of a golden horse, sports a golden lion.
  4. And last but not least with some more googling I found the original stock photo used in this poster. If you wish to find it too – just use google for images of “businessman”.

This fake poster was created and disseminated in the group to attack the CSU and their supposed “warmongering” against Russia. Unlike other posters and images usually circulating in this group, which habitually photoshop Merkel into Hitler, Obama into Hitler, Yatseniuk into Hitler, Poroshenko into Jewish-Hitler,… this one actually looked quite real.

Therefore I posted it to my twitter with the aim to see if Russian trolls would disseminate it as real or if they would realize that it must be fake, as no sane person – especially not in Germany – would ever say such a despicable thing.

To allow for better understanding I translated the quote and put it right under the above tweet and into quotation marks “”. Additionally I made sure that a blue line connected the two tweets; as happens if one replies to one’s own tweet. Said blue line, added by twitter to the left of both tweets, marks them as related. I did make sure that this was the case and assumed that quotation marks and the blue line would make it obvious that the fake poster and translation were related.

Most people understood. A few days later my Euromaidan Press colleagues informed me that a Russia Today reporter was disseminating a “horrible” quote about Hitler, which supposedly was tweeted by me.

I checked and to my surprise I discovered that indeed the translation of the quote from the fake poster was now attributed to me and spread as being my words. A nasty lie.

I wondered where the blue line connecting the original tweet to the quote had gone and at first assumed that the screencap had been photoshop. But after investigating I found out that even if a blue line connects your tweets on your own and other people’s twitter feed, said line will disappear if one has the direct link to a tweet. And that is how the screencap was made, showing that whoever created the screencap was aware of how to get rid of the blue line.

Death threats, insults, threats of legal action for hate speech and a multitude of vile stuff against me has been posted by the Russian side in response to the malicious presentation of my translation of a German leftist satiric attack poster. But none of that fazes me… lions aren’t deterred by crickets.

However I find this to be an important lesson about how Russian smears work. Clearly for the rest of my life RT and other Russian propaganda outlets and their assorted troll cohorts will keep reposting this screencap to prove me being a “nazi”, in the same vein as they keep “proving” Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk to be a “nazi”. In his case by claiming a translation error by the Ukrainian embassy staff in Washington DC, which translated “inhuman” wrongly as “subhuman”, to be his actual view of Russians and by claiming that he deplored the “Soviet invasion of Germany in 1945”, when in fact he spoke about the Soviet oppression of the East German uprising in 1953.

And just has he, I take it with pride that Russian propaganda deems me worthy to be smeared and he and me will have a laugh about it next time we meet for dinner at Pantagruel at Золотих воріт.

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