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Russian propaganda’s “conspiratorial” virus: disinformation review

Conspiratorial Virus
Russian propaganda’s “conspiratorial” virus: disinformation review

The pro-Kremlin media continues to target Poland, while the newly identified respiratory virus brings new opportunities for disinformation.

As the news about a previously unknown respiratory virus – which has already claimed over 100 lives – spreads around the world, so do the conspiracy theories.

A mysterious disease that jumped the species barrier from animals to humans with potentially lethal consequences ticks all the “fit-for-conspiracy” boxes: the subject is alarming, highly complex and so far entails more questions than answers. For the pro-Kremlin media, the coronavirus is beginning to look like a disinformation gold-mine.

“It’s an American weapon of mass destruction, aimed against China, coming from one of the US military labs that surround Russia and China, for the benefit of Big Pharma and American corporations,” the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine follows its usual outlandish yet familiar logic. After all, one of the most famous and successful examples of Soviet disinformation was the HIV hoax planted by the KGB in the 1980s, which claimed that the HIV virus was created by the CIA as a biological weapon.

More recently, in 2016, pro-Kremlin outlets alleged that the Zika virus was owned by American and British corporations. Cancer, syphilis, and Spanish flu have also been labeled American biological weapons. Ukraine has been accused of spreading Ebola on behalf of the US military among pro-Russian separatists. And the narrative about secret US military labs in Russia’s neighborhood spreading all sorts of diseases is so prevalent that around 20% of Georgians believe it to be true in the case of the Lugar Lab in Tbilisi. (It is not).

As the coronavirus continues to spread and authorities race against time to contain it, watch out for the proliferation of disinformation stories, which have all the potential to go viral, with horrifying consequences.

The attack against Poland continues

This week, the systematic pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign against Poland continued, painting the country in starkly anti-Semitic colors.

Poland was accused of trying to obsessively whitewash Hitler’s history, justify Nazism and provide a model for building Auschwitz. As horrid as they are, especially in light of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, such disinformation messages are hardly surprising.

As EUvsDisinfo wrote previously, Poland is a carefully chosen target of a broad disinformation campaign. It was launched as a reaction to the resolution of the European Parliament “On the importance of European Remembrance for the future of Europe”.

It appears that the resolution, which expressed concern at “the efforts of the current Russian leadership to whitewash crimes committed by the Soviet totalitarian regime” was taken as an insult by pro-Kremlin circles. Since mid-September, when the resolution was adopted, the pro-Kremlin media has aggressively engaged in historical revisionism, smearing Poland and the European Parliament.

This week was no exception, with pundits on Russian state-controlled TV suggesting that if it weren’t for the activism of American Jews, the European Parliament would adopt a resolution blaming Jews for the start of WWII.

With over a dozen new disinformation cases targeting Poland this week, it seems that the Kremlin’s instrumentalization of history is continuing in full force, with no signs of stopping.

This week’s weirdest disinformation cases:

See all EUvsDisinfo’s Reviews

Among the Ukraine-related pieces of last week’s Russian propaganda dominated the recurring false narratives such as “Ukraine as a failed state,” “fascism and anti-Semitism prevailing in Ukraine,” and “Russia didn’t shoot down the MH17, it was Ukraine.” 

Russian media stated that NATO is going to use Ukrainians in military conflicts around the world to replace the representatives of the “more civilized” Western nations, Ukraine and Georgia were once again labeled US and EU’s tools against Russia, the Ukrainian 2014 Revolution of Dignity was again called a coup d’état led, of course, by fascists. As per Russian propagandists,  Ukrainian WWII-times political figure Stepan Bandera worked for Hitler, moreover, they allege that all Ukrainian heroes were anti-Semites and that the current Ukrainian government is filled to the brim with Nazis since the Ukrainian far right’s influence on Ukrainian politics grew after 2014 (with them, actually, having only around 1-2% at the latest parliamentary and presidential elections). 

The MH17-related narratives were mutually exclusive: on the one hand, Ukraine, unlike Iran, allegedly had no courage to admit its guilt of shooting down the Malaysian Boeing (actually, destroyed by a Russian missile over the Donbas, according to JIT), on the other hand, the propagandists stated that back in 2014 Ukraine had already acknowledged its responsibility for the crash of the MH17.

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