It is easy to get distracted in today’s information abundance. It might be even easier in the disinformation space.
‘I will think about it tomorrow’ – have you quoted Scarlett O’Hara at some point in your life, just looking for a distraction from a problem you were facing? If you did, you might have fallen victim to Western propaganda, according to pro-Kremlin outlets.
Blaming Russia for everything that is going wrong in the West is a good distraction technique, claim pro-Kremlin outlets. One of the pretexts to do that, they claim, was the European Parliament report about Kremlin interference in elections in Europe and the US. In spite of in-depth research on interference and meddling, the Russian government has repeatedly denied any responsibility. But it also went further. Pro-Kremlin outlets try to convince the audience that blaming the Russian government for everything is fashionable in the West now.
The same narrative was applied to particular countries. French President Macron, as disinforming outlets claim, wants to distract us, too – while he is accusing the Kremlin of hacking the elections and amplifying yellow vests protests, he is diverting attention from the protests themselves.
Finally, the UK, by accusing Russia of orchestrating the Skripal poisoning, clearly just doesn’t want to deal with Brexit-associated problems, pro-Kremlin outlets say.
Distraction is an essential part of the disinformation scheme. So is putting the blame for distraction on the other side of the discussion. If pro-Kremlin outlets accuse the West of distraction, at the same time they try to distract their audiences from other issues. The distractor is pretending to be the ‘distractee’, and voilà – confusion and chaos are created! And that’s what disinformation is all about.
With less than three weeks left until the Ukrainian presidential elections, the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is in full swing. The Ukrainian vote remains a steady fixation of Russian state-sponsored TV, which reports almost daily how instead of moving to Europe Ukraine is stuck in its chauvinistic present or going backwards to its Nazi past, how it exterminates the Russian language, and how, if the incumbent president gets re-elected it will turn into a banana republic. And if he doesn’t, he will allegedly flee the country. The preparations are on-going, pro-Kremlin disinformation warns, both through its flagship outlets and social media, as the narrative of President Poroshenko Poroshenko running from demonstrations, confrontations and his own country is beginning to spread in Russian Twitter sphere.
In any case, according to the pro-Kremlin media, Western puppet masters in Ukraine are free to reign. The disinformation messages about the Western orchestration of Ukrainian politics starting with the Euromaidan have become a staple of pro-Kremlin media. Now, they are urgently recycled in the run-up to the election. All this to support a larger narrative that the democratic choice of the people is an illusion, and to question the sovereignty of Ukraine.
At the same time, the upcoming presidential elections have not completely distracted the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine from spreading unfounded claims about other shortcomings of the Ukrainian government. This week, we also heard that Ukrainian authorities are too stupid to deal with the measles outbreak in their country. The epidemic allegedly threatens not only the lives of children in Ukraine, but also the country’s visa-free regime with the EU. Thus, the disinformers helpfully suggest using Russian-made vaccines. The European and American vaccines, especially those available in Georgia, were reported as unreliable, since they might be manufactured in the infamous Lugar lab (the very same one that brought you the toxic mosquitos). But Georgians, according to pro-Kremlin sources, have even bigger things to worry about, as the UN and its partner organisation are deliberately spreading HIV in the country and planning for Georgian genocide.
In reality, while Ukraine is indeed going through a measles epidemic, the government is implementing numerous measures to curb it, the EU has no intention to suspend the visa-free agreement with Ukraine, and UN with its partners are engaged in prevention of the HIV.
In the midst of the disinformation fever it is healthy to remember that measles outbreaks are occurring at least partially because of the anti-vaccination moods. They are fuelled by pseudo-science and false belief that prevention is worse than disease – disinformation that Russian trolls from the Internet Research Agency helped to proliferate across Twitter.
Everybody needs a distraction from time to time. And it’s all good and healthy as long as we don’t let ourselves get distracted from the truth, as it indeed might be fatal.