Less than two weeks ago, elections were held in Germany. And although the election campaigning is over, the disinformation campaign is still ongoing. We have written about the narratives used about Germany and especially Angela Merkel several times before and during the last week we could notice some echoing of those familiar stories, as well as a couple of new disinformation inventions. For example, Germany was again accused of establishing a fascist regime in Ukraine and again we saw disinformation about the amounts paid to refugees in the country.
Among the newcomers in the disinformation spectra, we noticed false claims that the German secret service will carry out surveillance of the 13% of the German population that voted for the AfD, that Angela Merkel won’t be able to cooperate with the Greens and FDP since they are Eurosceptic, and that representatives of Russia have never spoken to representatives of the AfD (clearly not true).
And although we still can’t say anything about the impact, as shown by the DFRLab, some of the messaging in the countdown to the German elections was amplified by Russian-language bots; and on Russian social media platform VKontakte, 90 percent of the most popular posts concerning the German election supported the AfD.
Pizza gate, Daesh, Nazis and genocide
What are some of the worst things you can think of? The most evil atrocity perpetrated by mankind, the unthinkable? Is it the actions of the self-proclaimed Islamic State? Or the actions by Nazi Germany during WWII? Maybe it is genocide, or paedophilia? Those are all atrocities that any sane person would object to. This week we saw pro-Kremlin disinformation accusing the US and Ukraine of all of them.
The method of accusing your enemy of the worst imaginable without providing any proof is nothing new in the disinformation universe. It is indeed a well-known tactic, and one that has considerable impact but will cost almost nothing. The logic goes that all you have to do is sow some doubt, plant an idea – and once it is out there, it will be popping up in people’s minds. “No smoke without fire.” But this kind of disinformation is just that – all smoke, no fire.
So, when a Russian state controlled TV show brings up the infamous “pizza gate” case – a conspiracy theory that was debunked and proven false about a year ago – and suggest that the theory should in fact be taken seriously in the light of new “revelations” of US politicians in a paedophilia network (again, no evidence of any network), they are creating smoke. Or when Russian state owned TV accuses Ukraine of planning a genocide of the Russian population of the country and establishing a Nazi regime – again, there is no evidence, only a lot of smoke.
A lot of smoke, but no fire
Or, when TV Zvezda claims that the Syrian military has found a Ukrainian ISIS camp in Syria and another Russian state TV show claims that Ukraine provided resorts in Crimea to Daesh battalions before Russia annexed the peninsula, again – there is no evidence.
The US was also accused of creating Daesh, leading Daesh, supporting terrorism in Syria and doing everything to stop the elimination of Daesh. No mention of the Global Coalition against Daesh; instead Russia was presented as the only country that fights terrorism.
All smoke. The problem is that we can be sure that the smoke will cloud the minds of some.