By EU vs Disinfo

How Democracy is SWAMPED: Seven Cheap Tricks

In a series of articles, EUvsDisinfo will demonstrate a few of the cheap tricks of the Rhetoric of Disinformation; how the producers of disinformation systematically derail an exchange of ideas – the core of democracy – through a set of handy devices. Kremlin trolls ensure public discourse gets bogged down in a quagmire of pointless contestation. A Swedish activist has coined the term Modus Trollerandi to describe ways of trying to spoil the public debate through a set of cheap tricks. EUvsDisinfo has developed the concept further, to show how democracy gets SWAMPED by malign manipulation.

S: Strawmen:

Attack views or ideas, never expressed by the target.

W: Whataboutism:

Deflect the discussion away from the subject.

A: Attack:

Use brutal language to discourage the opposition.

M: Mockery:

Use sarcasm to belittle the opposition.

P: Provocations:

Who benefits from Cui Bono?

E: Exhaust:

Drown the opposition in details and technicalities.

D: Denial:

Flatly deny any evidence

A for Attack

Overblown language and exaggerated statements are to some extent standard practice in any polemical debate, e.g.: “The proposal of the opposition is plain madness!”; “The prime minister has lost her last piece of credibility”. But democratic discourse usually refrains from ridicule, dehumanisation and abuse. The democratic conversation is ideally connected to a fundamental respect and fair play between participants.

While most of the Kremlin’s cheap tricks are aggressive, the goal in this case is to discourage the opposition from continuing the conversation. Kremlin media are prone to label dissidents as “fascists”, “extremists” and even “paedophiles”. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson. Maria Zakharova, frequently does this in her statements:

The russophobic epileptic seizure in the Swedish parliament.

Statement of Maria Zakharova, Facebook, 2 June 2021


Our western partners live in a world of fantasy. I think they only see what does not exist and cannot see what stands in front of them. This is a strange ability – to be able to live in a world of illusions. My impression is that the collective West lives in a world of illusions.

RT, 23 April 2021

According to Ms. Zakharova, Russia acts impeccably, pragmatically and is above reproach. Criticism of Russian activities is nothing but a mental deviation, a sickness. A strange kind of epilepsy. Fantasies.

The EUvsDisinfo database contains several examples of this trick. Pro-Kremlin outlets describe the West as “satanists” and “perverts”. Russian state media suggest political decision-making is based on “mental illness”. The Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is a “victim of political paedophilia”.

As with most other of the Kremlin cheap tricks, the aim is to deflect. Instead of commenting on the issue, the opponent is attacked and dehumanised. The purpose is to discourage the opponent. Silence the conversation.

Of course, this method is not only used by the Kremlin. It is also frequently employed by Belarusian TV. The channel broadcasts a programme called “The Order of Judas”, and the host, Ryhor Azaronakexplains the purpose of the show:

“When nothing is clean, when the Liberal filth has covered almost everything, the world stands on the verge of extinction. Belarus is still standing. Thrice cursed is the son of Judas; may he suffocate from his love of silver. This is The Order of Judas. We talk about those who have forgotten about the good, and soiled their lives with the sin of betrayal.”

The antidote to this device: ignore the attack. Continue insisting on answers to the core issues, as such an attack clearly demonstrates the absence of viable arguments.

Next week: M for Mockery

By EU vs Disinfo