Last year I was following a course on social media in my university, in Helsinki (Aalto University Dep. of Media, Master's level course). The topic of Brexit came up; everyone was asking how was it possible that Brexit happened. Personally I launched few ideas in the conversation - perhaps it was the fact that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) devoted as a matter of fact really little coverage to the European Union before 2016; perhaps it was the fact that people felt alienated from a leadership they cannot choose and over whom they have no democratic leverage; perhaps it was the fact that there was no cohesive European identity, and people felt more British than they felt European. I was quickly shut down. Brexit happened, according to the overwhelming majority of my classmates and my teachers, because people were bigots, stupid, idiots and they read fake news.
The idea that those who voted in favour of Brexit had a valid and respectable political opinion, albeit different from theirs, was to them unconceivable (and I would like to note that there were journalism students in that very same course). In my classmates, and my teachers' worldview, voting against Brexit wasn't a choice in line with one of the two politically valid alternatives; it was the only legitimate and truthful political choice. The Brexit voter wasn't seen as a political opponent; it was seen as the enemy who reads fake news, the bigot who failed to see the light, the ignorant who missed the dispensation of wisdom by the enlightened literates, the unwitting, birdbrained pawn in the hands of mischievous foreign powers - namely, Russia (of course, who else?).
When you consider Brexit voters as voters who have a legitimate political worldview, you automatically doubt that Brexit happened because Russia convinced the poor dumb fucks to vote for Brexit in order to "weaken the EU" and "destroy our democracy". And it is, I recall you, a European Federalist who says this, not a Brexiteer (even though I am quite glad Brexit happened in the end, as the US Congressional Research Service itself pointed out, London was Washington's best ally in the EU, hence Brexit could mean, besides the exit of the UK from the single market, a possible start of the political decoupling in between the EU and US, and thus a possible start for a politically and geostrategically independent and sovereign European Union).
In the same course, we had a post-doc researcher coming from the School of Technology; as part of an international research group, they were studying how to "stop the spread of fake news" and avoid a second Brexit (a Frexit, or Italexit perhaps) - and the answer seemed to be, we'll just take all of the sources who offer a negative coverage of the EU and we'll classify them as fake news. We'll just prevent users from seeing any negative coverage of the EU, and everyone will suddenly love the EU. This is what democratic discourse in the EU is about; all of the negative opinions about the EU Good Democratic Institutions are illegitimate, and need to be eliminated. If you have a negative opinion of our EU Good Democratic Institutions, and they are Good and Democratic because we tell you they are, not because you voted for the EU leadership, or because we actually are a force for Good in the world, then you must have been convinced, swayed by and toyed with by Malicious and Malignant Foreign Powers. Thus the educated, sophisticated and open-minded "liberals" advocated for censorship and quashing of all dissent, because, they tell us, we're more educated, we populate the universities, our political opinion, our political Weltanschauung, is the truth, it is not an opinion.
This kind of reasoning is problematic when it refers to internal political matters (as it is, de facto, what exacerbates political divisions and fuels discontent); but on a global scale, it is truly a disaster, as it can be used to fabricate consensus for wars of aggression, as a way to cover up war crimes and torture journalists, and as a way to promote the starvation of entire populations as a defensive act.
Weltanschauungskrieg, the War of the Worldview, is translated in English with psychological warfare. Like with many German language untranslatable terms (and there are many, especially in philosophy) the German word is both more descriptive and more poetic than its English counterpart. What is a worldview? Roland Barthes explained this concept very well in relation to photography: when the photographer takes a photo of a scene happening in front of his eyes, he chooses the framing and the composition, hence the image resulting is not a truthful representation of reality, but it is what the photographer believes being the most significative representation of the events. It is, thus, his worldview. Another photographer, standing just few metres away from the first photographer, might produce a significantly different image. The same scene, two points of view; the same world, two political representations of it. Who do we believe? We need to research and go further, if we want to get the truth. We need to reconstruct the whole picture; confront it with the frames we have, and we also need, or we especially need, to confront the two images with each other. Which of the two versions is more similar to the whole image? What are the most significant differences in between the two? Today, however, we would just look at the photographer; the Western photographer's version is surely truthful, while the image shot by the non-Western photographer, especially if Russian, it is an automatic lie. And fuck semiotics.
The Weltanschauungskrieg, or the psychological warfare, acts on two different levels - the demonisation of the enemy (on the representational level) and the delegitimisation of his political opinion (on the worldview level). Thus at the same time we insult the Brexiteers, because they are bigots, ignorants, fascists; but we also delegitimate their political opinion, because it is not them holding it willingly, it is Russia who convinced them to vote like they did, in order to "weaken our democracies". It is Russia who wanted Brexit, and the idiots who know no better believed their lies.
In times of peace, different worldviews might be upsetting; but in times of war, the aggressive party will try in every way to eliminate different worldviews from the reach of their citizens. Like the research group in my university was trying to fabricate consensus for the unelected political echelon of the EU by just censoring every critique of the EU itself (and teachers were telling students that pro-Brexit lies were fabricated in St. Petersburg's troll factory), so are certain States trying to fabricate consensus for their endless wars by torturing dissenting journalists, and by creating an enemy who's always lying, who's trying to take away our freedom, who's setting up entire disinformation ecosystems; everything they say it's a lie, and you have to always, always, always doubt what they say. And you have to tell others!
The irony behind all of this contemporary Russia-scare, is that it is not even that new; we saw it in Europe at the beginning of the XX century; we saw it again with Nazism; and then we saw it again during the Cold War. Yet, people fall for it every time; no matter they've seen it already, no matter its lack of logic and causality, no matter how disconnected from actual reality it really is, people always take the bait of the aggressive Russia. Empire, Union, Federation; they all merge in a sort of everlasting, perpetual and relentless malignant blob who wants to conquer Europe, first, and the world, then.
The strategy is always the same; there are a series of rhetorical tricks which have been used against Russia since the dawn of times. Let's have a look at how they work cognitively, and let's see one actual example for them each.
The first step for conquering Europe is to point the finger against Russia. "Russia is dangerous, hence all of our aggressive military actions are justified - if it's not us starting it, Russia will take everything". That's what the Nazis did; Russia wants to conquer Europe, they denounced, hence we have to invade them first, so that the Bolshevik barbarian hordes won't get into Western Europe and destroy our Western civilisation, our perfect government which allows so much freedom and insures our citizens are living in the best conditions possible.
In his speech "The Veil Falls", delivered on the 6th of June 1941 (two weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany and her Allies), Joseph Goebbels declared:
The war that we are waging against Bolshevism is a war of moral humanity against spiritual rottenness, against the decline of public morals, against spiritual and physical terror, against criminal policies whose makers sit on mountains of corpses in order to see whom their next victim will be.
They were preparing to plunge into the heart of Europe. Human imagination is insufficient to picture what would have happened if their animal hordes had flooded into Germany and the West. The Führer’s order to the army on the night of 22 June was an act of historic magnitude. It will probably prove to be the critical decision of the war. The soldiers obeying his order are the saviors of European culture and civilization, saving it from a threat from the political underworld. Germany’s sons once again are defending not only their own land, but also the whole civilized world. Schooled firmly in the teaching of National Socialism, they storm eastward, tearing the veil of history’s greatest deception, and giving their own people and the world the opportunity to see what is, and what will come.
They hold in their hands a torch that will keep the light of humanity from going out.
And in this sense we can note how NATO's whole renewed strategy against Russia is based upon Ukraine and Crimea; the US organised a coup, placed in power an anti-Russia president, who harassed and scared the Russian national minorities in Crimea, who voted for a referendum which the West didn't recognise (funny how when the same scenario happened in Yugoslavia, however, they decided to throw bombs to support the seceding party instead) and which prompted the Crimeans to reunite with Russia rather than stay in Ukraine and be bulldozed. You see, they say, how dangerous Russia is. This is why we need to be prepared; because they want to conquer Europe. It's not us, it's them.
The first step to establish a (hard or)soft-authoritarian-style government in Europe is also to point the finger against Russia. "Russia is behind the protests of our citizens against our own institutions; this is not genuine discontent, this is Russia's plan to destroy our free, democratic institutions". That's what the Nazis did; Russia wants to sow and deepen the divide in between the Army and the Institutions, they stated, they made it look like we kill our own dissenters in order to smear the validity of our free National Socialist government. Our government is free, because it is backed by the will of the people. All the people. Have you seen any dissent lately?
In his speech "Communism with the Mask Off" delivered in 1935, Joseph Goebbels stated:
Bolshevic propaganda aims its chief blows against the armed forces of a country; because the Bolshevics know that if they were to adopt the principle of trying to secure support from the majority of the people they could never carry out their plans. Force, therefore, is the only means left to them; but in every well-ordered state this meets with the opposition of the army. The Bolshevics accordingly feel bound to introduce their disintegrating propaganda within the ranks of the army itself. Their idea is to corrupt it from within and thus render it ineffective as a bulwark against anarchy.
And this fits very well with the European Union's disinformation strategy; they are upset at the populists, because the populists complain about the European Union all the time; from the website of the European Union:
High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate. It's our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy. As the European Union, we've decided to act together and reinforce our response, to promote our principles, to support the resilience of our societies, within our borders and in the neighbourhood. It's the European way to respond to one of the main challenges of our times."
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: “We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation. We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns. To address these threats, we propose to improve coordination with Member States through a Rapid Alert System, reinforce our teams exposing disinformation, increase support for media and researchers, and ask online platforms to deliver on their commitments. Fighting disinformation requires a collective effort.”
What "mistrust in democracy", Federica? I didn't vote for you, so when I don't trust your words, I'm not mistrusting any democracy. How are you speaking as if you were a Democratic leader when you weren't voted for by anyone? Am I allowed to say that I'm upset about the homeopathic democracy you're selling me as a Truly Democratic Institution? Am I allowed to say that I don't feel represented, when I can't vote for the Commission, which is the only organ who has the proposing legislative power? Am I allowed to say that I'm upset that foreign policy is completely out of the citizens' scrutiny and approval? Am I allowed to say that there is no "our principles" when you didn't let us vote for the approval of the Lisbon Treaty? I don't want to do wars for democracy, yet I cannot even say anymore that I don't like them? As for what concerns the second speaker, it offers indeed a very similar overview over the "Russian disinformation" as Goebbels was doing. "They know they can't convince us all, and this is why they're sliding in through the back door and trying to foment internal dissent, but we're fighting back, 'cause we're a strong people". I don't even know what to say here. It's terrifying. When are they going to come to arrest me? But especially, if I shall be arrested, will everyone clap their hands at the sight of it, like they are doing with "Russian Asset" Julian Assange?
The first step of being aggressive against Russia is also, counterintuitively, to point the finger against Russia. "Russia spreads misinformation when they say NATO is running threatening exercises on their borders, we stand for peace and democracy worldwide". That's what the Nazis did. The Bolsheviks lie about the nature of the Reich, they claimed, they warn Europe of a non-existent imperialist threat from Germany and worst of all, they claim we want to invade the Soviet Union.
In his speech "Communism with the Mask Off", delivered in 1935, Joseph Goebbels stated:
Since that time the communists have been carrying on a world-wide systematic work of propaganda against Germany, because they recognise and realise that the National Socialists are their most dangerous enemies. Among the eternally recurring themes of this communist agitation are the stories of war preparations in the interests of German imperialism, preparations for a revanche against France, annexations in Denmark and Holland and Switzerland, in the Baltic States and the Ukraine etc. and a German crusade against the Soviet Union, [...]
And of course, as everyone knows, six years after this speech was delivered, Nazi Germany and her Allies attacked the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa). Ironically enough, it is hereby Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda minister of the Third Reich, who showcases that the Kremlin's version of the pre-war period is truthful, and the European Parliament is engaging in historical revisionism. While the EU claimed (and enshrined in law, in 2019) that WWII started because the Soviets and the Nazis wanted to conquer Europe together, in view of the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, the Kremlin claims that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was Stalin's only way to take time before the inevitable invasion of the Soviet Union at the hands of Nazi Germany and her Allies. But then if already in 1935 Soviet "propaganda" was trying to smear the "peaceful" Reich of wanting to start a crusade against the Soviet Union, then the Kremlin's version is truthful - Stalin knew the war was coming to the USSR, and did what he could to delay that, given the fact that all of countries sitting at her border refused to help her, and the Allied powers France and the United Kingdom were not interested in building a solid alliance with the Soviet Union either. And Goebbels wasn't here lying about the Soviet Union, oh no, he wasn't; the Soviet-Italo Pact, signed in 1933, was signed exactly in view of a possible German aggression over the Balkans. So yes, the Soviet Union was definitely warning Europe of a German imperialist aggression war, by the mid-30's. Oh, the Schadenfreude of it all. Joseph Goebbels, the European propagandist of yesterday, uncovers the European propaganda of today.
The Soviet Union was worse than Nazi Germany, they say nowadays in Northern Europe (I haven't heard anyone, except true and proud neo-fascists, stating anything similar in Italy or elsewhere). There is no doubt that Stalin was a dictator, who was brutal and ruthless especially towards his own population (and they actually know this in Russia as well); but that he wanted to invade Europe and conquer the world, there is no proof of that (no, the Comintern is not the same thing as the Nazi New World Order). The only ones who claimed so, were the Nazis (and their Allies, who are still claiming so today, in an everlasting litany of tired yet renewed Nazi propaganda); and everyone knows that it was really the Nazis who wanted to conquer the whole of Europe and the whole of the World (and unleashed a war which killed 3% of the world population). We all know how many Soviets died for the freedom of Europe and the world. We all know how many German divisions the Soviets took down pretty much single-handedly. Italians who like me, have heard veterans from the Russia Campaign first hand know, that it was the Soviet girls who helped them desert and put them in contact with the resistance. Italian soldiers, notwithstanding their position as an aggression force, were helped to desert the Italian Army, given weapons and a passage back to Italy to fight the Fascists. As a native Italian, I find these contemporary arguments horrifying. The Soviet Union, which Fascist Italy invaded, together with the other Axis powers, is presented as worse than Fascist Italy herself. As a native Italian, I cannot accept that. I cannot deny my country's own history. Perhaps the Germans, the Baltic States, Hungary and other Nazi Allies are proud and happy to war-wash their countries; but I refuse to do it.
It is interesting in this sense, to analyse the lies spread around by various Governments of Europe, by NATO, and by the US Department of State's latest report "Pillars of Russian Disinformation". They all claim that Russia is paranoid about NATO exercises and in the specific, they claim that DEFENDER-20 had no relation to Russia at all. NOW. I will hereby propose to the reader two images; one is a map of Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany and her Allies. It is taken by website historyplex, but you can find many of them around the internet (I liked the graphic of this one, this is why I chose it). The second one is a reconstruction of NATO exercise DEFENDER-20 made by the anti-war people at WorldBeyondWar.org.
From historyplex: 1941 Map of Operation Barbarossa
From WorldBeyondWar: DEFENDER-20 (note: Ukraine and Belarus are currently in a state of unrest, Ukraine is receiving significant amounts of US weapons and the Belarusian government might be substituted by the West, with a totally inexperienced leader whose main advisor is on the board of the Atlantic Council, a NATO think-tank)
Now tell me: are my eyes failing me or DEFENDER-20's geography is strikingly similar to Operation Barbarossa's? And if visual proof of NATO's absurd lies wouldn't be enough let's dive a second into the scenario given for this exercise; Army Times (a US source) says:
“It features a fictional near-peer competitor and actually puts that competitor on European terrain to allow us to get some good repetitions in large-scale ground combat,” Bernabe said. “The scenario will be set in a post-Article V environment ... and it’s actually going to be set in the year 2028.”
So they are making try-outs for a conflict happening with a near-peer competitor in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (with the main weapons supplies being shipped from Germany). It's a post Article V scenario (Article V states that all Allies need to respond in case of a non-NATO Ally attacking a NATO Ally) set in 2028. Which country lies on the border with the Baltic States and it is not a NATO Ally (or Collaborator, like Finland)? If the answer to this rhetorical question doesn't immediately pop up in your mind, scroll up and have a look at the map. If DEFENDER-20 would have taken place in Spain, I would have agreed with NATO - Russia is being paranoid. But given the physical geography of the area, the Russians are fully justified in their statements, and that is, that DEFENDER-20 is basically an anti-Russia exercise. I invite anyone from NATO to disprove me in any way they see fit here; they can show me maps, infographics and whatever they want to showcase that the fictional enemy they're fighting in Poland and the Baltic States is not Russia. I'm anxiously waiting for that, Mr. Stoltenberg (but most likely they'll just reply that I am a witting Russian pawn, won't you, Mr. Stoltenberg?). You see, like Goebbels denounced the Soviet Union for "spreading propaganda" and alleging that peaceful Nazi Germany wanted to ever invade the Soviet Union (or Europe), now the "Pillars of Disinformation" report denounces the Russian Federation for "spreading propaganda" against its "peaceful" exercises taking place on the Russian border. EH.
The first step in order to set up a properly sound and well rounded anti-Russia rhetoric, is to depict Russia like Hell on Earth. "Russia is a crazy dictatorship where people are whipped into submission; people need to know how awful Russia really is (especially Russian citizens); we're nothing like them; this is paradise on Earth, this is the Land of the Free, this is a Great Democracy!". That's what the Nazis did. "Behind their rhetoric, they explained, the Soviet Union is like Hell on Earth. Millions are killed on a routinely basis; people are miserable and the Soviet Union's leaders basically drink from the skulls of the freshly killed citizens. They just lie to their populations all the time. And when foreign newspapers draw any similarities in between us and them, they're most likely lying. There is freedom here, there is food on the table and there is singing in the factories, for real though"
In his speech "The Veil Falls" delivered in 1941, Joseph Goebbels stated:
The Soviet Union knew what it was doing when it sealed itself off from the rest of the world from its earliest days. No matter how socialist it declared itself in its programs and proclamations, it dared not do what National Socialist Germany, for example, did hundreds of thousands of times: to send its own farmers and workers on their own ships to distant countries, where they could on the one hand enjoy and admire the beauties of these lands, but also compare conditions there with those in their own land. They learned to love their people and fatherland, with its order, cleanliness and social justice. Bolshevism could maintain its social illusion only because its deceived population lacked any opportunity for comparison.
Of course much of the criticism to the Soviet Union was undoubtedly true (I do agree with Trotsky, when he told both Stalin and Lenin that the Soviet Union was degenerating), but now that today we're using the same rhetoric with the Russian Federation, I think that this is completely false. Yes, it is not a "standard" liberal democracy (then again, the Russians can decide wether they want to vote for Putin or not, while we were just imposed Von Der Leyen and we can't even complain about that, because that's Russian disinformation), but I personally believe, that whatever they decide to put in place as their own form of government, interdependency is the key - how are the institutions going to work with each other, and how can civil society be placed in the system in order to give balance to the system. On another level, I don't believe Russia is a dictatorship because I've been to Russia (in 2014), and I've traveled on five different trains for about 10.000km (9820km from Vladivostock to Moscow, if I recall correctly) in third class (I then took the fancier Sapsan train for the last trip, such luxury!). People were in general really friendly and curious and many of them came to speak to me, as everyone could see that I wasn't a native (the only place where I ever could pass for a local was Iran) and not so many foreigners travel in third class. I used online translators (with offline functions) to speak to people - when you're sitting on a train for 30 hours, who cares if just saying who you are and where you're from takes five minutes? And it didn't strike to me as a dictatorship where everyone is whipped into submission and kept in the dark about the rest of the world. I've been shown memes about Putin (on my very first day in Russia) which my host had shared on social media (V-kontakte, so the Russian version of facebook). I met people who approved of Putin. I met some younger liberals in St. Petersburg who told me laughing that we're the same, when we've got Putin and you've got Berlusconi (and with all of his faults, Berlusconi definitely wasn't a blood-thirsty dictator). I met people who were genuinely sad that Russia and the Russian people were represented in such a mean manner in Western media (there was one man, I sat in front of him in the Irkutsk - Ekaterinburg leg of my journey; shortly before the arrival of the train in Ekaterinburg, he told me "please when you go back, tell the people in the West that we're not bad people, we wish no harm to anyone"). Plus, Russia was the last leg of my overlanding trip across Eurasia. I went through Turkey, Iran, the UAE and China, and in Russia, for the first time in months, I didn't have to use a VPN. I could just access every website I wanted, from Facebook to The Guardian to the New York Times. I could go on youtube and watch videos; and like I could, so can every other citizen of the Russian Federation. They have comedians on youtube who mock Putin and the whole of the government. They've not been arrested yet, as far as I know (and if they were, we'd know). The language barrier is not really an issue to access foreign media; exactly like I can use online translators to read Russian media, they can use translators to read Western news - and the Russian government itself runs a website where they translate what the foreign press says about Russia. The Soviet Union chopped herself off the world by choice (even though especially after WWII, they were a bit pushed into it), but the Russian Federation is not sitting behind any iron curtain. There's no veil to be lifted; from Finland one can even visit a few oblasts without a visa, and one can take the bus or the train to get there (way cheaper than the boat).
Plus, if Russia was really a dictatorship where everyone hates the government, there'd be way more rage on the streets. I mean they protested for like three months now in Siberia, after the Governor Furgal was moved to Moscow to be trialled for a series of homicides which happened in the 2000's, yet we haven't seen anyone looting shops, burning buildings, killing other people and the police hasn't killed anyone either (and in fact, Western press, which showed up en masse the first week of the protests, swiftly disappeared from Khabarovsk, as if they would have actually shown the protests, with people just marching on the streets, singing slogans and holding signs, they would have made the "peaceful protests" happening in the US look like the urban guerrilla they actually are). I mean the US institutions are trying to make me believe that the average Russian is just longing to get out of the hellhole that they live into to run to the Democratic Paradise that is America, but then, what we see coming from the telly are riots, murders en plein air, a "democratic" election process basically ran by tech giants, a bunch of war criminals systematically running for President (and being voted for), and general aggression towards other nations (often tiny nations in the Middle East, wow, so brave). Even as a tourist, I'd rather go to Russia than the US, because the US doesn't seem safe at all for a solo woman traveler.
The first step to convince everyone that Russian disinformation is a real thing, is to tell everyone about a phantomatic, super extensive network of malignant institutions and collaborators (civilian and non-civilian alike) who are all working towards convincing the poor Westerners about all kind of lies. "Everyone and everything can be a Russian pawn. If they speak positively about Russia, they're working for the Russians. If they speak negatively about the West, they're also working for the Russians. This is why we need to sped so much money and effort into disinformation actions; because the Russians are everywhere, they can easily penetrate even the more skeptical of minds". That's what the Nazis did. The Comintern runs a major propaganda network, they warned, and they have offices and collaborators everywhere in Europe! They're like a cancer, slowly but surely infecting the whole of Western society.
In his speech "Communism with the Mask Off" delivered in 1935, Joseph Goebbels stated:
Bolshevism carries on its International propaganda through the Komintern.
These propagandist falsehoods are sent out through thousands of channels and in thousands of ways, bourgeois intellectualism-sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously-is pressed into the service of this campaign of defamation. In all European capitals there are large offices for the spread of this poison throughout the world and large subsidies are furnished by the Komintern to prepare and carry out the work. These organisations are constant centres of unrest among the nations. They never tire of stirring up trouble every way they possibly can.
That is Bolshevic propaganda. That is the form in which it clothes itself and lives, using falsehood and slander and chicanery, so as to make the nations suspicious of one another and hate one another, thus spreading a general spirit of unrest; because the Bolshevics know so well that they can never bring the communist idea to triumph except in an age that is distracted and sceptical.
In 2020, the "Russian Disinformation Ecosystem" is represented graphically by the United States Department of State in the following manner:
Here we see already some problems, without even having to research too much; how is it that the Kremlin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs themselves are classified as "disinformation outlets"? I mean, they are official institution of a foreign nation; how can you just say that they're going to lie no matter what? Are we talking about Pinocchio here or about an actual state? Is the US here afraid that people would actually go and see what they are saying, and subsequently realising that their version of events is more realistic? I mean they always refer to real treaties, conventions, charters; compare this with the "rules-based-international-order" mantra which we find on Western FMAs websites, and you straight away see, that it is indeed very possible, that those who are quoting actual laws are being more truthful than those who quote a sort of abstract "system of rules" which cannot be found anywhere.
The second problem is that straight after Russian Official Institutions comes Russian media; and an example of how Russian Media "spreads narratives" about the world and "destroys our democracies" we can take this report from the NATO CoE in Helsinki. Apparently here RT was accused of "trying to spread false narratives" because when the Yellow Vests protests were happening, they reported about them. According to NATO and the Finnish experts who cooperate with NATO, people in France went under AFP's offices in Paris and they were shouting "Thank you RT" because RT, contrarily to AFP, was reporting about the protests happening. Like isn't this the ABC of journalism? When things happen, you report about them? The Yellow Vests protests went on for seventy consecutive weeks; yet we hardly heard about them, except for the first few weeks. Western media is behaving like the researchers I was talking about in the incipit of this piece; if we don't talk about it, then it doesn't exist. We don't want to talk about protests happening in our streets because that's going to ruin the fully fabricated image of perfection we give of our societies. So when RT shows up in France, or in the US, and just does reporting, the West gets upset. We decide what our citizens can know and how can they know about it. Yeah sure RT has a bias, but so does every outlet. And let's face it: in between Russian RT who talked about Julian Assange's trial in multiple occasions, either on their website or on their podcast (they even managed to quote UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer on the topic, imagine that! Evil, Evil RT) and Finnish YLE who decided to define the war crimes uncovered by Assange as simple "abuse" (and in the same article they then defined Assange (sic) a Russian collaborator), I'll take RT any day. Even Italian RAI managed to somehow bypass the American diktat and showcase some dissent, why haven't the Finns? Is it so, that they are just more obedient, or is it so, that they are just less competent? Jos tuolla YLE:llä te oottee oikeasti niin vapaa kuin te aina sanotte, miksi ette ole puhunut Assangeasta ja lehdistönvapaus kuolemasta? Onko meillä kansalaisilla oikeutta tietää? Onko meillä oikeutta kysyää?
And then of course we see that there are the usual proxies, so any website which complains about the West's endless wars, any website of any Russian institution of any kind (they include the [check name] Russian Academy of Sciences, from where like 15 Nobel prizes have come out, as a "Russian propaganda outlet", seriously), and witting or unwitting proxies (I guess I am a witting proxy, I mean the website is literally called "In Defence of Russia" more of a witting proxy than this). In general, they call anyone who'd dare give any negative opinion of the West and / or any positive opinion about Russia as an actor in the ubiquitous disinformation ecosystem. You see? They are everywhere, it can be anyone! And they are coming for our freedom!
The first step to make your anti-Russia and pro-War rhetoric believable, is also to point the finger against Russia. "Russian lies are very dangerous to our populations; this is why we are labelling every Russian media outlet as a "foreign agent"; people need to know it is dangerous material, and avoid it. Keeping Russian lies away from our population is a requirement for the existence of our democracies". That's what the Nazis did. The communist rotten ideology is going to ruin our society, they announced, this is why it is our duty to keep ideas coming from Russia out of our society, it is for our freedom we do it.
In his speech National Socialism and World Relations, delivered in 1937, Adolf Hitler stated:
The teaching of Bolshevism is that there must be a world revolution, which would mean world-destruction. If such a doctrine were accepted and given equal rights with other teachings in Europe, this would mean that Europe would be delivered over to it. If other nations want to be on good terms with this peril, that does not affect Germany’s position. As far as Germany itself is concerned, let there be no doubts on the following points: —
(1) We look on Bolshevism as a world peril for which there must be no toleration.
(2) We use every means in our power to keep this peril away from our people.
(3) And we are trying to make the German people immune to this peril as far as possible.
It is in accordance with this attitude of ours that we should avoid close contact with the carriers of these poisonous bacilli. And that is also the reason why we do not want to have any closer relations with them beyond the necessary political and commercial relations; for if we went beyond these we might thereby run the risk of closing the eyes of our people to the danger itself.
I consider Bolshevism the most malignant poison that can be given to a people. And therefore I do not want my own people to come into contact with this teaching.
In 2020, the United States Department of State, published on its website:
While Russia’s disinformation presents a threat, it does not stand unopposed. The U.S. government , our allies and partner governments, international institutions, civil society, academia, the private sector, and citizens around the world will not stand by idly while Russia misuses the modern forms of communications that we all depend on for the free flow of ideas and information. The GEC will continue to expose disinformation we see coming from Russia and other malign actors so that the international public and the counter-disinformation community have a clear understanding of how disinformation spreads and how we can work collectively to counter it.
Not only the US Department of State's words are excruciatingly similar in rhetoric to those of Adolf Hitler themselves; they are also a clear example of doublethink, the Orwellian trope through which political speech can come to mean exactly the opposite of what it means. We need to prevent Russia from "misusing" the modern forms of communication we all use, so that information can flow freely, they say. That is, we need to tightly control the flow of information, so that only the information we approve of, will be available to the population. We do not want our citizens to come into contact with the Russian worldview. It is only our worldview which is allowed. Weltanschauungskrieg noch mal.
Perhaps I should add a couple of words on why I decided to use Nazi propaganda as a comparative with today's propaganda, rather than the more widely used Cold War material.
In primis, the rhetoric behind the anti-Communist Cold War propaganda era itself is very similar to Nazi propaganda (they're coming for our freedom! They'll invade Europe! They have propaganda institutions and collaborators everywhere! It's Hell on Earth! Refuse Communism!). This in itself should tell us something.
In a second instance, the Cold War was driven mostly by the United States (communism as a belief was fairly ok in Europe, it was actually pretty popular in Italy and France for example) - but I mostly talk about European matters.
Third, the Cold War is still seen mostly as "just" and as a "war-non-war which we won" while it is very clear to everyone (?) that WWII was an absolute disaster. And in the current situation I honestly cannot say, are we going towards another Cold War (with China on the other side of the divide) or are we going to escalate so much that another war will actually happen (I see not only the European Front being fully remilitarised, but also the Asia-Pacific Front, with the US being increasingly more and more aggressive in the South China Sea, seems to be getting hotter). In view of these circumstances, perhaps it is good to remember to the Europeans that last time we started a war with Russia, it was on exactly the same tune that it happened. And it was our cities which were ravaged, our people who died. America doesn't care about setting Europe on fire; but we should. We should care that they go around talking like the Nazis and flooding Eastern Europe with weapons. We should care that they spout like the Nazis and they have full nuclear arsenals under our arses, which we can't control. We should care that they rant like the Nazis and they have full control of European security. The Americans talk like Nazis, and so are we, fellow Europeans. And the Europeans don't remember anymore, how ugly war is.
And why would they?
They've been told that our wars in the Middle East are great, and they bring democracy.
They've been told that people would rather be in a civil war than in a stable autocracy.
They've been told that it's good to starve entire populations to punish their governments.
They've been told that peace is achieved by distributing more weapons to everyone.
They've been told our bombs bring peace and stability.
They've been told that War is Peace, and they believe it.
The Europeans have forgotten what it feels like, when war knocks to your door.
And perhaps it is also exactly because of this that I decided to use Nazi materials; because the Europeans mostly have been told a generic "National Socialism was bad" but because actually reading and studying that very same material is considered taboo, they cannot recognise it anymore, when they find it in front of them. And that's the point of fascism. It always sounds really good, until it doesn't. And when it doesn't, it is then too late to do anything.