By XHABIR DERALLA
Social networks are the second front of any crisis, where spears cross information as opposed to propaganda, knowledge and science as opposed to sensationalism and dilettantism. It’s a front where civilizational values and humanity are put at the most difficult of tests and endurance. Views, based on knowledge, experience and wisdom, supported by facts and arguments are faced with high waves of violent and vulgar comments in which one-sidedness, hate speech and ignorance are plentiful. The truth doesn’t have to hurt.All it takes is to blur and silence the facts in the endless noise on the social networks.The tireless propagandists and armies of brainwashed people and useful idiots take care of that.
Continuous pouring rain of disinformation and propaganda
Both the laziest and pickiest social media users are exposed to a pouring rain of messages, posts, links and comments on the social networks. These include well-devised propaganda campaigns that are part of the longstanding hybrid war that the Kremlin is running against Western democracies.
The Russian propaganda is part of the military doctrine Maskirovka, which was developedfrom the beginning of the 20th century. It was developed in the Soviet Union and is still being used today for political or military deception, particularly aimed against the Western democracies and the NATO member states. Among else, the maskirovka consists of creating narratives, or, even better, myths, such as for example the “huge power” of the Russian military machinery. (One of Putin’s more successful maskirovkas is the emergence of the “little green men” inCrimea in 2014, and as of more recently the less successful attempt of propaganda deception with the launchingof the “most dangerous” rocket in the world – Sarmat, 20 April 2022.)
Nowadays, with the “quantum leaps” in the development of communication technologies and online platforms, the Russian maskirovka has gained practically unlimited space. No one can escape the disinformation and propaganda at all, but it seems that the Russians are the best in exactly that – blurring the facts and deception on a mass scale.
The useful idiots, the speed of communication, and even more so the haste and media illiteracy of a devastating large part of social media users and consumers of media content are of particular importance for the Russian maskirovka.
One of the endless series of examples
Let’s go through just one example of the truly endless series of examples. This and many similar examples can illustrate the excellent combination between media illiteracy and “spontaneous” expressions of disagreements with the policies and institutions of the West. From the following example, one can see one of the effects of the propaganda on its direct and indirect targets (victims) and the general public. And they’ve got it going good for a century now!
EXAMPLE: The British ministry posted an infographic on Twitter with a summary of intelligence information from the Ukrainian fronts (May 23). The first paragraph speaks about the losses of the Russian army in the first three months of the aggression (at least 14,000, as much as it lost in one decade in the invasion against Afghanistan). Furthermore, the second paragraph has a brief explanation on the reasons for the great Russian losses in Ukraine (bad tactics, limited air support, inclination of the commanding structures towards repeating mistakes and so on). In the third paragraph, the British intelligence talks about the possibility of a growing dissatisfaction with the great losses on the fronts that have become ever more visible to the Russian public. The tweet of the British Defence also contains a link to the site for further reading on the response of the British government to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Like in other such tweets, the reactions are numerous: more than1,878 likes, 769 retweets and 129 comments (until 12:30 pm., 27 May 2022).
If one were to analyze some of the comments tothe posts of official institutions of the West, several conclusions could be drawn that would be similar to the analyses that CIVIL’s monitoring performs on the domestic and Balkan propaganda front. With the difference being in that in the case of the Macedonian part of “hell” (social networks), negative content and comments dominate. In any case, public communication is highly contaminated with manipulations, disinformation, hate speech and relativization (they are all the same).
Some of the comments refer to that briefing is a propaganda, that it’s one-sided and that it doesn’t match the reality. According to some of the comments, the report is “one-sided” because it had had no information on how many losses the Ukrainian side has. It concerns an infographic that is a summary of an intelligence, and not journalist report. If we take a look at the profiles of those who comment this way, we can notice that it’s about supporters of the far right.
Some have been “enlightened” by watching videos that have been posted by “ordinary Russian soldiers” that show that the British military intelligence is “lying” or “silencing the facts”. Indeed, Tick Tock, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and many others are full of all kinds of videos and links of extremely suspicious online sources whose only function is to disinform. You can find all sorts of stuff there, but the “production” usually comes down to half-truths and manipulations or pure disinformation, and even open hate speech.
Who are all the people commenting?
It can be noticed that discussions on the social media are dominated by Russian bots that are synchronized and well-organized. They skillfully manipulate facts, “sabotage” discussions and bring “clatter” into the communication.
Furthermore, pro-Russian, anti-Western, extreme right wing and anti-establishment trolls are also noticed. There regularly are online guards trying to divert the topic to the Middle East, the Palestinian issue and to other topics related to US foreign policy.
There is no better expression neither for another large group of commentators on the social networks. These are ordinary fools, uneducated and lazy, who don’t want to think, but want to act smart on the social networks. Among them we can also recognize those who belong in the previous categories, who use the “wave of distrust” and only build up the “clatter” that hinders the information or discussion.
A ruthless fight between facts and propaganda
Unfortunately, the social networks are becoming less of a place for informing, socializing and sharing of opinions. Less and less are those trying to contribute to the discussion, to express an opinion, to share new information or to complement them. Even entertainment content is a trap for the naïve and is often interwoven with disinformation, conspiracy theories and inciting messages.
In the ruthless fight between facts and propaganda, it seems that disinformation and conspiracy theories are winners on the social networks. A video “from the frontlines” with an unknown origin and doubtful credibility passes as “relevant, checked and accurate”.
The fight is lost from the very start. The facts that relevant, official sources have are collected and analyzed by experienced professional teams. They are often supported by a super sophisticated technology for mapping the terrain, land, from the air and from space. Professional media operate in a similar manner. For decades, the editorials of these media outlets have had the practice of double-checkingall facts and data that is published in the media. This is complemented by teams of digital forensics and experts in the field relevant to the media content.
Seemingly, a crowd of ignorants
On the other side is, seemingly, a crowd of ignorants. But that’s not the case. Professionals who are painstakingly searching for the facts are opposed by a well-organized and sophisticated propaganda machinery that operates in the long run. The propaganda is superbly using, more specifically, abusing all democratic mechanisms, above all, freedom of speech. Not having responsibility for any principles and standards, they can quickly create and even more quickly distribute disinformation and propaganda messages. Their lies are naïve and obvious, often bordering with infantilism. Still, what makes them especially successful isn’t their skill to hide or manipulate facts, but their ability to cause polarization.
Hence,facts on the robberies and unseen crimes and genocide that are systematically being carried out by the Russians “suddenly” become hostile propaganda. A typically conquering and dreadful bloody war is being “decorated” with completely made-up and perverse ideological determinants. Smoke screens are created from skillfully thought out, seemingly naïve and grassroots reactions in the media and public communication. The goal is to blur the real picture of the motives that stand behind the aggression, the military failure and beastly actions against the civilian population in Ukraine.
The best propaganda
The best propaganda is the one that manages to convince at least part of the public that the facts and the truth are propaganda.
The realization that many people form their opinion, and even decisions on who to vote for, based on what they read on the social networks, is worrying. These are “alternative sources” for them that are “accurate” and “true” and are not propaganda. And precisely the Russian propaganda has convinced them in this. In a masterful way!
Translation: N. Cvetkovska