Not only Russian TV, but Twitter and Facebook accounts are favourite vehicles for spreading slander and disinformation. Unchecked material can be broadcast rapidly, and can later be disowned when the deception is uncovered. Here are a few examples of the ways slurs are disseminated.
The Twitter accounts of prominent individuals are often used. For example, in September 2013 shortly before the Sochi Olympics, Irina Rodnina, a prominent Russian sportswoman, posted the message below. She refused to apologize for it and was appointed to light the Olympic torch. Although she eventually apologized on February 10, she then immediately claimed that her account had been hacked.
Irina Rodnina@IRodninaFeb 10
My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgement in my initial response and handling of the event. (2/2)
I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don’t support the tweeted photo or racism in any form. (1/2)
The Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystyn recently posted the photograph below of a gay parade in San Francisco in 2012, claiming that it depicted celebrations on 31 May 2014 of Vitalii Klychko’s election as mayor of Kyiv. Klychko, by the way, is the former world heavyweight boxing champion.
The image below was produced on the Facebook page of the TV channel MIR 24. It was actually a photograph of refugees from Kosovo in 1999, but the Facebook page claimed that it depicted people leaving Ukraine in 2014. The same photograph appeared on the site of a Russian journal called Russia’s External Economic Links (Vneshneekonomicheskie sviazi Rossii). The image has since been removed.
A next photograph is from 1992 in Bosnia and shows Serb ‘Tigers’ finishing off a dying Bosnian. It was recently presented on the internet over the slogan ‘Save the Donbas from the Ukrainian Army.’
When the photograph below was posted, the caption claimed that it represented a meeting in Ternopil for Ukraine’s unification with Poland. In actual fact it was a snapshot of a protest meeting in Warsaw that took place in September 2011.
The next photograph carries the caption: ‘Defending Peaceful Citizens of Donbas Ukrainian-Style.’ Actually it was taken in Chechnya in 2009.
(Source of above photos: http://www.stopfake.org/main/)
This kind of misrepresentation is deliberately practiced on a large scale. Some detained journalists of the Russian Ministry of Defence TV channel Zvezda (Star) recently admitted that they lied in their reports, and issued an apology to the people of Ukraine. Eugene Davydov and Nikita Konashenkov stated that almost all the information they released while working in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk was fiction. They also said that prepared texts were sent to them from Moscow. On the basis of these texts they falsified stories about the Ukrainian Army using phosphorus bombs and Grad missile systems against civilians in the Sloviansk area. The two journalists were detained by the Security Service of Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk and then handed over to Russian diplomatic officials after the conversation (Source: http://en.censor.net.ua/v290508).
Another outrageous fake report, this time from LifeNews, concerns the use by the Ukrainian military of atomic weapons. The title reads: ‘Fascist Junta Threw an Atomic Bomb as a Building of the Donetsk Administration.’ The item appeared on the website of the TV channel LifeNews on 26 April 2014.
Russian television plays a nefarious role in spreading this kind of slander, in particular the Russian news media Russia Today (RT). When journalists, including the news agency The Interpreter, pointed out the use of false pictures and other reporting problems to the RT editor Ivor Crotty, the RT was forced to make some retractions (See James Miller, Throwing a Wrench In Russia’s Propaganda Machine, 18 June 2014, http://www.interpretermag.com/throwing-a-wrench-in-russias-propaganda-machine). One member of RT’s staff, Graham Phillips, a freelancer who got his start with the network while in Ukraine, reported being shot at by Ukrainian soldiers. The Interpreter was able to demonstrate that the video posted by Phillips shows that he ran into a trip wire, which set off a proximity alarm consisting of a flare and whistle. Soon after, RT changed their headlines to reflect that Phillips was not shot at but had triggered a tripwire. However, RT’s editorial staff now sees The Interpreter as a challenge to their narrative. The Interpreter is funded by The Institute of Modern Russia, a registered organization, and the Herzen Foundation, a registered UK charity. The funding sources of both these organizations are publicly available. In contrast, the identities of the RT’s ‘experts’ are often murky and suspicious, as The Interpreter discovered. James Miller reports that The Interpreter asked the questions: ‘Who are these people, what is their expertise, and do they have any facts to support their arguments?’ He continues: ‘With each article we have discovered that many guests have little expertise and champion conspiracy theories that are not supported by the facts.’ Miller says that the research turned up the following results:
In one article we point out that Karen Hudes, whom RT calls the ‘World Bank whisteblower,’ has never presented any evidence of the fraud that she reports. And the economic collapse that she has predicted for years has never happened. Instead, Hudes has spent much of her life explaining that the Pope is really a part of a species of cone heads that helps rule the world. Manuel Ochsenreiter, a guest who often represents the German point of view on RT, is actually the editor of a neo-Nazi magazine — something which is problematic as RT used Ochsenreiter to defend Russia’s invasion of Crimea, an invasion which the Kremlin said was done to defend the peninsula against neo-Nazis. The column has similarly discussed more than ten different members of RT’s propaganda machine, exposing their conspiracy theories, distortions, and lack of facts, and pointing out that RT often gives these guests a different title each time they appear, assigning non-existent expertise to back up whatever anti-Western theory RT wishes to propagate on any given day.
As Miller admits, RT’s real problem with The Interpreter is not so much the exposure of flaws in coverage; it has more to do with the disruption of RT’s propaganda campaign. When one does an online search to learn about RT’s guests, The Interpreter, not RT, often comes up first. For example, a Google search for Karen Hudes, the ‘cone head’ conspiracy theorist, immediately brings up The Interpreter article:
‘Searching for RT guest Ryan Dawson comes up with even more extreme results. The man, whom RT describes at one point as a ‘human rights activist,’ and at another as a ‘political blogger,’ and at another as a ‘journalist specializing in Asian affairs,’ is really a Holocaust denier who routinely blogs about anti-Semitic ideas. Dawson is associated with a man who is actually convicted of a hate crime for assaulting Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. When one searches for Dawson now, one finds that not only is The Interpreter the first result, but every single result on the front page of Google’s results, except RT’s two videos, are all references to The Interpreter‘s article.’
‘Similarly, a Google search for RT’s Manuel Ochsenreiter reveals that not only is The Interpreter the first result, above both RT and Ochsenreiter’s own blog, but the International Business Times and Yahoo News have also written articles on Ochsenreiter, citing our article as having ‘exposed’ the RT expert as a neo-Nazi.’
The Interpreter’s coverage of Ukraine and Russia has garnered international attention. As a result, it is now a threat to RT’s search-engine optimization (SEO). Moreover, The Interpreter’s coverage has shown how thoughtful readers who are prepared to do a little research can discover that RT is not telling the whole story.
Miller concludes: ‘The media landscape is far too polite at this current junction to call RT out for most of its lies and distortions. This is unfortunate since RT’s main narrative is that the rest of the media is hiding or distorting the truth. By picking away little parts of RT’s narrative, at least for now we have exposed holes in RT’s armor — and now it looks like they’ve begun to take that threat seriously’ (http://www.interpretermag.com/throwing-a-wrench-in-russias-propaganda-machine)
Meanwhile RT continues to publish suspicious and unverified ‘news’ stories. For example, the recent explosion of a gas pipeline in Ukraine was reported 16 minutes after it actually happened, complete with video and photo, indicating that Russian ‘journalists’ and saboteurs were probably working together.
(Original publication on RT: http://rt.com/news/166532-gas-pipeline-blast-ukraine Youtube video by RT has now been deleted.)