At a glance.
- "Don't call us orcs.'"
- NAFO mocks Russian disinformation (and raises funds for Ukraine).
- Ukraine's SSU shuts down two bot farms.
Don't call us "orcs." It hurts, and we only have your best interests at heart.
Rossiya1's talking heads have developed, over the course of last week, a narrative of Russian benign intentions and ill-use, forbearance in the face of intolerable statements by Ukrainians ("they call us 'orcs") and plans to educate those who think they're Ukrainians (a fictitious nationality which speaks a barbarous language, yet a language that's really a variant of Russian). Perhaps the most surprising embrace of Russia's Soviet heritage on display was Mr. Solovyov's account of the Gulag as an expression of the rule of law, designed for the reform and rehabilitation of the inmates. Resisting such correction is apparently simply evidence of false consciousness. Anyway, the Gulag was better than the Nazi concentration camps, Mr. Solovyov says, which is indeed setting a very low bar, but leave that aside. In the Gulag, he argues, you were seen as an individual, and the Ukrainians who call Russians "orcs" or "Rascists" are denying the individuality of Russian people, "going down the same path" their Nazi forebears walked. And it's the US and the UK, Rossiya1's experts explain, who are pulling the strings behind Kyiv.
Mr. Solovyov's remarks are worth quoting at length; they capture a view of history that emphasizes the continuity between Russia and the Soviet Union at its worst, between Putin and Stain: Russia is the victim, as it was when Hitler broke the pact with Stalin under which had enabled the two tyrannies to carve up Poland between them.“They don’t see us as individuals. They don’t see us as people. Dehumanisation. Denial of our right to be ourselves. That is the main difference between us and them. Ukraine, diseased with Nazism, does not see us as people. For them we are orcs, Rashists, but nonetheless we still pity them. We still consider them ours but lost, with their heads not screwed on properly. We hate the sin but not the sinner. That is why we will win. Because we see the people, we are fighting for their souls.”
Thus the special military operation is being waged for the sake of the Ukrainians themselves. That they can't seem to recognize this is not just false consciousness, but ingratitude. The Telegraph has a terse account of the Gulag, which those unfamiliar with Soviet labor camps may find instructive: "About 18 million Soviet citizens passed through the prisons of the Main Camp Directorate, known by its administrative acronym Gulag, between the late 1920s and the 1950s. Varying estimates of the death toll begin at 1.5 million. The camps were a central pillar of Stalin’s regime of terror and a source of slave labour for ambitious engineering and construction projects."
It's difficult to imagine that Mr. Solovyov thinks his narrative will persuade any foreigners; the self-pity seems tuned for a domestic audience. Descriptions of Ukrainians that tend toward their representation as less than fully human have had some currency since the 2014 occupation of Crimea at least. On his Vkontakte channel Aleksandr Dugin, the prominent "Eurasianist" philosopher whose assassinated daughter has been treated as a martyr by the Kremlin, said at that time, "Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots. The genocide of cretins suggests itself. Evil cretins, closed to the voice of the Logos, mortally dangerous and... for all that, incredibly stupid. I don't believe they are Ukrainians. Ukrainians are wonderful Slavic people. This is some kind of bastard race that emerged from the sewer manholes." Thus for those who failed to welcome Russia's invasion of Ukraine. His late daughter was comparably (and more recently) extreme in her televised description of Ukrainians as subhuman, and of the special military operation as a war between light and darkness.
SciencesPo has a useful summary of the contradictory cross-currents in the current manifestations of Panslavism. The CBC published an account, earlier in the war, of the development of genocidal rhetoric in Russian official media.
NAFO mocks Russian disinformation (and raises funds for Ukraine).
Claims that Russia's invasion is really a humanitarian intervention designed to bring the diseased collective mind of Ukraine to its senses (and to a recognition of its Russian roots) may seem too malign for mockery, and so surreal as to be beyond the reach of ridicule, but one loose organization sees trolling and taunting as effective counters to disinformation.
POLITICO last week offered an account of the North Atlantic Fellas Organization (NAFO), a group formed to counter Russian disinformation online. NAFO (which is careful to also use the French version of its acronym, "OFAN," on its logo) is an example of a spontaneously organized, widely distributed effort to counter Russian disinformation in social media by mocking its claims. It's also engaged in raising funds for Ukraine through sales of custom doge avatars (the Shiba Inu is NAFO's characteristic image) and donations to such campaigns as “Sign My Rocket.” NAFO's technique is trolling and ridicule. "Russian influencers have struggled to respond to the badly-drawn Shiba Inu memes, YouTube-style viral videos and the power of ordinary social media users debunking Kremlin talking points," POLITICO says. "Even answering a Twitter account whose avatar is a 'doge' can make a Russian diplomat look foolish. In essence, NAFO can swim in online waters that governments would struggle to enter."
The NAFO approach is very schoolyard, both in its puerility and its persistence (and we mean this in a good way). POLITICO recounts one exchange that so vexed the Russian official who was its target that he had to take a break from posting.
"One Russian official who tangled with NAFO is Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna and a well-known peddler of Kremlin propaganda via his 30,000 Twitter followers. Since the Kremlin ramped up its assault in February, the Russian diplomat has accused the United States of creating a “ministry of truth,” berated social media users for peddling “fake news” and claimed Russia only invaded Ukraine in response to Kyiv’s aggression. That last declaration caught NAFO’s attention. When someone from the movement accused Ulyanov of rewriting history, the Russian responded with a line he would later regret: “You pronounced this nonsense. Not me.” After more fellas piled on, his message became a meme, quickly emblazoned on NAFO mugs and T-shirts. Ulyanov first accused his Twitter critics of being bots, and then took himself offline for a week after NAFO fellas bombarded his social media account. He later said the social media detox was because he was on vacation."
The meme Mr. Ulyanov contributed was "You pronounced this nonsense. Not me," which was made available in the form of online banners, t-shirts, etc. Proceeds go to Ukraine's defense.
Ukraine's SSU shuts down two bot farms.
Ukraine says it's shuttered two bot farms, one in Kyiv, the other in Odesa, that were allegedly engaged in spreading and amplifying Russian disinformation. The Kyiv Post reports that, "The ‘bot army’ of almost 7,000 accounts was used to spread destructive content aiming to:
- "discredit the Defence Forces of Ukraine and the state’s leadership;
- "justify russia’s armed aggression;
- "destabilize social and political situation in Ukraine."
The proprietors arrested were locals; they appear to have been hired by Russian clients.