Staunton, June 18 – Many people have focused on the ways in which Moscow television’s distorted, tendentious, and openly false broadcasts have affected Russian speakers in Ukraine, but fewer have focused on another aspect of Russia’s information war: the spreading of rumors among the population by political operatives with ties to the Kremlin.
In a note on Kasparov.ru, Igor Eidman, a commentator with experience in Russian political campaigns acknowledges that “the role of television is great but it is only part of a carefully prepared information campaign.” The spread of rumors to discredit the Ukrainian authorities is another and very important one (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=53A0205C20DBC).
Rumors are easy to spread and hard to counter, he points out. “People, ‘by accident,’ having heard them” not only accept them but spread them on their own to others. After what is often an amazingly short time, “everyone believes” something that has been invented and injected by outsiders because they have heard it from their neighbors and friends.
In the Donbas now, Eidman says, there are a large number of rumors circulating. And some of them are being believed. According to one blog post, “the more outrageous and absurd” the rumors are, “the more likely they are to be believed,” as in the case of rumors that the Ukrainians were setting up “filtration camps” to oppress Russians.
According to some of the rumors, the Ukrainians would send the men to fight, “mine” the children for organs to be sent to the United States, and women would be simply “burned.” Many believed this, the blogger said, as difficult as it is to imagine that anyone might.
But still more improbable and difficult to believe, Eidman says, is that such rumors were spread “spontaneously.” In fact, it is almost certain that they were launched by Russian political operatives.
“Immediately after the Ukrainian revolution,” he says, “certain political technologists with ties to the Kremlin put articles on the webs saying that specialists were being recruited for a campaign in Ukraine.” Such people, he suggests, are the force behind these rumors, yet another way in which Moscow engaged in aggression in a plausibly deniable way.