When Shakespeare wrote the famous words “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, he pointed to the fact that what matters is what something is, not what it is called.
This week in pro-Kremlin disinformation, we noticed ample usage of the term “war”. First off, the ban on Russian athletes in the upcoming Olympics was yet again described as a war on Russia. In fact, it was the systematic state sponsored doping program in Russia that made the IOC decide to suspend certain Russian athletes. Russian athletes not convicted of doping will be allowed to compete under the Olympic flag. Hardly a war, then.
Furthermore, in a Hungarian outlet, it was stated that immigrants are fighting a war against authorities in Sweden, and that the Swedish Prime Minister wants to use the military against immigrants in the country in order to restore order. The Swedish Prime Minister did indeed suggest the use of the military, but not in the context of immigrants, but to end violence between criminal gangs.
What about Ukraine? There is a war going on there, isn’t there? Most definitely, but what kind of war is it? Is it a civil war, i.e fought without foreign involvement? Is it a war that has no links to Russia? Is it Ukraine that started a war against Russia?
This video shows how disinformation about Ukraine looks like:
All were suggested by pro-Kremlin disinformation this week. Well, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has concluded that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This international armed conflict began at the latest on 26 February when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government. It is safe to say that this is a war being fought on the territory of Ukraine, not in Russia.
The holy matrimony between conspiracies and disinformation
Many people will have heard the conspiracy theory about chemtrails before. It is an old favourite in conspiracy outlets, re-appearing again and again. But the culprit is not always the same. Often the “chemtrails”, or as the scientific community calls them “condensation trails”, are blamed on some government-run secret program by conspiracy theorists.
This week, NATO was blamed for spraying Poland with poison via “chemtrails”. As thoroughly presented by the DFRLab, this particular conspiracy can be traced as far back as 2010. A common trait with disinformation and conspiracy theories is that there is no need to present any evidence to support the claims you make, which of course is the case also in this example.
As we have seen several times before, conspiracy theories and disinformation often go hand in hand. Conspiracy theories can generate a lot of clicks and attention, so they are used for setting the scene for targeted disinformation about something or someone. See for example the Rothschild conspiracy theory promoted on Russian state TV or the conspiracy theories surrounding the downing of flight MH17, or indeed the classic Russian disinformation campaign presenting AIDS as caused by US experiments.
As a disinformation technique, it is one out of many in the Kremlin disinformation toolbox . On our website, we have plenty of examples of the use of conspiracy theories in pro-Kremlin disinformation.
In the words of Shakespeare, a rose would smell as sweet by any other name. Disinformation is often designed to be confusing, and the use of conspiracy theories helps out in that aspect. But in the end, you just have to look at what it is – disinformation will be disinformation, no matter how you dress it up.