The old nemesis never gets tired: this week, according to Russian-language pro-Kremlin media, the US is planning to take over the Kaliningrad region, organising an information attack against South Ossetia, and creating a belt of instability around Russia.

As if there weren’t enough problems in the world, the Americans are also taking a quick stroll in Latin America to organise a coup in Bolivia that can be replicated in Russia and then used to dictate their will to the French.

In addition to constituting disinformation, these narratives about Western aggression aim to portray entire nations as pathologically Russophobic, deny the very possibility of genuine grassroots protests that emerge organically in society, and pretend that EU member states cannot make sovereign decisions.

While hardcore disinfo junkies know these narratives by heart, we still lack definitive data about the audiences these narratives reach. Conveniently, however, we do have numbers about YouTube views…

 

 

Disinformation on YouTube

Of all the cases collected over the month of November, only 25 derived from YouTube videos of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets. In sum, however, these 25 videos were viewed 2,553,395 times. The most popular video was an episode of Sunday evening with Vladimir Solovyov, which reached 580,649 views and claimed that Ukraine launched a war against the inhabitants of Donbas who had not accepted the coup d’état in Kyiv. It also falsely claimed that Holodomor was a large-scale sabotage against Ukrainians invented in Canada, USA, and in Western Ukraine.

An episode of The News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselyov got 554,144 views and claimed that JIT investigators tried to bribe Volodymyr Tsemakh, a key witness in the downing of flight MH17, by offering him witness protection, citizenship and a house in Holland.

While the common denominator of these narratives might be laundering Russia’s image and attempting to pin blame on someone else, the underlying theme also involves stoking fear by affirming that Russia is surrounded by the evil, ever-threatening West that is not shy of historical revisionism.

And this is one of the most consistent tendencies of pro-Kremlin disinformation: in October, for example, the two most common narratives out of 226 cases were that NATO is threatening and that an anti-Russian campaign is at play. With the alliance’s 70th anniversary approaching, accusing NATO makes sense.

 

 

Fear of a World War

While it is impossible to draw any direct conclusions about the impact of this fearmongering on public opinion, it is nevertheless interesting that out of 1600 people surveyed in Russia in September and October 2019, 42% said they are constantly afraid of a world war. And while the threat is usually, but not always, vague, the role of the heroic defender is always crystal clear (hint: he is often shirtless, riding a horse).

One of the most effective ways to control the masses is through fear, as noted by Bertrand Russell in his writings on religion: “It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing – fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty.”

 


related disinfo cases

25.11.2019
SouthFront - English
Belarus, Sweden
25.11.2019
Sputnik Belarus - Russian
Hong Kong, Russia, US, Syria
22.11.2019
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Armenia, Turkey, Russia
20.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic
Russia, Ukraine
22.11.2019
RT Russia
Russia, Ukraine, Baltic states
19.11.2019
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Russia, US, Georgia
22.11.2019
60 minut @ Rossiya 1 (48:09 - 48:48)
Ukraine
18.11.2019
RT English
Russia, Ukraine
23.11.2019
5-tv.ru
Russia, Ukraine
22.11.2019
Geopolitica.ru - Italian
Montenegro, Russia, Ukraine
23.11.2019
Sputnik Azerbaijan - Russian
Azerbaijan, Latvia, Russia, Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania
22.11.2019
RIAFAN - Russian
Greece, Ukraine, US
22.11.2019
Sputnik Spain
US
19.11.2019
Sputnik Polska
Ukraine, Baltic states, Poland
12.11.2019
Sputnik Georgia
Ukraine, US
21.11.2019
Stoletie
Bolivia, US
14.11.2019
Sputnik South-Ossetia
Georgia
15.11.2019
Sputnik South-Ossetia
US, Georgia
22.11.2019
Sputnik Poland
US
20.11.2019
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
US
21.11.2019
Sputnik Poland
US, Poland
19.11.2019
Sputnik Poland
US
20.11.2019
Sputnik Poland
Russia, US, Poland
17.11.2019
vesti7.ru
USSR, US
18.11.2019
RT Arabic
Russia, Ukraine
22.11.2019
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
US, France
22.11.2019
Sputnik Italia
USSR, Russia, US
20.11.2019
flux.md
Ukraine, Georgia
21.11.2019
Sputnik Serbia - Cyrillic
Russia, Ukraine
31.10.2019
News agency REX
USSR, Russia, Ukraine
20.11.2019
Grodnodaily
Russia, Belarus
18.11.2019
Sputnik Italia
Russia, Ukraine
17.11.2019
Geopolitica.ru
19.11.2019
60 minut @Rossiya 1 - YouTube
Ukraine
21.11.2019
60 minut @Rossiya 1 - YouTube
Bolivia, US
07.11.2019
Golos Armenii
Armenia
08.11.2019
Iravunk.com
Armenia
20.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic
Russia, Ukraine
15.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic
Libya, Russia
14.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic
Russia, US, Syria
12.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws)
Russia, Ukraine, US
19.11.2019
Voenno Promyshlenyi Kurier
Bolivia, US
09.11.2019
PIA
Georgia
18.11.2019
Sputnik France
France
12.11.2019
60 minut @Rossiya 1 - YouTube
Ukraine
08.11.2019
Sputnik Serbia - Cyrillic, pravda.rs, Večernje novosti, IN4S, alo.rs, Blic, informer.rs, srbijadanas.com, Nezavisne novine, Vostok, News Front - Serbian, Big portal
Kosovo, UK, Russia, Syria
07.11.2019
Sputnik France
Russia, Ukraine
12.11.2019
Sputnik Poland
Russia, US, Poland
01.11.2019
Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws)
Iraq, US, Syria
31.10.2019
Sputnik Germany
Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia