Disinfo: COVID-19 restrictions are result of a bizarre psychosis and collective paranoia

Summary

COVID-19 restrictions are absurd, they are the result of a bizarre psychosis. Why have protests against this psychosis been so weak in the West? Why has there been such a high degree of acceptance of these restrictions, which can only be described as collective paranoia?

Disproof

This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative which, presented in this case in the end of a long article, seeks to downplay the severity and urgency of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to this narrative, COVID-19 restrictions introduced by governments – such as lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing are irrational and absurd, and/or pursue hidden goals of élites and powerful lobbies. Pro-Kremlin media have spread a variety of false claims to push this message, for example that COVID-19 is a fake epidemic manufactured by the media, that COVID-19 is fake and a political move to install hegemony, that the virus is safe, and that the coronavirus pandemic is exaggerated in order to establish fascist hygiene dictatorships. This narrative aims to discredit actions taken by the World Health Organisation and by individual countries to stop the spread of the new disease. It is not true that COVID-19 is a “fake pandemic” or is exaggerated. The novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, belongs to a family of viruses originating in animals that include others such as SARS and MERS. It was first reported in the city of Wuhan in central China in late 2019 and has been rapidly spreading across the world ever since. The number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 32,730,947 globally with over 991,224 deaths as of September 27, 2020. However, the death rate aside, the major concern with the COVID-19 pandemic is its potential to overwhelm national healthcare systems, resulting in even more deaths because patients cannot receive treatment as hospitals exceed capacity. Thus, flattening the curve and limiting the spread of the virus - which is highly transmittable - is recommended as an essential precautionary measure by international health authorities, including the WHO. Read similar cases claiming that COVID-19 is an ordinary flu epidemic and that media and politicians are fuelling hysteria, that governments are exaggerating the death toll of the coronavirus, and that ruling élites are spreading coronavirus panic in order to gain unlimited powers and to actively interfere in the economy.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 213
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 24/09/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Italian
  • Country: Italy
  • Keywords: coronavirus, fake news, West, WHO
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Belarusians will become beggars if Lukashenko is overthrown

It is a bit incorrect to compare events in Belarus with the events in Ukraine in 2014, but it is worth noting that Western countries do not lose hope of turning Minsk into Kyiv six years ago. For example, Lithuania and Poland (by the way, it is known that it is the Polish special services that oversee the Belarusian opposition) offered Belarus a visa-free regime. But the prospect of becoming another Slavic migrant workers does not tempt Belarusians at all. The Ukrainian government, of course, supports the Belarusian opposition. And this is not surprising. The current government is taking its seats solely thanks to the overthrow of Yanukovych. But ordinary Ukrainians dissuade Belarusians from trying to overthrow the president and tell what will happen to their country if they make a fatal mistake: “Shove Lukashenko off, and that’s it, you will become beggars.”

Disproof

This is part of an ongoing Russian disinformation campaign on Belarus based on recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives, such as accusing other countries of interference and portraying popular protests against electoral fraud in the country as a Western-led colour revolution. There is no evidence that European countries interfere in any way in the internal affairs of Belarus, or that without Alexander Lukashenko Belarus will become poor. The protests in Belarus erupted to contest the results of the presidential election in Belarus on the 9th of August, which are considered fraudulent by a large part of Belarusian society. The European Union has also stated that the elections were neither free nor fair. The reference to Ukraine is also manipulative. The onset of the Euromaidan protests was a spontaneous and endogenous reaction by numerous segments of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden withdrawal from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. See the full debunk of this disinformation claim here. According to the World Bank, from 2014 until 2019, the Ukrainian government undertook key reforms, including carrying out significant fiscal consolidation, moving to a flexible exchange rate, reforming energy tariffs and social assistance, enhancing the transparency of public procurement, simplifying business regulations, stabilising and restructuring the banking sector, moving forward on health and pension reforms, and establishing anti-corruption agencies. The resulting Government, which took office in August 2019, and a succeeding government, appointed in March 2020, have both committed to an ambitious and wide-ranging reform agenda. See similar cases claiming that the protests in Belarus are a colour revolution conducted according to a Maidan scenario and that the West wants to prepare Maidan in Belarus. Several issues of the Disinformation Review has been devoted to the situation in Belarus: examples here.

Russia has legally destroyed all of Novichok

Russia destroyed the stockpile of “Novichok” according to the rules of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is registered and proven according to the applicable system, and all statements indicating the opposite are misleading information.

Disproof

In September 2017, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed the full destruction of the 39,967 metric tons of chemical weapons possessed by Russia, but Novichoks were never declared to the OPCW and weren’t included in the Chemical Weapons Convention until 2019. This is part of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny after the use of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group was established beyond any doubt by a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory. The use of multiple and simultaneous versions about an event involving questionable actions by the Russian government or its allies, in order to confound citizens about the actual truth, is a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation strategy, already seen in the cases of the MH17 downing, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the murder attempt against Sergei and Yulia Skripal or chemical attacks in Syria. See other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives on Alexei Navalny’s poisoning in our database, such as claims that only caffeine and alcohol were found in his blood, that the US wanted to use it to block Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s vaccine against coronavirus, that the West hopes that he dies to have an excuse for new sanctions, or that Western accusations about Navalny’s case are as false as they were about Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko.

Hostile actions of Poland towards Belarus a smokescreen for Poland's real goals

[By his actions], Prime Minister Morawiecki will not liberate Belarus, but he will turn the Belarusian authorities away from his country. President Lukashenka has already announced that there will be no re-export of “sanctioned” Polish goods to Russia. The hostile actions of Poland towards Belarus is nothing more than a smokescreen for the real goals of Poland, which are still not defined in Warsaw.

Disproof

This is a pro-Kremlin narrative about Western attempts to organise a colour revolution in Belarus. The claim that Poland “realises hostile actions against Belarus” is not confirmed by any evidence. On August 14, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki presented the so-called “Solidarity Plan”, which is aimed at supporting Belarusian society, which faces harsh repressions from the side of the Belarusian authorities. This Plan has five components – support for people facing political repressions; a scholarship programme; better access to the Polish labour market; support to independent media; support to Belarusian NGOs. These steps have no connection to the alleged “active interference in the domestic affairs of Belarus”. Poland respects the principles of international law and does not intervene in the domestic affairs of Belarus – the Polish authorities have repeatedly underlined their support to independence and sovereignty of Belarus. See similar disinformation messages about the alleged participation of Poland in the destabilisation of Belarus - Poland openly interferes in domestic affairs of Belarus, dictating to Minsk how it should behave; Poland presented a plan of active interference in the domestic affairs of Belarus and Washington authorises vassals Poland and Lithuania to organise a colour revolution in Belarus.