As America and many of her allies around the world are anticipating the results of Presidential election 2020, Russian state-controlled media is anticipating the violence in their aftermath. “Radically divided American society awaits civil war”, a host of a political talk show on state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel claimed a few days prior to the election, warning that the new civil war was going to be “total”.
While several international media outlets have also reported concerns about potential civil unrest following the elections in the US, the pro-Kremlin media took this to whole new level. For example, the above-mentioned talk show also alleged that the Americans were now wishing death upon their own country. Such apocalyptic messages are not new. Independent researchers warn that disinformation actors try to spread anger or fear any way they can. We saw similar narratives following the racial justice protests in the US earlier this year. For Russian state-controlled TV, this was another opportunity to convince its domestic audiences that democracy leads to chaos, and therefore should not be attempted at home.
America is not the only one going through the election season. A local election recently took place in Ukraine, and the pro-Kremlin media found an opportunity to claim that it could lead to the disintegration of the state (it will split into three parts!). The only question is why this should matter, as according to pro-Kremlin disinformation, Ukraine is a colony of the United States. Except that US no longer controls it – the UK does and orders its intelligence to brainwash Ukrainian children… Consistency has never been a strong suit of pro-Kremlin outlets.
Moldova is in the middle of a presidential election as well, but for the pro-Kremlin media these elections are not about the choice of the Moldovan people. Predictably, it is about Russia and the impeding Maidan in Moldova. According to pro-Kremlin media, Washington (itself on the verge of civil war, remember?) has already given out instructions to Moldovan opposition for a “colour revolution” in order to put pressure on Russia.
Depicting popular protests in Eastern Europe as “anti-Russian” colour revolutions has become a cliché of pro-Kremlin disinformation. We saw it this week as well, in Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan. But in the case of Moldova, where there are no protests to speak about as of now, the pro-Kremlin media aim to occupy the information space, by a priori defining any possible future public discontent as a destabilisation attempt orchestrated from abroad. After all, preparing the ground for a disinformation campaign in advance is more effective than hammering the same falsehoods year after year.
Protests are not what they seem
This week, the pro-Kremlin media also stayed true to another of its prominent disinformation narratives alleging that popular protests are never genuine, always orchestrated.
In Poland, thousands have been protesting a controversial court ruling on abortions. However, according to Sputnik, it was the European elites who have led people to the streets, as Brussels was dissatisfied with Polish authorities. In Belarus, where democratic protests continue into third month, pro-Kremlin disinformation implicated not only the usual targets – Poland and Lithuania, but also a French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who allegedly supervises Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya’s team.
The tropes of orchestrated protests, violence and chaos define how pro-Kremlin media portray democratic processes around the world. Elections bring destruction, democratic leaders are puppets (or so the pro-Kremlin disinformation tries to convey), except, of course, for the only place in the world where “voting” is always fair.