New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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Syria: What about the Americans?

We know the scene from the movies. We have read about it in crime novels. Every policeman knows it: If a suspect changes his story, you’ve probably caught the right man.

Spreading disinformation serves two tactical purposes: You confuse your opponents and you buy time. Strategically, you cultivate an idea about “the truth” as something that should always be talked about in quotation marks, and you create an expectation that “we will never learn what really happened”. In addition, one can create an effective smokescreen and induce passivity and pessimism in  counterparts.

We see this method replicated in what pro-Kremlin media have been saying about the bombing of the humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo on 19 September. Below we have created a timeline of stories in pro-Kremlin media about the Aleppo attack, drawn exclusively from wire reports issued by the state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti. Click on the dates to access RIA’s missives in their original Russian version.
A humanitarian aid convoy has been attacked near Aleppo. 19/9
The US violated the ceasefire by attacking the Syrian army. 19/9
The US created this situation artificially to accuse Russia of disrupting the ceasefire. 20/9
There was indeed a fire, but no sign of air attack. It was a cover for the opposition army, which committed the attack. 20/9
There is no evidence for saying that Russia struck the aid convoy. 20/9
Russian soldiers find no traces of falling shells. The small traces of fire detected did not come from Russian sources. 20/9
It's not clear if there was an airstrike at all. 20/9
American special forces are active in Syria, what about that? 21/9
Russia will provide additional evidence. 21/9
There was a US drone in the area of the convoy. 21/9
There were no Russian planes in the area. 21/9
The US has distorted Russian statements on the issue. 21/9
Russia is accused in order to distract attention from what the US is doing in Syria. 22/9
Russia has conclusive evidence that the US struck the convoy. 22/9
The UN had been warned that the convoy would be fired at. 26/9
This is a case of leading Western channels like CNN and the BBC fabricating disinformation. 28/9
The Syrian opposition was involved in the attack. 28/9
Accusations against Russia are unfounded. 30/9
The US struck the convoy to distract attention from another incident. 30/9
All accusations against Russia are groundless. 03/10
The attack was staged. 05/10
"Russophobic hysteria" is behind the accusations against Russia. 12/10

European Parliament: Propaganda seeks to distort and divide

On Monday, the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution stating that propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and from Islamic terrorist organisations is growing. The resolution also asserted that the pressure should be countered, not with more propaganda, but with positive messaging, awareness raising and education to increase the information literacy among EU citizens.

In the resolution, Members of the European Parliament noted that propaganda originating from the Kremlin seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. The resolution expressed concern about the rapid expansion of pro-Kremlin disinformation. It notes that the Russian government uses a wide range of instruments to achieve their goals, such as think tanks, TV stations, social media and online trolls, among other things. This wording sparked a response from Margarita Simonyan, head of Kremlin mouthpiece RT, who said the resolution was an attack on free speech and that it was poorly researched.

Not based on a true story

This week, Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky found himself again in the center of the country’s ongoing discussion about its World War 2 narratives – the war which is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

As the BBC reports in a detailed online article, a new Russian film, Panfilov’s 28 Men, depicts how a group of Russian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet solders, finding themselves massively outnumbered by enemy forces, heroically fight back, with disproportionate losses on the enemy side, knowing too well that they will eventually all be killed.
28 Панфиловцев [HD 4K] | трейлер #1 | 2015
Click on the image above or here to see the official trailer for the film "Panfilov's 28 men".
The problem with this David and Goliath narrative is that it isn’t true. The story’s elements of myth were investigated and clarified already in 1948 in the Soviet Union. When critics last week reminded the Russian public of the problem with the authenticity of the events depicted in the new film, Minister Medinsky’s message was clear:
“[E]ven if this story was invented from start to finish, if there had been no Panfilov, if there had been nothing, this is a sacred legend that shouldn't be interfered with. People that do that are filthy scum."

We witness the re-emergence of Soviet new conservativism, combining an insistence on protecting and revitalising Soviet patriotism with the kind of post-factual ideology that not only allows for, but also encourages disinformation; not only about the present, but also about the past.
Friday fun: A unlikely candidate wins the US presidential election, informs Russia Today. Accordingly, Vladimir Putin will reign over the United States on the basis of a Twitter poll organised by "Kim Dotcom". Should we be worried to see commentators say that the number of retweets - 911 - constitutes "a sign"?
The Disinformation Review collects examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation all around Europe and beyond. Every week, it exposes the breadth of this campaign, showing the countries and languages targeted. We're always looking for new partners to cooperate with us for that.
The Disinformation Digest analyses how pro-Kremlin media see the world and what independent Russian voices say. It follows key trends on Russian social media, so you can put pro-Kremlin narratives into their wider context. And finally… some Friday fun before the weekend!
DISCLAIMER: The Disinformation Digest is based on the analysis of the EU East StratCom Task Force; opinions and judgements expressed do not represent official EU positions.
Copyright © 14/10/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

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