How Russia and right-wing Americans engaged in war in Ukraine


“People are asking whether the far right in America is influencing Russia or Russia is influencing the far right, but the truth is they are influencing each other.”

Firefighters at the site of a rocket attack in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 23. Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

After Russian President Vladimir Putin Claimed That the action against Ukraine was done in self-defense, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and conservative commentators Candace Owens Statement repeated. When Putin insisted that he “denazify“Ukraine, Joe AltmanA far-right podcaster, and Lara Logan, another right-wing commentator, echoed the idea.

The echo went to the other side as well. Some far-flung US news sites, such as Infowars, have long stocked, baseless russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. Russian officials capture chatter with the Kremlin Conflict It had documents on bio-weapon programs that justified its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

As the war broke out, the talking points of the Kremlin and some of the right-wing discourse in the United States – fueled by those on the right – have come together. On social media, podcasts and television, lies about the invasion of Ukraine have flown both ways, with Americans amplifying the lies from the Russians and Kremlin Fabrication is Spreading Which was celebrated in online US forums.

Some right-wing Americans give credence to Russia’s claims by reinforcing and feeding each other’s messages and vice versa. Together, they have created an alternate reality, recasting the Western bloc of allies as provocateurs, blunders and liars, who have strengthened Putin.

The war initially threw some conservatives – who had insisted there would be no invasion – for a loop. Many criticized Putin and Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Some have since urged more support for Ukraine.

But in recent days, many far-right commentators have again turned to favorable narratives of Putin’s cause. the main one has been bio weapon conspiracy theoryWhich has provided a way to talk about the war, criticizing President Joe Biden and the US government instead of Putin and the Kremlin.

“People are asking whether the far right in America is affecting Russia or the Russian far right, but the truth is they are influencing each other,” said Johns Hopkins University professor Thomas Ried. Said, who studies Russian information warfare. “They are pushing the same narrative.”

Their mutual comments could have far-reaching implications, potentially polarizing the United States and influencing midterm elections in November. They can also create a wedge between right-wingers, who are pro-Russian, and those who have become Republicans. vocal champion For the United States to intensify its military response in Ukraine.

“The question is how much the far-right figures are going to influence the wider media discussion, or push their party,” said Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow. Coalition for the Security of Democracy, a Washington nonprofit. “It serves them, and Russia, to muddy the waters and confuse Americans.”

His many deceptive war narratives, which are sometimes indirect and contradictory, have reached millions. While Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms Limited access to Russian state media Online after the war broke out, several far-right Telegram channels, blogs and podcasts served to spread the Kremlin’s claims. Inside Russia, state media have in turn reflected what some far-right Americans have said.

For example, mentions of war-related bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine have more than doubled – more than 1,000 a day – since early March on both Russian and English-language social media, cable TV, and print and online outlets. . Media tracking company Jignal Labs.

According to Jignal’s analysis, baseless ideas started trending in the English language media towards the end of last month. Interest faded in early March as images of wounded Ukrainians and bombed cities spread across the Internet.

But Russia breathed new life into the conspiracy theory on March 6, when its Defense Ministry claimed in a televised address that it had “traces of a military biological program being implemented in Ukraine, funded by the US Department of Defense”. was disclosed.

Carlson broadcast later Russian narrator on his show. Fox News declined to comment and pointed to sections where Carlson has criticized Putin.

Russia had laid a lot of the foundation for its convergence with many Americans right years ago. Before the 2016 US presidential election, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, an organization that professionalized online propaganda, spread inflammatory material Via Facebook and other social platforms to sow division among Americans and promote Republican nominee Donald Trump.

After Trump was elected, he publicly praised Putin, once calling him “a genius”. The comments helped seed a favorable view among some Americans of Putin’s strong style of governance.

The coronavirus pandemic aligns with Russia’s propaganda machine to the far right. Both sought to undermine trust in vaccines and mask mandates to create mistrust in the federal government and health agencies. Anti-Vaccination Facebook Groups and Telegram Channels became fertile land Schaefer said hunting for members of the far right and Russian trolls to promote conspiracy theories.

Last month, the coalescing crystallized. As Western intelligence showed that Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, Putin declared Ukraine a US colony with a “puppet regime” and denied that he had planned the invasion.

In the United States, Carlson also Called Ukraine “Biden an obedient puppet of the State Department.”

On 16 February, Russian state-owned media claimed that Ukraine had “fired mortar shells” at a separatist enclave within Ukraine backed by Russia. Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, Cited False claim by Russian media to 256,000 subscribers on his Telegram channel. A few days later, Kirk also described the escalating situation as a “border dispute”.

A spokesman for Kirk said it was “absolutely wrong” that the podcaster was sympathetic to Russia’s invasion and that he was “rightly questioning” US foreign policy.

on February 24, Putin’s speech Justifying the invasion of Ukraine. It was completely written on Infowars. Conservative commentator Owens reiterated Putin’s claim on Twitter that NATO is moving east towards Russia, blaming the united states for war. He urged his three million followers to directly read Putin’s speech to find out what was “really” going on.

In an email, Owens said he “encouraged all citizens to read speeches given by leaders around the world to better understand their motivations behind the actions.” Infowars did not respond to requests for comment.

But the invasion proved highly unpopular among many Americans, prompting a backlash against those who seemed in favor of Putin, Far-right podcaster Altman said on his February 24 show that he would “stand by Russia’s side,” pushed back by his co-host Max McGuire.

“Russia is the bad guy in this situation,” McGuire said. Altman and McGuire did not respond to requests for comment.

Others on the right denied certain points of the Kremlin, including that Ukraine was dominated by neo-Nazis and that President Volodymyr Zelensky was a “drug addict naziFox News hosted Neil Cavuto on February 26 said Those allegations were “incredibly over-the-top insane criticisms”. (Zelensky, who is Jewish, signed Anti-Semitism Combat Law Last Fall,

The silence did not last. US anti-vaccine channels on Telegram soon caught on to the bioweapons conspiracy theory, which jumped from private chat groups to far-right Podcasts and Infowars.

When Victoria Nuland, an Under Secretary of State, was questioned In the Senate this month on whether Ukraine has biological weapons, he said laboratories in the country have materials that could be dangerous if they fall into Russian hands. Jack Posobiec, a far-right commentator, asserted his 9th March Podcast That Nuland’s answer bolstered the conspiracy theory.

“Everyone needs to be clear about what was going on in those labs, because I guarantee you the Russians are going to put it on the world stage,” Posobiec said, not responding to a call seeking comment.

Russian officials also stuck to Nuland’s comments. “Panic response confirms that Russia’s allegations are grounded,” the country’s official account for the foreign ministry Posted on Twitter.

Beyond the Bioweapons Conspiracy Theory, Joseph Jordan, a white nationalist podcaster who goes by the pseudonym Eric Stryker, reiterated Russia’s claim that a pregnant woman who was injured Bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine His injuries were faked. In his Telegram channel, Jordan told his 15,000 followers that the photos of the hospital were “staged”. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Some Russians have publicly commented on what appears to be common ground with far-right Americans. Last week on the Russian state-backed news program “60 Minutes,” which is unrelated to the CBS show of the same name, host Olga Skabeeva addressed the country’s strong ties with Carlson.

“Our acquaintance, the host of Fox News Tucker Carlson, clearly has interests of his own,” he said. said, airing several clips from Carlson’s show, he suggested that the United States had pressed for a conflict in Ukraine. “But lately, more and more often, they suit our own.”

This article is originally from . appeared in the new York Times,

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