Russian propaganda is so bad that it's funny—until you remember how damaging it still is

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Russian propaganda is no laughing matter. It’s keeping almost an entire nation under its spell, inoculated from the truth with a constant provision of carefully curated narrative disinformation. The vast majority of Russian citizens appear to be unwittingly sucked in.

Whether there are those who have seeds of doubt but who suppress those skeptical desires because life is easier that way is hard to tell. But if anything is going to sow those seeds, it is when the propaganda is so obviously…propaganda as to leave you shaking your head in disbelief and even laughing, then it is overt and ridiculously bad efforts at doing propaganda.

Here’s an example:

Late on Monday night, the Russian secret services (FSB) claimed to have foiled an attempt to kill Russian TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov. They supposedly arrested 6 people in connection with this attempt and released video footage of their finds.

Because, of course, all Ukrainians and pro-Ukrainians are Nazis, and all such people carry around pro-Nazi paraphernalia in ways that would never really happen, the video just had to be chock full of Nazi signposts.

Look at how ridiculously staged this was:

Nothing says undercover agitator on a top-secret mission more than sticking a picture of Hitler to your speaker and carefully propping an un-sewn SS-style badge carefully against it.

But it gets worse. Far(-right) worse.

Someone had to gather all of this paraphernalia, some FSB admin assistant, one might think. What did they do? Ordered a bunch of Nazi paraphernalia off the internet and went with it. Look at these T-shirts: they have never been worn and never been washed and look straight out of the eBay packet (after being thrown in a bag for the journey—but look at the nice crease).

Okay, so far so meh. But this is the fun part. Let’s look at the fact that there are three items on the bed that should result in said admin assistant getting the sack. Or sadly worse.

But, for so many in Russia, the damage will have been done. Even this level of Keystone Cops idiocy will leave its desired mark.

When I see a list that says “Buy 3x sims” and I am buying the dressings for an undercover, covert operation, I would assume I am buying 3 sim cards so that it appears the group is using burner phones or similar. It’s all quite soldier, sailor, tinker, spy activity here.

But no, they get onto the internet and order 3 games of The Sims.

That’s the wrong sims right there, my friends.

This was so laughable—the Russians received so much online backlash and mockery—that state media channels started blurring out the articles shown.

I’m not finished yet.

Because that book is worth looking at. It is by a well-known Russian neo-Nazi, and the inscription inside followed the same literalist approach to the purchasing of 3 games of The Sims. Here, there was an inscription signed inside the front cover. “What was signed?” I hear you ask… The answer?

“Signature unclear.”

Where the instruction had been to write an unclear signature inside the front cover, the bungling FSB team included the words literally. They wrote, “Signature unclear(/illegible).”

It’s pretty embarrassing.

Now, I did some digging about the signature claim and found this counter-argument:

The interesting part is that, as others have claimed in reply to this tweet, the supposed signing off of this group may only be a recent thing (as in, created by the FSB after this find in order to justify their bungle in light of the mockery). The internet caches, however, might not support the claim. And what is definitely clear is that this would be an online forum thing only and very unlikely to be written by hand as a sign-off in a pristine book that looks like it has never been read (see the video below).

But, sadly, we also know, from the obvious lies of the previous US government, that if people want to believe something, no matter how false and ridiculous, they will (QAnon, anybody?).

Illia Ponomarkenko, The Kyiv Independent’s defense reporter and someone I suggest you follow on Twitter, wrote the following:

A Hitler portrait, a swastika flag, a Neo-Nazi publication, some meth, and Sims 3 discs are exactly what you would take with yourself for a high-profile mission to assassinate a top-ranking war propaganda pundit in Russia. Totally makes sense.

New T-shirts, new badge, new book, new computer games(!). The whole thing just screams ineptitude and an obviously bunch of plants. This is illegitimate stuff. Don’t be fooled.

But, for so many in Russia, the damage will have been done. Even this level of Keystone cops idiocy will leave its desired mark.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...