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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Russian propaganda is fighting against itself

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, orchestrated a mutiny in Russia, resulting in a state of confusion. On social media platforms, Russian bots and trolls are disseminating contradictory narratives, making it challenging to understand the true account of events.

Even Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan is struggling to sort through all the misinformation coming out of Russia. Zeihan sheds light on how Russian propaganda and the lack of a free press make confirmation of facts virtually impossible.

Excerpted from Peter’s June 24 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Whether at home or abroad, Russia is the world’s primary provider of lies, misinformation and propaganda. With the future of the Russian government now being challenged, expect wild, competing noise on any and all topics. The issue at hand is not all the Russian propagandists are on the same side.

Still, Peter, still here, same day.

You’re gonna hear a lot of crazy stuff out of Russia over the next several hours and several days, you’re gonna hear that Prigozhin is having conversations, military commanders, you’re gonna be hearing stories about military, Randy’s flipping sides, you’re gonna be hearing about defections within Wagner itself of people going the other direction, you’re gonna hear about assassination attempts on all sides, you’re gonna hear about the Chechen siding with protozoan and Wagner or against or you’re gonna hear about them going home, you’re gonna hear about the Russians blowing up bridges on the way to Moscow so Wagner can’t make it. You’re going to hear about forces gathering along the way, you’re going to be hearing about airstrikes on Prigozhin. Because Wagner is so terrifying that the Russian military does one engage here to hear about, you’re gonna hear lots of stuff. Some of it will even be true. Most of it won’t. The problem here is that we are in an information vacuum, or something worse, that it’s been filled with misinformation. So a couple things to keep in mind.

First of all, there is no free press in Russia, there hasn’t been for 20 years. So that was one of the first things that Putin did when he took over — he removed all the material shows he removed, all the news shows, he removed all the investigative shows. And it became basically a one man, government and a one state propaganda system that has become more and more and more intense, especially since the onset of the Donbas war back in 2014. So official news channels are limited. And any time a Westerner tries to get in there to do some reporting, the Russians tend to arrest them on drug or sedition charges. And in fact, you’ve got a number of high level journalists that are in jail right now, awaiting trial and or execution. So the normal methods of getting information are thin. Folks like me, especially since 2014, have really relied on Twitter, because it’s basically crowd sourced information.

And there was always a battle between the Russian bots and the Russian trolls on one side, and the people who are trying to get information out of the other. And when we got to the start of the war, in February of last year, the bots and the trolls just went away, because a lot of governments and a lot of institutions, including Twitter, did a big crackdown on Russian misinformation. But then Elon Musk took over the operation, and in the time since he has pushed down they had the algorithm push down the relevance of anything involving Russia and Ukraine. So it’s actually below things like vaccine, misinformation and election misinformation. In terms of what gets brought up to the top. He’s banned, or shadow banned a huge number of accounts that I used to depend upon for knowing on what’s going on in Kyiv and Moscow. And most importantly, he’s allowed the bots and the trolls to come back in for so there’s easily two, maybe even three times as many bots and trolls from Russia on Twitter today. Now, just these are sources of misinformation, they’re not all on the same side in this coup. Some of them are vitally Ultra nationalist, and they tend to side with Prigozhin and Wagner; others are clearly employees of the states.

And so now, Twitter has become an utter shitshow of these various factions, misinformation, factions tried to shut each other down, about what’s going on in Russia, I don’t really believe any of them. And so confirmation in this sort of environment just takes forever because you know, if you don’t get live video, it’s really hard to confirm if something’s actually happening. And now we’ve got Elon and Putin and for Kosan, all with their own narratives of what’s going on, and keeping track of it is just going to be a nightmare. Now, this will sort out over the next several days as the reality of events on the ground overtakes the propaganda machine, and things are moving very quickly. And all of those things that I outlined at the beginning of the those are all feasible outcomes. But obviously, they can’t all happen at the same time. So I will do my best to parse through them. I will try to lead with the things that I have confirmed just like I did in the first video of this series, but it’s going to be really, really messy, and there’s no way around that. One more thing about the propaganda side of this: while we have a good idea which side the trolls are on which side the bots are on, there’s all of Russia’s disinformation channels internationally, that are all of a sudden are up in the air. So like what’s going to happen to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who has basically become a pro Russian shill within the European Union. Is in favor of Putin holding on to control or does he like a more militaristic Russia because it’d be more of a foil to be used in the European Union? What about people like Tucker Carlson who have gone in hook line and sinker, with the Putin side of things? Now that you have a more of a nationalist firebrand, who we might find more ideological, attractive than Prigozhin? What about people like RFK Jr, who have recently become on the Russian dole or old timer folks like Jill Stein of the Green Party you know all of these commitments that the Russians have cultivated very carefully over the last decade are all of a sudden completely up in the air and we just don’t know how it is all going to fall

 

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