Zelensky, Matt Katz, Wnyc discussed on On The Media

On The Media


The Russian disinformation, they've been telling us for days as a lie in a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is in fact totally and completely true. Well, it's not. But how did one dark corner of the American Internet create a worldwide Kremlin conspiracy theory? From WNYC in New York, this is on the media. I'm Matt Katz. Also on this week's show, what it's like collecting digital evidence of war crimes. Local Russians were using TikTok to fill military convoys and a lot of those videos have been collected and that allows us to track the movements of Russian convoys. Plus a club of foreign correspondents in the 1920s and 30s witnessed the biggest story of their lives. The rise of autocracy. So if the world has centuries of experiences, with kings and emperors, who are these people who claim that their authority descends from the people, but they disdain hereditary rule. It's all coming up after this. It can make a singer go silent and keep a boy from growing tall. Stress. On radiolab. Listen wherever you get podcasts. Listener supported WNYC studios. From WNYC in New York, this is on the media. I'm Brooke gladstone. And just for this week, I'm handing the hosting duties over to my WNYC colleague Matt Katz. He covers public safety for our local newsroom and it's multiple awards to his name. For instance, he won a Peabody for his investigation of governor Chris Christie's involvement in the scandal known as bridgegate, say you know, he's no slouch. What I'm saying is you're in safe hands, listeners. I'll see you all next week. Take it away, Matt. Thank you, Brooke. This week, Netflix announced that it's bringing back servants of the people to its streaming service. Ukrainian president volodymyr zelensky plays a history teacher whose rant about corruption in the government goes viral and propels him to the presidency. Like in the real world, zelensky's character looks eagerly to his European neighbors to the west. When then German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls zelensky's character to tell him Ukraine has been admitted into the European Union, he soon learns the truth. She actually meant to call Montenegro. The foes in the show ring true two, a vulgar joke he makes about Putin got the series canceled in Russia. In the last few weeks, the fictional history teacher turned president has become a real president turned history teacher in a virtual visit to the British House of Commons, zelensky quoted Shakespeare and Churchill. In Germany, he reminded the parliament of the vow to never again let a dictator exterminate a people and about Germany's own invasion of Ukraine in World War II. And an army fatigues on a large screen before Congress, zelensky asked American lawmakers to remember. Remember September the 11th. A terrible day in 2001 when he will try to turn your cities independent territories. And battlefield. When innocent people were attacked. While zelensky used history in his campaign to recruit help from the west, the Russian disinformation machine was busy with its own campaign to spread conspiracy and division. The focus bio labs or more specifically the United States developing or helping develop biological weapons and laboratories across Ukraine. Ben Collins is a senior reporter for NBC News covering disinformation, extremism and the Internet, and he says, while this may sound like a far fetched plot, it's really a digital age revival. It's not that new in the grand scope of Russian propaganda history to accuse adversaries of having biological weapons, and then using them yourself. They did this in Syria, several years ago, in Aleppo, they tried to claim that the Syrians somehow gas themselves or faked a chemical weapons attack when they were the perpetrators themselves. And they also did this with a spy poisoning. British police now believe that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent. The government said it was novichok a poison developed in the Soviet area and that the Russian state must be behind the attack. They claimed that it's actually the U.S. making nova chuck. Maybe in Ukraine and that spy, that's how he got poisoned with American no track, but of course that makes no sense. It was later identified as FSB agents who pulled off that attack. So this is a Russian propaganda operation that has done this consistently. What are they alleging? What are biolabs? It sounds like something out of a marvel movie. They are research facilities that don't study things like bioweapons or the coronavirus or whatever. But that's what is being pushed by the Russian government now. You'll see talk by the Russian government that they are making specific coronaviruses in these labs to target ethnic Russians, but not Ukrainians. And it's being flown over the border by birds who are taking the coronavirus bypassing the Ukrainians bypassing Europeans and infecting your Russians. This is a Russian style conspiracy theory, I guess. But that's not exactly the origin of it at this moment, right? That's exactly right. I think a really important history here is to go back to just a few weeks ago before the war and see what Vladimir Putin was talking about too with the Russian government was talking about as their pretext for the war. They were not talking about Ukrainian biolabs that did not come up. What did come up was do not suffocation. The idea that the Ukrainian government was run by Nazis, actual Nazis. And that they needed to go in there and get rid of them, and then install a separate government that is more aligned with Vladimir Putin. And what you can see is this not landing with the global far right. This D notification idea. You saw for weeks traditional allies in the propaganda spaces. China or India, Pakistan, even weirdly enough. Uncommon allies, but allies against the west in propaganda. They did not buy in on this the notification thing. Didn't make any sense to them. And in fact, the American far right didn't buy it either. The American far right was like, what are you guys talking about? Like, do you what? The characters that you guys are bringing up now are new to us. And we need some comfort food. And the comfort food to them is Anthony Fauci, or Joe Biden or something like that. So on the day of the invasion, you can see this, we worked with this company called pira, the CEO of Welton Chang did this data. And you can see that there are like single digit posts about bio labs on the top 15 far right American social networks in the days before the invasion. And then on the day of the invasion, there's hundreds, and then after that thousandths, and you can see that they are trying to find a reason why Vladimir Putin is not the bad guy, because they've been told for years he's not the bad guy. He's sort of like Donald Trump. He's smart. He's savvy. He's tough. When they went into Ukraine and they found these labs, they believe that the deep state is possibly going to use a bio with and on Russian people. Because they've been just like they were collecting our DNA in China..

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