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Disinformation is a fancy word for lying. Lying has an emotional element to it; disinformation lacks moral connotations; the concept is dry and matter-of-fact. Still – disinformation is actually just lying, deception, manipulation. EUvsDisinfo uses a definition on disinformation as statements, verifiably false and intended to harm. This week, we can demonstrate in detail the dynamics of disinformation. How a blatant lie eats its way into newsrooms and decision-making bodies.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The fairy tale about Yulia Navalnaya’s German Citizenship!
Russian authorities have failed to to explain and provide account for an attempt on the life of dissident opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Instead, he is imprisoned on false pretenses right after landing in Moscow after recovery from poisoning in a Berlin hospital. The attempts to curb the protests in his support continue. The task is to defame Navalny’s wife Yulia.
An Anonymous Letter
Several Russian outlets and public figures receive an anonymous letter. The letter contains a photograph of a German ID-card, issued to Yulia Navalnya. The document is portrayed as proof that Navalnaya is a German citizen. The anonymous author of the letter signs off:
Unfortunately, I cannot reveal my identity and go public on this news. I hope that your contribution can help putting an end to this circus performance.
PS. This is not the last piece of inside information
Artemiy Lebedev, a graphic designer and influencer with over a hundred thousand followers, is one of the receivers of the anonymous letter. He decides, not without Schadenfreude, to publish the image:
What does this say to me? It says that the nation’s head blogger, just as any politician or preacher, or any other two-faced hypocrite, is no stranger to earthly pleasures – glory, money, secured retirement in a safe haven.
As Lebedev publishes the story, it becomes news. It is no longer a weird claim from an anonymous source, likely even ending up in the junk-file of the mailbox. Lebedev is a pioneer in computer design: he is an authority in digital stuff and a famous person. This is news now; most large outlets publish the story.
While the editors are running around, shouting at reporters and demanding them to find a photo of Spiderman, readers have started to suspect something fishy with the document shared by Lebedev. A simple Google Image Reverse Search shows that the picture on the document is copy/pasted from a Russian magazine: a coarse forgery. Lebedev updates:
UPD: This is Fake. It is confirmed.
UPD2: Well, I put my foot in my mouth. What more?
A large number of coarse photo-shop jobs with Artemiy Lebedev in various situations appear on social media.
Most reputable media retract the news, update with Lebedev admitting his mistake and offering an excuse to Yulia Navalnaya (she refuses to accept Lebedev’s apology).
Smoke without Fire
Some outlets have invested heavily in the story and cannot retract from it. Instead, they choose to launch an attack: “Yes, yes, the document might be forged, but have we seen any proof for Yulia Navalnaya NOT being a German citizen??? No!” Media outlets owned by the oligarchs Konstantin Malofeev and Yevgeniy Prigozhin continue to insist that while the documents are forged, we still cannot be sure that Ms Navalnaya is not actually a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany. Prigozhin’s RIAFAN news agency claims that a high-level Stasi Officer (anonymously, and we must imagine, with a ridiculous Hollywood-German accent) confirms that Ja, ja, Frau Navalnya ist eine deutsche Staatsbürgerin,ja, ja, das ist fantastisch! Malofeev’s Tsargrad is a little more careful: The German Embassy does not deny… The two media holdings ping-pong the story between them, pretending to update the lie with new, irrelevant and unfounded claims.
We are now far into the murky forest of deception. The realm of trolls and demons. The Upside-Down. A world where forgeries prove authenticity and fakes are truer than facts, because they support the Cause. Who cares if the document proving Yulia Navalnaya to be something she is not, is false? The forged document might be a clever move from the Judeo-Masonic shadow rulers to confuse honest Russians! Can you prove it is not?
On 2 March, 2021 Russian parliamentarian Vitaliy Milonov – usually busy crusading against bearded emojis – issued a formal letter to the Russian migration authorities:
Frequent visits to the Federal Republic of Germany during the last few months, together with information on a dual citizenship gives room to suspicions on foul play. In this context, I ask you to perform a control and report on the existence (or absence) of Yulia Navalnaya’s dual citizenship or a residence permit (long-term visa) in a foreign state.
Mission Accomplished: A Lie has Become a “Fact”
In less than a week, an anonymous letter with a coarse forgery of a document has become a formal affair for Russian authorities; an affair for discussions between German and Russian diplomats. Proving the original claim false has not been enough; the lie has become a truth of its own. The factual substance of the claim is irrelevant if the lie is useful. A Mountain has been made without even a molehill. It can be noted that the Russian authorities have not initiated an investigation into the Navalny poisoning.