Sixty-Eight year old Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a fan of democracy. Nor is he a fan of America. Putin was born to be loyal to the Communist Party and held several important positions with the Soviet government prior to its collapse in 1991. Since then, he has held several important positions within the Russian Republic including prime minister and now president. But even though the Cold War has ended, Putin is still waging a cold war against America. Russia even has a department within its intelligence community aimed at spreading misinformation in America. As a 20th century socio-political historian, I have been watching Putin’s Russia with fascination. I am not surprised by the information they put out, but I am surprised by how many people fall for it.
For example in early March a social media account linked to the Kremlin released a medical report claiming Biden had early signs of dementia. Perhaps oddest, the Trump Campaign latched onto that report and continued to spread it, including pushing viewers to watch doctored videos of Biden supposedly forgetting he was running against Trump, the interviewer is George Lopez and he says George’s name, he’s not confused about who he is running against he is being polite and buying himself a few seconds to think about what he wants to say next by addressing his interviewer by name a public speaking technique taught around the world) as well as a doctored video showing Biden supposedly campaigning in Florida, but calling it Minnesota. Except the original video was shot in Minnesota not Florida. Another purports to show Biden sleeping during a live broadcast interview, except according to the reporter featured in the video the interview never took place (in this last video it is obvious it is a still image of Biden with a snore track added overtop of it and not a live video feed because despite the incredibly deep snoring Biden’s chest doesn’t rise and fall nor does any movement occur).
None of this is surprising, these are the exact same things the Soviet Union was doing in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. What is surprising is how fast Putin and his media machine latched onto social media to spread information. In 2017, Twitter accounts linked to the Russian government tweeted more than a hundred different conspiracy theories about US elections being rigged, the perpetration of mass voter fraud, and fake news reports about Democrats running a child sex ring out a pizza place in Washington DC. It is most interesting to me that they managed to Tweet about Pizzagate so often and get retweets, because in 2016 when it happened it was covered by every major news network on the planet.
Twitter has removed the majority of these accounts because of the sheer volume of misinformation being put out by them. But the damage is done. When it was announced in early 2020 that Putin had ordered bounties put on American soldiers in the Middle East (before the pandemic hit), those accounts tried to link the bounties to US allies not Russia and even attempted to tweet the bounties were put out by former president Barack Obama.
in August 2020, the day after Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, a Kremlin linked Twitter account Tweeted that Kamala Harris was not born in the US. Which is actually fine, as long as she’s been naturalized she can run for Vice President of the US. The same account Tweeted in May 2020 that US COVID cases were so high solely because US Doctors were profiting by claiming more people had COVID than really had it because doctors treating COVID were being given bonuses, even if a patient died from misdiagnosis.
This is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants; he needs a divided America who believes whatever lies the Kremlin churns out because it gives him some control over the country he hates and fears. This is why it is so important to research any news story before you share it. You as a sharer are responsible for knowing if it’s real or if you are acting like a puppet for Russian President Vladimir Putin.