Inside the far-right's embrace of Russian disinformation

Inside the far-right's embrace of Russian disinformation
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As the Russian invasion continues in Ukraine, many far-right Republicans are still attempting to justify the actions of Russian President Vladamir Putin.

Even as conspiracy theory claims are debunked, far-right extremists are still embracing Russian disinformation and, to make matters worse, it appears to be circulating at an accelerated pace. Now, an analysis is breaking down the far-right's fascination with Russian disinformation. Pointing to two different headlines published on March 9, Glenn Kessler highlighted the distinction between the two.

"Bioweapon labs in Ukraine prove US criminal activity, diplomat says,” according to a headline for Tass News that highlighted a quote from Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Later that evening, Fox News' Tucker Carlson fired back by putting his own spin on the claim.“Under oath in an open committee hearing, Toria Nuland just confirmed that the Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie and a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true,” Carlson said.

Kessler explained how this type of bizarre phenomenon occurs. "Russian disinformation often begins with a speck of fact, which is then twisted into a full-blown conspiracy theory," he wrote. "The technique makes it easier to spread and take root among the country’s supporters. Note how quickly the party line uttered by the Russian Foreign Ministry was embraced by Carlson."

He added, "In this instance, Russia for years has been seeding the ground to claim that the United States set up biowarfare labs in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. Then, brief remarks by Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state, were twisted to provide “confirmation” of the disinformation program."

Kessler went on to separate the actual facts from the ongoing conspiracy theories that seem to spiral out of control at every turn.

"The Russian claims about Ukrainian labs bear the earmarks of the Soviet Union’s long-running campaign of false allegations that the United States used biological weapons," Kessler wrote."The KGB, for instance, in the early 1980s spread false claims that a U.S.-funded research project in Pakistan was sending “killer mosquitoes” into Afghanistan, leading to local outrage that ended the program."

Kessler also noted that back in 2018, biological threat expert Filippa Lentzos also debunked these claims. In a letter addressing the spread of disinformation, he wrote, “The Russian charges that the Lugar Center and other biological labs in the Caucasus and Central Asia are making banned bioweapons are unfounded."

He added, "Last week a group of international experts, including this author, visited the Lugar Center by invitation of the Georgian government. We were given access to all areas of the site, examined relevant documentation, and interviewed staff, and concluded that the Center demonstrates significant transparency. Our group observed nothing out of the ordinary, or that we wouldn’t expect to see in a legitimate facility of this sort.”

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