Far-right MAGA media is promoting a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory
More than 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion, which has caused thousands of deaths — and the worst may be yet to come. Regardless, some of President Vladimir Putin’s useful idiots in the United States have been apologists for the invasion, promoting a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory which claims that bioweapons were being manufactured in Ukrainian laboratories. Putin, according to that conspiracy theory, was justified in invading Ukraine.
“Most of the conspiracy theories claim that the U.S. was developing and plotting to release a bioweapon or potentially another coronavirus from ‘biolabs’ throughout Ukraine and that Russia invaded to take over the labs,” journalists Ben Collins and Kevin Collier report in an article published by NBC News’ website on March 14. “Many of the theories implicate people who are often the targets of far-right conspiracy thinking — including Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden — as being behind creating the weaponized diseases in the biolabs. Disinformation experts said the biolabs theory echoes other Russian propaganda meant to justify its military efforts, which often makes allegations against other countries and populations that reflect similar attacks it plans to make.”
Collins and Collier note that “PolitiFact has debunked the theories, and no evidence of U.S.-run bioweapons labs in Ukraine has been put forward.”
“Russia’s early struggles to push disinformation and propaganda about Ukraine have picked up momentum in recent days, thanks to a variety of debunked conspiracy theories about biological research labs in Ukraine,” Collins and Collier explain. “Much of the false information is flourishing in Russian social media, far-right online spaces and U.S. conservative media, including Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News. The theories, which have been boosted by Russian and Chinese officials, come as U.S. officials warn that Russia could be preparing a chemical or biological weapons attack of its own in Ukraine.”
We took note of Russia\u2019s false claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine. We\u2019ve also seen Chinese officials echo these conspiracy theories.— Jen Psaki (@Jen Psaki) 1646862487
The United States is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.— Jen Psaki (@Jen Psaki) 1646862488
Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, told NBC News, “The ‘biolabs’ are serving as a false justification for why Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s defensive. They create a situation where they go to a populist audience, push out talking points, get the audience primed and make it true later.”
Welton Chang, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Pyrra Technologies, told NBC News that everyone from QAnon to the far-right social media platform Gab has been pushing the Ukrainian biolabs conspiracy theory.
Chang explained, “These communities already know what the rhythm and cadence of COVID conspiracies should be like to get people to buy it,” Chang said. “They had a lot of practice with QAnon. The kinds of things that get people excited, like any time you say ‘secret biolab’ — it gets people’s emotions up.”
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