Reporter lays out the ‘eerie’ parallels between Kremlin media and America’s ‘mass shooting deniers’

Reporter lays out the ‘eerie’ parallels between Kremlin media and America’s ‘mass shooting deniers’

During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of the propaganda and disinformation coming from Kremlin-controlled media uses language that — when translated from Russian into English — sounds a lot like terms coming from far-right MAGA media in the United States, including “fake news” and “false flag.” Journalist Elizabeth Williamson, author of the book “Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and The Battle for Truth,” takes a look at this type of terminology in an article published by the New York Times on April 25. And she notes the disturbing parallels between Kremlin propagandists in Russia and right-wing media figures in the U.S.

“The similarity is eerie,” Williamson explains. “Russia has long used incidents of American gun violence to support its propagandistic claims of cultural superiority. Now, during this war, the Kremlin is adopting the language of American mass shooting deniers to deny towering evidence of its army’s atrocities in Ukraine, including calling injured and killed Ukrainians crisis actors.”

One of the “mass shooting deniers” and far-right conspiracy theorists that Williamson discusses in her article is Infowars’ Alex Jones, who claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 14, 2012 was a false flag operation. Williamson points out that the term “crisis actors” has been used by the Infowars crowd in connection with Sandy Hook as well as by Russian media in connection with massacres of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops.

“The term ‘crisis actors,’ used by Sandy Hook fabulists to mean people pretending to be victims or survivors of the massacre, was used after the Sandy Hook shooting by James Tracy, a Florida Atlantic University professor and Infowars guest whose side hustle as a conspiracy blogger cost him his job,” Williamson notes. “Some believers of Infowars’ lies about Sandy Hook have tormented the relatives of the victims ever since.”

Similarly, Williamson observes, Kremlin propagandists have been claiming that reports of atrocities in Ukraine are “fake news.”

“After being condemned around the world for bombing a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine,” Williamson explains, “Russia advanced a bogus conspiracy theory last month that was chillingly familiar to me. Using unrelated images from social media, dodgy ‘reports’ and constant repetition, the Russian Defense Ministry falsely claimed the airstrike was a ‘staged provocation’ by Ukraine. The hospital, Russian officials falsely said, was nonoperational and a base for Ukrainian fighters. Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations dismissed Associated Press photographs of the aftermath as ‘fake news,’ and the Foreign Ministry alleged that bloodied, pregnant women evacuated from the rubble were crisis actors.”

In the U.S., Williamson observes, far-right conspiracy theorists have also downplayed the violence that occurred when Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

“In my recent book, ‘Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth,’ I wrote that the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories — once believed to be true by one-quarter of Americans — foretold the world of delusion that we live in today,” Williamson writes. “Through my reporting, I traced the through line from Sandy Hook to Pizzagate; to QAnon, and its claims that Democrats were trafficking children; to anti-Semitic tropes invoked by neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville; to coronavirus myths; and to the 2020 election lie that fomented the January 6 Capitol riot. And now, to the war in Ukraine.”

Williamson wraps up her article by noting that as a reporter, her “first close experience with wartime disinformation” came “during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.”

“In Belgrade,” Williamson recalls, “a Serbian foreign ministry official gave me an armload of books, all of them falsely claiming that victims of the region’s genocidal wars had fabricated evidence of atrocities or committed the crimes themselves. But today, as I watch Russia spread disinformation about the war in Ukraine with terms that developed in America, and then American conspiracy theorists regurgitating that disinformation, I’ve realized that those books are not the discredited relics I imagined they would be.”


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