Russia’s Reality Trolls and the MH17 War of Misinformation

janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
pretty good long read on Russia being SO FULL OF IT; can't quote the entire thing here, but some choice moments:

Russia’s Reality Trolls and the MH17 War of Misinformation
Every time more evidence has emerged that Russia-backed rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, someone in Moscow has called a press conference to throw smoke over the claims. It’s a tradition going back to the days after MH17 crashed on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board, when the Russian Defense Ministry held a briefing suggesting, improbably, that a Ukrainian missile or fighter jet had shot down the plane.

So it was little surprise when Almaz-Antey, the Russian state-owned maker of Buk missiles, held a press conference on Tuesday to shift the blame off Moscow and its separatist partners in eastern Ukraine. A report by the Dutch Safety Board released the same day found that MH17 was brought down by a Buk missile fired from an area near the town of Snizhne, which at the time was under rebel control. “It’s always special when people already know that they don’t agree with a report that’s not even published yet,” Dutch Safety Board chairman Tibbe Joustra told reporters when asked about the Almaz-Antey presentation, which took place hours before the Dutch findings were announced.

Packed with a nearly incomprehensible amount of graphics and data, the presentation argued that the Buk missile that hit MH17 was a type no longer used by the Russian military and had been fired from a location to the west of Snizhne. Russia’s state media immediately jumped on these findings to paint the Dutch report as incomplete and suggest that neither Moscow nor the rebels were involved in downing the plane — a response that corresponds with a larger Kremlin media strategy that has arisen during President Vladimir Putin’s third term. One aspect has been a Kremlin-linked “troll factory,” pushing disinformation and pro-Putin views online. But according to Nerijus Maliukevicius, a political science lecturer at Vilnius University who studies Russian media, the MH17 coverage is meant to “troll reality.”

The end goal is likely to prevent the missile launch being conclusively tied to Russia — and to prevent anyone linked to Russia from being punished for firing it. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — including interviews with soldiers, secret military funerals, and satellite imagery — Moscow has denied it has been involved in the eastern Ukraine conflict, and Putin has previously argued against proposals to create an MH17 criminal tribunal until a “thorough and objective” investigation (in Putin’s eyes) has been completed.
In the first days after MH17 went down, the Russian media began discussing seemingly every possible explanation for the tragedy besides one of the most likely: That it had been accidentally shot down by pro-Russian forces, which had downed several Ukrainian military planes in the weeks prior. No theory was too outlandish for state media to report, it seemed, not even one that the whole thing was a ruse to impugn Moscow, perpetrated using a plane full of corpses.
Most conspiracy theories were soon discredited; even satellite images the Russian Defense Ministry said proved Ukrainian missile launchers had been in the area were later shown to have been doctored. Nonetheless, the misinformation continued, often with conflicting stories. In July, state-run channel RT — whose motto “Question more” perfectly encapsulates Moscow’s muddy-the-waters approach — reported that MH17 could have been downed by an Israeli Python air-to-air missile, even though Almaz-Antey had reported the month before that the missile used “could only have been” a Buk 9M38M1 (a model it said Russia didn’t have).
random polling proves everything:
This approach has been effective, especially at home in Russia, where the population remains convinced that the Ukrainian side is to blame for the tragedy. Asked in an independent survey in July who bore responsibility for the death of the people on board MH17, 44 percent of Russians said Ukrainian soldiers, 41 percent said the Ukrainian leadership and 17 percent said the United States. Only 3 percent named the rebels, and 2 percent said Russia was to blame for arming and training them.