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How Russia Has Weaponized Victimhood As An Element Of Disinformation

August 19th, 2021 15:54

EUvs­Dis­in­fo, a Euro­pean Union-fund­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion watch­dog, is report­ing that Rus­sia is using “weaponized vic­tim­hood” as a strat­e­gy to fur­ther its dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts. EUvs­Dis­in­fo argues that this kind of vic­tim­hood, a sense of loss of pow­er when a tra­di­tion­al­ly priv­i­leged sta­tus posi­tion is chal­lenged, has evolved into a major com­po­nent of the Kremlin’s pol­i­cy-mak­ing. Accord­ing to the EUvs­Dis­in­fo report:

August 5, 2021 Sev­er­al researchers note that the role of the vic­tim is a cov­et­ed posi­tion in mod­ern pub­lic dis­course. Research points to this phe­nom­e­non in US pol­i­tics, among men accused of sex­u­al harass­ment – “I’m the vic­tim here!” – and as an ele­ment in Krem­lin dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts. EUvs­Dis­in­fo has observed this on sev­er­al occa­sions – here, for instance, or here.  This approach is called “weaponised vic­tim­hood”, and is defined in research along the fol­low­ing lines: Weaponised vic­tim­hood speaks to a felt sense of loss of pow­er and esteem among social groups fac­ing chal­lenges to their tra­di­tion­al­ly priv­i­leged sta­tus positions.

A priv­i­leged par­ty – in this case Rus­sia, one of the world’s most pow­er­ful and advanced coun­tries – describes itself as a vic­tim of aggres­sion. Vic­tim­hood has evolved into a major com­po­nent of the Kremlin’s pol­i­cy-mak­ing. The Russ­ian state describes itself as “encir­cled by unfriend­ly forces” while a “treach­er­ous ‘fifth col­umn’ is attack­ing” the Russ­ian state from with­in. In the EUvs­Dis­in­fo data­base, this approach is doc­u­ment­ed in the Litvi­nenko, Skri­pal and Naval­ny cas­es, in the MH17 case, the case of the pub­lic protests in Rus­sia in Jan­u­ary 2021 and even as a pre­text to Russia’s slow vac­cine roll-out.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that Rus­sia is fre­quent­ly play­ing out what it calls “Red­u­ca­tio ad Hitler­lum” to per­suade audi­ences to dis­ap­prove of an action or idea by sug­gest­ing that the idea is pop­u­lar with groups held in con­tempt by the tar­get audience.

Chi­na is anoth­er coun­try that has weaponized vic­tim­hood to fur­ther its dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts: In July, we report­ed that Chi­nese-state-linked social media accounts were run­ning a dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tion tar­get­ing the Chi­nese dias­po­ra involv­ing the anti-racist #StopAsian­Hate cam­paign. The oper­a­tion illus­trat­ed the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s com­mon tac­tic of using accu­sa­tions of racism to deflect criticism.

Recent GIOR report­ing on Russia’s dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts has included:

  • In July, we report­ed on Russ­ian attempts to fur­ther cap­i­tal­ize on the recent grow­ing con­tro­ver­sy in the US over a mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Crit­i­cal Race Theory.
  • In July, we report­ed that actors linked to Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions are tar­get­ing Amer­i­can far-right audi­ences on alter­na­tive online platforms.
  • In May, we report­ed that pro-Krem­lin media out­lets were using the tense sit­u­a­tion at the Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der to spread nar­ra­tives tar­get­ing the annu­al NATO exer­cis­es along with Ukraine.