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The Great Russian Reset: How Russian Disinformation Channels Are Disseminating “The Great Reset” Conspiracy Theory

August 30th, 2021 13:20

Accord­ing to a Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report inves­ti­ga­tion, Rus­sia has launched a dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign spread­ing “the Great Reset” con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in the West. In recent months, Russ­ian state media and pro­pa­gan­da out­lets, some of them linked to Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices, have increas­ing­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed the “Great Reset” con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, a small but grow­ing online con­spir­a­cy pushed by right-wing US media fig­ures that claim a glob­al elite is using the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic to dis­man­tle cap­i­tal­ism and enslave human­i­ty. A report ear­li­er this year by the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue (ISD), a UK think tank, describes the “Great Reset” con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry as follows:

Feb­ru­ary 2021 The Great Reset is the name of an ini­tia­tive launched by the World Eco­nom­ic Forum (WEF) in June 2020 that called for “fair­er out­comes” and a rethink­ing of glob­al invest­ment and gov­ern­ment expen­di­ture in order to revive the world’s econ­o­my in light of the cat­a­stroph­ic eco­nom­ic effects of the pan­dem­ic. Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists believe this ini­tia­tive is in fact a plot to destroy cap­i­tal­ism and enact a one world gov­ern­ment under the cov­er of COVID-19. The key ele­ments of the “Great Reset” con­spir­a­cy, as analysed in the Guardian, are that the “glob­al elite is using COVID-19 as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to roll out rad­i­cal poli­cies such as forced vac­ci­na­tion, dig­i­tal ID cards and the renun­ci­a­tion of pri­vate prop­er­ty.” What was first a mar­gin­al con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry con­fined to the fringes of the web has, since Novem­ber 2020, become a dis­in­for­ma­tion ecosys­tem in itself. This is in part thanks to ampli­fi­ca­tion from right-wing US media fig­ures includ­ing Ben Shapiro and Tuck­er Carl­son, who have appro­pri­at­ed ele­ments of the “Great Reset” the­o­ry as proof of a sup­posed plot to erode free­doms and cap­i­tal­ism. The Anti-Defama­tion League has also tracked the conspiracy’s anti­se­mit­ic tropes that claim the WEF is “con­trolled” by Jews who are using the “Great Reset” to set up a “One World Government.”

Rus­si­a’s pro­mo­tion and ampli­fi­ca­tion of right-wing extrem­ism and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries in the West as a means to under­mine lib­er­al democ­ra­cy is well doc­u­ment­ed. Rus­sia seems to have tak­en up yet anoth­er fringe con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that it seeks to dis­sem­i­nate in the West through its dis­in­for­ma­tion ecosys­tem, again echo­ing right-wing talk­ing points. Since the Great Reset ini­tia­tive was launched by the World Eco­nom­ic Forum (WEF) in June 2020, Russ­ian online pro­pa­gan­da chan­nels and proxy sources have pro­duced hun­dreds of arti­cles denounc­ing the ini­tia­tive as a dystopi­an con­spir­a­cy by sin­is­ter glob­al­ist forces. While offi­cial Russ­ian state-backed media have adopt­ed a less aggres­sive and seem­ing­ly more nuanced way to dis­sem­i­nate the Great Reset con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, Russ­ian Eng­lish-lan­guage pro­pa­gan­da out­lets linked to Russia’s intel­li­gence ser­vices and Rus­sia-aligned proxy sources have launched a more bla­tant dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign, using the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry to fur­ther Russia’s polit­i­cal objec­tives of under­min­ing lib­er­al democ­ra­cies, denounc­ing West­ern elites, and sup­port­ing polit­i­cal allies such as Don­ald Trump.

The num­ber of peo­ple that googled “the Great Reset” in the last 12 months peaked in Novem­ber last year after a video of a UN speech by Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in which he men­tioned that COVID-19 is an “oppor­tu­ni­ty for a reset” went viral in con­spir­a­cy cir­cles. Accord­ing to fact-check­ers at Snopes.com, the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry start­ed mid-Octo­ber 2020 as a chain email picked up by QAnon-asso­ci­at­ed inter­net forums.

From Highlighting Fringe Accounts to Labeling it the “source of all suffering”: How Official Russian State Media Amplifies the Great Reset Conspiracy Theory

The head­line of a Sput­nik arti­cle from Jan­u­ary thus reads “Fact or Fic­tion: The Great Reset Con­spir­a­cy” and the author pre­tends to weigh the argu­ments for and against the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in a nuanced way and even acknowl­edges that noth­ing that sub­stan­ti­ates the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry could be found in the book of the same name. At the same time, the author con­cludes that “to cre­ate a dystopi­an world like the one embod­ied in the Great Reset Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry, no con­spir­a­cy is need­ed” because the ero­sion of free­dom in the West has already start­ed. Anoth­er Sput­nik arti­cle from Novem­ber titled “Neti­zens Delve Into ‘The Great Reset’ Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries After Unearthing Trudeau’s Old Video” high­light­ed tweets from sev­er­al fringe Twit­ter accounts spread­ing the Great Reset con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, with­out pre­sent­ing any addi­tion­al com­ments or con­text and thus ampli­fy­ing the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry with­out direct­ly sup­port­ing it.

On RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today), arti­cles about the Great Reset are more opin­ion­at­ed: “Humans of the GREAT RESET: What the future MIGHT look like in 2021 – if the con­trol­ling elites have their way” fea­tures pic­tures of Bill Gates, Prince Charles, and WEF founder Klaus Schwab and sug­gests the archi­tects of the Great Reset plan to get access to your vac­ci­na­tion record and your per­son­al ID and want to make the aver­age per­son “own noth­ing”. The arti­cle also claims the glob­al cli­mate protests are basi­cal­ly the WEF’s “own activist move­ment” fund­ed by the WEF and that “it’s easy to imag­ine world lead­ers and cor­po­ra­tions tak­ing advan­tage of the chaos to impose more con­trols over the pop­u­lace”, con­clud­ing that if you dis­cuss any of this you’re wrong­ly labeled a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist. Anoth­er RT arti­cle is even more bla­tant, claim­ing “the Great Reset is not a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry; it’s a con­spir­a­cy fact” and blam­ing it for “woke mad­ness, can­cel cul­ture, Covid lock­downs, Antifa/BLM riots, Big Tech cen­sor­ship, and the end­less pro­pa­gan­da com­ing out of main­stream media.” The arti­cle con­cludes that the Great Reset is “the source of all your suffering.”

A Diabolical Masterplan Supported by the New US Administration that Could Have Been Prevented by Donald Trump: How Russian Intelligence-Linked Propaganda Outlets Use The Great Reset to Further Russia’s Political Objectives

News Front, iden­ti­fied by the US as a mul­ti-lan­guage pro­pa­gan­da out­let direct­ed by Russia’s fed­er­al secu­ri­ty ser­vice, pub­lished sev­er­al arti­cles claim­ing “the Great Reset” is a glob­al agen­da that will lead to a cen­tral­ized tech­no­crat­ic rule with low­er liv­ing stan­dards and few­er civ­il rights and that peo­ple will be imple­ment­ed chips that can read their mind. Accord­ing to one arti­cle, “it is not a ‘con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry’ if they open­ly tell you what they want to do.” Anoth­er News Front arti­cle from Feb­ru­ary claimed that the new US admin­is­tra­tion ful­ly sup­ports the plans for the “great reset” that could have been pre­vent­ed by Don­ald Trump while it was clear that Vladimir Putin would say firm ‘no’ to these plans.

The same line of argu­ments is also brought up by the Strate­gic Cul­ture Foun­da­tion (SCF), a for­eign pol­i­cy online jour­nal pur­port­ing to “focus on hid­den aspects of inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics” but in fact reg­is­tered in Rus­sia and close­ly affil­i­at­ed with the Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, accord­ing to a US gov­ern­ment report. An apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal SCF arti­cle from Novem­ber claims human­i­ty is “on the precipice of a new dark age” because the Great Reset is “based upon mis­an­thropy, slav­ery, and human erad­i­ca­tion”. It sug­gests today’s oli­garchs are plan­ning to estab­lish a new coer­cive mod­el of con­trol, “even to the extent of man­u­fac­tur­ing pan­demics, forced lock­downs, and a ‘cyber-pan­dem­ic’ of inten­tion­al, rolling black-outs.” Anoth­er SCF arti­cle by the same author titled “Whose Great Reset? The Fight for Our Future – Tech­noc­ra­cy vs. the Repub­lic” argues that “the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is being used, on the polit­i­cal end, as a mas­sive coup against plu­ral­ist society.”

Final­ly, Ori­en­tal Review, a blog-like self-described e‑journal focus­ing on cur­rent polit­i­cal issues in Eura­sia and said by the US. to be con­trolled by the Russ­ian for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice, launched its dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign against the WEF’s ini­tia­tive short­ly before the US elec­tions, link­ing the Great Reset to Demo­c­rat politi­cians. “Glob­al­ist Slaves Or Free Patri­ots” argued that while Trump would cer­tain­ly “lead the patri­ots toward nation­al­ism and free­dom”, Biden “would con­fine us all in the shady swamps of the Great Reset Big Broth­er dystopi­an future” which, it claims, is planned by cen­tral banks and a glob­al elite in order to “turn human­i­ty into an obe­di­ent enslaved work force”. A few months lat­er, anoth­er Ori­en­tal Review arti­cle took a dif­fer­ent approach, argu­ing that Putin’s speech at Davos was in fact intend­ed to posi­tion Rus­sia as one of the glob­al lead­ers in the unfold­ing “Great Reset”. Russia’s sup­port for this pre­vi­ous­ly as dia­bol­i­cal mas­ter­plan described ini­tia­tive, how­ev­er, is sud­den­ly a good thing, the arti­cle con­tin­ues, because:

The pri­ma­ry dif­fer­ence between Putin and many of his peers who also believe in the inevitabil­i­ty of these process­es is that he doesn’t blind­ly endorse them for principle’s sake but is very pas­sion­ate about ensur­ing that they result in a bet­ter form of glob­al­iza­tion that ben­e­fits every­one equally.

Recent Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Reports (GIOR) cov­er­age of Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts include:

  • In April, we report­ed that the US des­ig­nat­ed 32 Russ­ian enti­ties and indi­vid­u­als for dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts, includ­ing News Front and the Strate­gic Cul­ture Foun­da­tion (SCF).
  • In April, we pub­lished an exclu­sive GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion uncov­er­ing that Russia’s Strate­gic Cul­ture Foun­da­tion (SCF) man­aged to attract for­mer West­ern diplo­mats and jour­nal­ists despite its deep involve­ment in Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts, the dis­sem­i­na­tion of far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, its ban from social media plat­forms, and the US Trea­sury designation.
  • In April, we report­ed that Russia’s build-up of mil­i­tary forces along the Ukrain­ian bor­der was accom­pa­nied by inten­si­fied dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts.