September 27, 2017  |  Updated July 10, 2018

Giving Pro-Kremlin Propaganda a Helping Hand

By Corina Rebegea

This article was originally published by CEPA. 

The Kremlin’s disinformation machine is widely opportunistic. It stirs up existing emotions within various groups in society to bring them more in tune with Kremlin-backed narratives. A relatively cheap investment for the propaganda apparatus, it successfully creates confusion, sometimes panic—cultivating conspiracies and mistrust in the Western system of values and governance. In Romania, this opportunistic behavior is part of a two-pronged approach and has become a typical tactic. On one hand, Kremlin-endorsed narratives and tropes get multiplied with the help of sensationalist, fringe and sometimes even mainstream media. On the other, pro-Russian media outlets and Facebook groups stimulate or amplify fringe anti-American, anti-EU and anti-NATO voices and messages that do not necessarily originate in the Kremlin’s disinformation laboratories. In both cases, a wide range of media outlets and social media groups lend a helping hand to Russian propaganda.

A recent example of the amplifying effect is a petition launched on 30 August to declare Hans Klemm, the U.S. ambassador to Bucharest, persona non grata. This demand came just as a mainstream party politician posted a similar message on Facebook. Sputnik News Romania jumped on the opportunity, presenting the petition as a unique development in NATO. Pro-Kremlin as well as conspiratorial or nationalistic social media pages have been rolling messages and articles bashing the Klemm—sometimes in very offensive terms—for being the “governor” of the “colony” Romania. Some other mainstream voices, from both media and political spheres, have joined the choir thereby creating an artificial media event for official Russian propaganda channels to report as a major development in Romanian society.

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