Regrettably for Moscow’s Kwood, production takes time so when something unexpected happens to upset the apple cart and looks like becoming a PR disaster for the Russian Federation the less efficient “rapid fire conspiracy theory” has to be utilized in both the domestic and foreign channels of their Public Diplomacy. In this case nipping the truth in the bud and relying on people to get confused and fed up of the news item becomes more important than being caught out.
A recent example of this was after the bombing of a humanitarian convoy destined for Aleppo with food and medicines on 19th September 2016.
The convoy was destroyed, and the Russians were blamed for the destruction of the convoy, which had aid for 78,000 men, women, and children in Aleppo, Syria (some of which may have been rebels). As well as denying this Kwood, under the auspice of the RF Ministry of Defence, first came up with the claim that the convoy was being accompanied by a rebel mortar, so obviously the convoy must have been protecting terrorists or that terrorists had destroyed the convoy. They even showed pictures, convincing aerial photos, and maps to “prove” that there never was any aerial bombing. However, even in their own photoshopped photos, it was evident even to Russian experts that only an attack from the air could have produced the damage to the convoy vehicles that was shown in the KWood photos.
Kwood therefore fired off the tried and tested enemy conspiracy theory defense and claimed that it must have been a US drone which had attacked the convoy. This played into the hands of those who criticize the USA drone overreach in Pakistan so appealed to a different set of conspiracy theorists. All was fine until Russian bombs amongst the wreckage of the convoy pictures became apparent.
The Russians found this impossible to deny so a switch of tactic was needed and turning on their Ally blamed Assad and Damascus for using bombs he had bought from Russia to explain the Russian weapons. This was followed by their domestic public diplomacy denying that it was Assad and that it must have been rebels who had captured munitions from Assad.
After this they claimed that it was a US plot to distract from their bombing of Assad positions. This was taken up by their fake news channels and newspapers which then chose to blame the “white helmets” an impartial NGO whose only function was to dig people out of bomb sites and get them to medical care.
As can be seen, the idea is to follow one false theory by another in rapid fire succession so as to make the reader so confused that they lose interest in the original act.
The fact that they are being created so fast that they contradict each other is irrelevant to Kwood. What is important is to bombard the reader, listener or viewer with so much information that they don’t know what to believe when the balanced reporting of liberal democracies reports all of their claims. There is no problem of such a balance happening in Russia or Serbia though. All their claims, however, are clear that it was the United States and their “puppets”which was somehow to blame.
Add to this the Chinese whispers of the global network of conspiracy theorists, allowed by western freedom of speech laws, and every time the stories are repeated a slight exaggeration of the West’s Imperialism is added. Soon each conspiracy theorist has their own convincing reason of why it must have been the Illuminati, Bilderberg, a Ufo, Santa Claus or Elvis Presley that killed the aid workers and blew up the convoy. Just enough confusion is created in rapid fire conspiracy public diplomacy to convince the world the maxim “If you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras” (Woodward, 1940) is not relevant. These new theories are then taken up again by the trolls to recycle and create new stopgap theories until the more watertight official Russian version can be produced to the world and the Russian people.
Another example is that of Malaysian Airlines MH17. A passenger aircraft was flying over Ukraine at the approved height for passenger aircraft and on the correct route when out of nowhere it disappeared from the radar screens over the Russian-occupied Ukraine territory known as Donbas. Obviously not something any state wants to be accused of being associated with especially when debris and dead Malaysians, Australians, Dutch and others start falling into the field of that region. It was quickly apparent that the plane had been shot down by Russian militants using a Russian BUK missile when they intended to shoot down a Ukrainian government military plane gloriously. Immediately Kwood went into rapid fire conspiracy theory mode. #1 that a Ukrainian military jet had shot down MH17
and #2 it was a Ukrainian BUK that shot down MH17. They even produced falsified radar data and fake satellite images to support these fantasies. Even Wikipedia was edited to claim that passenger jets, and military planes fly at the same altitude. (they don’t) If Vladimir Putin hadn’t had his photo taken in front of a Russian BUK at a Russian military base and if these pesky Russian civilians hadn’t posted photos of the BUK travelling from Russia to Donbass before rapidly being whisked away on the back of a transporter immediately, as soon as they realised what had happened, their story that might have flown that Russia didn’t have any.
The Russian militants had also posted themselves on Russian social media celebrating shooting down a plane at the moment MH17 disappeared. The main aim of this type of rapid-fire conspiracy Public Diplomacy is just to plant doubt. Westerners have grown up with the concept of “innocent until proved guilty, beyond reasonable doubt” Reality, therefore, becomes one theory in a host of truths that people wish to accept. Many are likely to give the benefit of the doubt. No amount of proof from the experts at all the later reputable inquiries which prove that it was Russian BUK can remove those seeds of doubt which Kwood produced in the first days and still keeps producing on the subject. When very few care anymore in the 24/7 24 hour news circle researchers and Investigative journalists reveal the enduring truth, it is too late. By then the trolls will be firefighting another calamity, for one thing, is sure and that is they are here to stay, and rapid fire conspiracy public diplomacy is just another weapon in Russia’s armory to be used by their Kwood controlled MOD to fight the cold war that the West believed to have won in 1991.# GI6007