Inside The Russian Disinformation Playbook

Canada Goose online This is FRESH AIR I’m Terry Gross. military for use as a biological weapon. The other episodes are “The Seven Commandments Of Fake News” and “The Worldwide War On Truth.” My guest, Adam Ellick, produced and co directed the series. He’s the executive producer of opinion video at The New York Times, which is a new feature on their website. Canada Goose online

Previously, he was senior international video correspondent and a reporter at the Times who focused on human rights. When he was reporting from Pakistan in 2009, he was the first journalist to tell the story of Malala and how, with her father, she fought for girls to have the right to attend school. That was three years before she was shot. In 2015, Ellick co produced a Pulitzer Prize winning video about an Afghan woman who was burned to death by a mob. Ellick won three Overseas Press Club awards for his coverage of Pakistan and the Arab Spring. He produced videos from North Korea one year ago.

cheap Canada Goose Adam Ellick, welcome to FRESH AIR. So I want to start with the conspiracy theory about the AIDS virus. And you track how this originates with Russian fake news, with Russian disinformation. So just describe the conspiracy theory for those people who don’t remember it. cheap Canada Goose

canada goose uk outlet ADAM ELLICK: So this is the AIDS Canada Goose sale conspiracy theory that was canada goose black friday sale born out of the Soviet Union in buy canada goose jacket the early 1980s. government specifically the Pentagon created the AIDS virus as a way to kill blacks and gays. And they worked for about six years from Moscow and all around the world spreading this and planting it in different countries, canada goose coats first in Africa and then in Latin America and in South Asia. And eventually, it made its way onto the “Evening News” Canada Goose online with Dan Rather. canada goose uk outlet

GROSS: So this conspiracy theory still has some traction, doesn’t it?

buy canada goose jacket cheap ELLICK: It does. I mean, one of the lessons in this is that a lie never truly dies. And we cheap Canada Goose found in surveys as recently as 2005 that at least 30 percent of African canadian goose jacket Americans still believe in the AIDS conspiracy theory. And it is repeated often in popular culture. Our film shows a bunch of examples where you can see it on TV, on YouTube and in musical concerts, including it’s repeated often in a song by Kanye West. military created the AIDS virus to kill African Americans and gay people was created by the Russians in 1983. This was before the fall of the Soviet Union. So it’s the Soviets who are creating it. Of all the conspiracy theories that they could have cooked up and tried to spread, why this one? buy canada goose jacket cheap

cheap canada goose uk ELLICK: Well, they cooked up and spread many. This is certainly not the only one. They’ve been doing this for decades, even before the early 1980s. But this one was incredibly successful because it did sort of it followed a very specific Soviet playbook when it comes to disinformation. Which is they were trying to sort of sow chaos and exploit existing tensions in American society. And this was a time in the early 1980s when there was a lot of hysteria around AIDS. A lot was unknown. People were dying, and a lot of people did not know why. cheap canada goose uk

So it was a vulnerability in terms of the West. And it was also a time with racial tension. So the Soviets always try to exploit any sort of tensions, whether it was class, race, religion. And they definitely have an affinity for infections and disease. And the Russians still do that today. We noticed that in the past few Canada Goose Outlet years with the Zika virus. And even the AIDS conspiracy has returned in the past few years.

GROSS: And politically, in 1983, when the Soviets started spreading this rumor, there was a lot of political homophobia. Like Republicans were trying to activate their base with anti gay scare tactics. So that was like a political vulnerability that they could exploit. So that’s an easy one to exploit, too. So the first place that the Soviets planted this conspiracy theory was in a newspaper in India. That seems like an odd route to take, but it made sense to the Soviets. Why?

Canada Goose sale ELLICK: Well, I would argue it’s sort of a masterful route to take. What the Soviets did and we sort of laid out the tick tock chronology of how this hoax went viral before the Internet ever existed. And the first thing they did is they planted the story in an Indian newspaper. It may sound and feel like no big deal, but The Patriot was a newspaper in Delhi. And the newspaper was left leaning, so it had some sympathy for communist ideology. And the Soviets often planted stories in countries where journalists could be easily bribed. And they also planted stories in countries that had a vulnerable audience, and by that, I mean sort of a lack of media literacy. Canada Goose sale

So they first planted it there, and it was published in The Patriot. And then we didn’t hear about that story for some time. And then a year or two later, I believe in 1985, it resurfaced in a weekly Soviet newspaper. And the source in that Soviet newspaper was the article in India. And basically they rev up they rev that tactic up, and soon, you could find this story all over Africa in Kenya, in Zimbabwe, in so many countries around the continent. And a few years later, we found that story had reached 80 countries, from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Argentina and Brazil and Central America.

GROSS: So one of the ways the Soviets kind of juiced this canada goose store story was to find a scientist or a “scientist” in quotation marks who was willing to endorse it. So who did they find to try to give buy canada goose jacket cheap this story, like, scientific credibility? By story, I mean conspiracy theory.

canada goose clearance sale ELLICK: Right. So every successful disinformation campaign needs a useful idiot. And a useful idiot is someone who’s useful because they can help spread and disseminate that lie. And they also kind of have to be an idiot because they need to be able either to be willing to pass it on or they need to genuinely believe it. And in this AIDS example, the useful idiot was an East German couple who worked at a university in Berlin. And they wrote a long scientific report which is essentially unreadable and makes no sense. And its sources are very murky and ambiguous. military base. And they cooked it up as a so called ethnic weapon in order to kill blacks and gays. And Dr. Jakob Segal and his wife Lilli were the useful idiot professors who wrote the scientific report that the articles then cited. canada goose clearance sale

canada goose uk shop GROSS: So Dan Rather reports on the story. He doesn’t say, this story is true, this conspiracy theory, but he does mention it. How did it get to Dan Rather, and what did Dan Rather say? canada goose uk shop

Canada Goose Jackets ELLICK: Yeah. So Dan Rather was an evening TV anchor. And he repeated the story. And he sourced it to the Soviet newspaper, canada goose which was the second source when this went so called viral. What happened in between when the article was first planted in that newspaper in India and when it finally reached the evening TV broadcast with Dan Rather’s show in the late 1980s is sort of the secret sauce or the magic of what the Soviet Union did so well. And it just popped up in country to country across Africa and Latin America. Canada Goose Jackets

canada goose coats on sale And it was repeated so often that the sourcing almost became impossible to untangle because all different countries were quoting other left leaning newspapers around the world. And Dan didn’t repeat the Canada Goose Parka actual story as if it was real, but he referenced it. And he cited the Soviet newspaper. And The Sunday Express in London ran a story about it as well. So it wasn’t just Dan. And that’s sort of the ultimate triumph for the Kremlin at that time. canada goose coats on sale

Canada Goose Outlet GROSS: So when Dan Rather reported on this, he was just saying, this story is circulating. He wasn’t saying it’s true. Is that right? Canada Goose Outlet

Canada Goose Parka GROSS: OK. So Putin was in the KGB during this era when KGB agents were expected to contribute disinformation as part of their job. And you say that now disinformation is his favorite tool. Why do you think it’s his favorite tool? Canada Goose Parka

Canada Goose Online ELLICK: Well, disinformation has a lot of advantages. First of all, it’s very cheap. It’s certainly more affordable than tanks and aerial bombardments. It’s also a long game. So the fruits of disinformation pay off over many, many years. And Putin is not unlike many politicians in the West, Putin doesn’t have a four or eight year term. He’s been in power for a really long time, and there appears to be no end in sight of his rule. And disinformation definitely requires a long view. There’s a great quote in one of these videos that we surfaced from the 1980s. And someone said that it’s like when water hits a rock in the middle of a rainforest, you return a few years later and the water is still hitting the rock, but there’s no dent in the rock. And then you return 10 years later, and there’s a small dent in the rock. And you return 20 years later, and there’s a massive hole in the rock. And that’s sort of how a disinformation campaign succeeds, with a really, really long view. Canada Goose Online

canadian goose jacket GROSS: Let me reintroduce you here. If you’re just joining us, my guest is Adam Ellick. He’s the executive producer of opinion video at The New York Times. And this is a new thing at The New York Times. canada goose deals And he has three videos that he just directed, a series of three videos, on disinformation and how the Russians have spread it. And you can see those on The New York Times website. We’ll be right back. This is FRESH AIR. canadian goose jacket

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you’re just joining us, my guest is Adam Ellick, and he’s the executive producer of opinion video at The New York Times. And this is a new thing at The New York Times. And he has a series of three videos about disinformation spread by the Russians. And the title of the series is “Operation InfeKtion.”

canada goose store So one of the videos is about the seven commandments of fake news. And, you know, one of the, you know, so called rules in the playbook that you developed was, you know, wrap the fake news around a grain of truth, wrap the conspiracy theory around a grain of truth, and that leads to Russia Today, which has more truth than conspiracy theory, but it’s embedded. Like, the conspiracy theories and fake news are embedded in the journalism. You say Russia Today is about 80 percent actual journalism and 20 percent disinformation, which gives the 20 percent of disinformation a lot more credibility ’cause you think, well, so much of what’s on here is true. This must be true, too. canada goose store

ELLICK: Yeah. It’s a fascinating story, and a largely untold story of Russia Today. I mean, when Russia Today launched in the States, they were in the back seat of canada goose coats on sale New York City taxicabs, and they hired people like Larry King, who were familiar faces to an American TV audience. on your expanded cable package. And if you watch their coverage sort of passively, most stories are quite typical, and not offensive and not full of disinformation campaigns. But when you sprinkle in a few cases here and there, they become much more believable because they’re wrapped in what is otherwise normal broadcast TV coverage. But as you point out in your series of videos, we’re starting our own fake news now, and it’s catching on quite well. President Trump has frequently described the media as, like, bad people, the enemy of the people. And he revoked Jim Acosta’s White House pass, his White House press credentials. And CNN is now suing because of that.

But I bring this up because there’s a fake video that was spread when a White House intern at President Trump’s post midterm press conference grabbed the microphone from Jim Acosta when President Trump didn’t like Acosta’s question. And the video was faked in a way to make it seem like Acosta tried to karate chop this young woman’s, the intern’s, arm. And he did not actually do that. So it made it canada goose outlet seem like he was being aggressive against her in a way that he wasn’t. Have you learned anything about that video?

ELLICK: So one of the challenges in making this film Canada Goose Jackets is that the news sort of moved faster than we could.

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