Briefs

Poland: 10-16 October 2016

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A right-wing Polish website warns that electing Hillary Clinton as U.S. president means war.

Event: On 14 October, the right-wing Polish website Polmedia post a text by Jan Kołakowski titled “Trump or war, warns Zhirinovsky.” The article covers a speech by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Russian Liberal-Democratic Party and deputy chairman of the state Duma, in which he said that a victory for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would mean war with Russia.

The false fact or narrative: Polmedia added its own comment to Zhirinovsky’s statement: “We can blame Zhirinovsky for many things, as well as we can blame Trump. It is, however, impossible to deny that Hillary Clinton constitutes a serious threat to the stability of international politics—of course, not because she is a woman, but because of her suspicious links, to say the least … She and her collaborators are responsible for the war in Syria, which was to help Israel maintain its hegemony in the region … Therefore, if Hillary Clinton did not hesitate to unleash hell in the Middle East (and in all of Europe, flooded by hundreds of thousands of immigrants), then what can stop her from waging further wars?

Reality on the ground: Syria’s civil war grew out of internal problems and was among the consequences of the Arab Spring. Despite the popularity—especially in Russia—of conspiracy theories in which the United States is behind these revolutions throughout the Arab world, no evidence exists to support such a thesis. President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced criticism for not taking definitive action in Syria, which conspiracy theorists claim was to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stay in power. Even many Republican politicians say this was a display of weakness. Neither Zhirinovsky nor Polmedia’s website present any evidence that Clinton planned to declare war against Russia.

Techniques: 
  • Spreading conspiracy theories
  • presenting opinions as facts.

Audiences: This disinformation is directed at Polish public opinion.

Analysis: For weeks, Polish media have been spread Russian disinformation warning that the election of Hillary Clinton would lead to a U.S. war against Russia. The “light” version of this campaign, exemplified by the state-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, suggests a question: “Is Clinton heading for a war?” The “hard” version, on the other hand, flat-out states that Clinton would wage war with Russia, as presented by the nationalist web portal Russkaya Vesna.

The campaign’s objective is to use the fear of war as a tool in the U.S. presidential campaign. The idea, according to Russian strategists, is to win supporters for Donald Trump by instilling among average Poles the idea that Poland’s elite—which is pro-American and generally support Clinton—are in fact instigators of global conflict. Therefore, Poles must support alternative candidates who seek to improve relations with Russia, thereby averting World War III.