Briefs

Poland: 26 September—2 October 2016

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The U.S. State Department threatens Russia with terrorist attacks, claims a pro-Kremlin website.

Event: On 1 October, the right-wing Polish website parezja.pl published an article titled “U.S. Department of State threatens Russia with terrorist attacks if Moscow keeps fighting ISIS.” The article is based on comments made 28 September by State Department spokesman John Kirby on the effects of Russian involvement in Syria’s civil war.

The false fact or narrative: Kirby threatened to launch terrorist attacks against Russian cities and shoot down Russian jets if Vladimir Putin keeps targeting ISIS in Syria, claims parezja.pl.

Reality on the ground: What Kirby actually said was this: Extremist groups will keep taking advantage of security lapses in Syria in order to carry out attacks, whose targets may also include attacks on Russian interests and maybe even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send soldiers back home in body bags, and it will continue to lose resources, maybe even planes. Kirby did not threaten Russia itself; rather, he described the consequences of Russia’s policy in Syria. Yet many Russian media outlets presented his words as a U.S. threat to Russia, including the Polish-language version of Russia’s state-owned web portal, Sputnik. In fact, parezja.pl spread not only the news item but also the Russian interpretation of Kirby’s warning. But that fact was concealed from the public, since the Polish site presented the Russian interpretation as its own opinion.

Techniques: 
  • Presenting opinions as facts.

Audience: Polish public opinion.

Analysis: By manipulating Kirby’s statements, parezja.pl implies that the United States controls the world’s terrorists, and that it seeks to punish Russia for fighting ISIS, which is considered one of the greatest threats to global security. The website creates an artificial dichotomy between the “good Russians” and “the bad Americans”—with the hope that Poles will lose trust in their government, which consistently remains a U.S. ally