The Russian “Infodemic” Is About More Than Just Elections

Nice picture, comrade, but the coronavirus is coming for you too.Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool/Planet Pix via ZUMA

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This story is infuriating:

As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.

….His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.

….The Russian president has waged his long campaign by means of open media, secretive trolls and shadowy blogs that regularly cast American health officials as patronizing frauds. Of late, new stealth and sophistication have made his handiwork harder to see, track and fight.

….Sandra C. Quinn, a professor of public health at the University of Maryland who has followed Mr. Putin’s vaccine scares for more than a half-decade, said the Russian president was drawing on an old playbook. “The difference now is the speed with which it spreads, and the denigration of the institutions that we rely on to understand the truth,” she said in an interview. “I think we’re in dangerous territory.”

I imagine this kind of thing was common on both sides during the Cold War, and that’s the era that defined Putin’s worldview. But it’s still a little beyond belief that even a wily thug like Putin would keep up this kind of rubbish more than three decades after the wall came down. This stuff doesn’t just damage America, it damages the entire world. Hell, it probably even damages Russia in the long run. What stupidity.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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