For several years, in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, we heard from a lot of folks in Washington that the Russian government had unparalleled propaganda, disinformation, and influencing tools and was shaping the debate and American opinions with terrifying effectiveness. (Some of us took a look and saw wide-ranging efforts but no evidence that those Russian efforts actually swung the election. Self-identified “very conservative” Facebook users were not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.)
Now that Maria Butina — the redheaded Russian spy who pled guilty to conspiracy charges back in 2018, spent 15 months in prison, and moved back to Russia — is telling the BBC that the Ukrainians are bombing their own cities, can we all agree that the Russian government’s overseas propaganda and disinformation programs were overhyped?
Go figure, it turns out Russia cannot brainwash significant numbers of Westerners into buying their propaganda. You can’t spin an invasion, shelling cities, bombing maternity hospitals, or thermobaric weapons. Russia may dump a lot of money, time, and effort into shaping Western views of the country, its regime, and their agenda. There’s little sign that it is working.
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