How Russian Bots Invade Our Elections
Analyst Ksenia Kirillova – about the image of the American elections being created in Russian state media and what ideas are being broadcast to Russians.
Russian media pay great attention to the US elections. How do they describe what is happening?
Ksenia Turkova: Why is Russia closely following the US elections??
Ksenia Kirillova: Largely because the inhabitants of Russia themselves are deprived of this – this intrigue, uncertainty, when you really do not understand who can become president. Everything is predictable in Russia. And this is an expectation, this drive, the Russians would very much like to experience. But there is another reason: for Russians – and for other residents of post-Soviet countries – watching elections in faraway America is not as traumatic as watching elections in their own country. Americans take all this to heart, because their fate is being decided, and for Russia it is more of a show. In addition, since America is still considered the enemy, such deep involvement helps to relieve anxiety, gives the illusion of control: you are in control, you are watching. those who will become your opponent. We need to know who to fight with.
K.T .: How did the Russian media cover the election campaign? Were there any main lines?
K.K .: The American elections began to be covered long before election day, and it should be noted that those narratives that were outlined even then, they have intensified in recent days. Comparing the situation with 2016, most Russian commentators tried not to express direct support for Donald Trump, as they did then. We tried to do without drinking champagne. There were statements that both candidates are not very good for us. Putin, in turn, also said that he could work with anyone. Nevertheless, it could be said that the majority of Russian commentators and analysts are on Trump’s side..
The first line I would highlight: the US electoral system. She became the main target of propaganda. Russian media tried to play back the criticism with which the West reacted to the recently introduced three-day voting system in Russia. Russian official media criticized and even ridiculed the American mail vote and stated that there would be massive fraud..
It must be said here that the grounds for such statements were provided by the American politicians themselves. Back in the summer, Donald Trump said that mail-order voting promises to be the most inaccurate and deceitful in the history of elections. Of course, the Kremlin media could not refuse such a gift. The program “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” has already announced that these elections were marked by total censorship, a complete lack of freedom of speech and numerous falsifications. The business newspaper “Vzglyad” came out with the subtitle “They want to steal the election victory from Trump,” that is, everywhere there were “prophecies” that the Democrats would definitely falsify the elections.
By the way, I do not exclude that many people really believe in this. After all, if the counting of votes was delayed, what can this mean? Only that at this time something is thrown in and falsified there (as is often the case in Russia). Can electoral commissions do something else??
K.T .: And what did they say about the candidates themselves? What are their portraits in Russian media?
K.K .: Russian state channels talked a lot about Joe Biden’s health and how terrible he was. Television relishes all of his reservations, highlighting his weakness and prowess as incumbent President Trump. No one directly says what they are for Trump, but at the same time Biden is shown in a negative light. In general, the Russian media often emphasize the physical disabilities or imperfections in the appearance of the clothes of those politicians who are unsympathetic to them. It works in Russia. If for the Western consciousness this is a low reception, then in Russia it is possible to play on this.
The third narrative concerns the Biden family, corruption scandals. This was discussed in conjunction with Russia. Installing state media – the whole story with Russian intervention was originally a fake based on false data.
Finally, the main narrative, and it is now being actively promoted, is the riots and the impending civil war..
K.T .: But there is some truth in this: we see the mood of people, radicalization, how the windows in shops are boarded up, how weapons are bought – and so on …
K.K .: Yes, I would not blame Russian propaganda for this. American experts say, in principle, the same thing – the likelihood of collisions and chaos is very high. This is undoubtedly true, there is this risk. But it’s important to note that most of the Kremlin media blames Trump’s rivals for the unrest. They call this unrest a classic “color revolution,” an attempt by Democrats to overthrow the president. Although incidents are known to have occurred on both sides.
In the past few years in Russia, there has been a lot of talk about the fact that the United States “exported” color revolutions in the post-Soviet space, along the entire perimeter of the Russian borders. Therefore, now propagandists gloat: America, as they say, has flown in a “response”.
K.T .: In your opinion, how long will the topic of the American elections be relevant in the Russian media??
K.K .: Russia is now in crisis not only in the economy, and, I think, television will distract Russians from all pressing problems for as long as possible. American elections in such a situation are salvation, we need to focus on spectacles, and with bread it will be worse. In addition, it is necessary to show the unattractiveness of Western life: only in Russia is there real democracy, and there – stuffing, falsifications, violence and unrest.
Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the direction of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations Echo Moskvy, City FM, Kommersant FM. From 2013 to 2017, she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of the information radio station Radio Vesti, directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for Voice of America in Washington DC.