Shock election results, terror attacks, refugee crises; sometimes making sense of the world can be overwhelming. Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid spending time and energy trying to figure it all out: Blame Russia.
This tactic has been employed for decades, but really found its feet in 2016 with the election of US President Donald Trump. Over and over again, Russiagaters –those who blame Russia for Trump’s election– have advanced crazy conspiracies, based on very flimsy evidence, to tie Trump to Russia. It’s been such a raging success that world-weary folks across the pond in Europe have started to catch on, too. When it all gets to be too much, just blame Russia.
In one of the latest examples of over-eagerness to blame Russia for all the world’s ills, Molly McKew, who bills herself as an “information warfare expert” and has been ridiculed by analysts for her contributions to the field, drew a link between violence against refugees in Idaho and “Russian info ops” aiming to “inflame” tensions over refugees. When McKew saw the news that a Boise man had stabbed nine people at an apartment complex that houses refugees, that was enough for her to make the link to Moscow.
McKew, who was once an advisor to disgraced former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (and who is therefore clearly no casual or impartial observer of Russia), did not provide any evidence to suggest an actual link to Russia; but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from retweeting the dodgy claim.
Here’s four other times Russia has been blamed for very un-Russia-related events.
1. Black Lives Matter
For some, the daily reality of worsening race relations, rampant racist abuse and police violence in the US is just too hard to accept. Wasn’t there a time when everyone just got along? The answer is no (obviously) but sometimes it’s nicer to believe in the good ol’ days.
So, Russiagaters decided to latch onto the odd theory that Russia was somehow behind or was exacerbating the Black Lives Matter movement. Why? Because some trolls on Twitter seemed to be supportive of the protests, which had originally sprung up in response to genuinely rampant police brutality against black Americans.
Efforts to link Russia to deteriorating race relations in the US hit peak-stupid when Russiagater Louise Mensch suggested that Moscow had “funded” anti-police violence riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
2. #MeToo movement was Russian propaganda
Here Louise Mensch makes another appearance – but unfortunately her Twitter fame and brief appearance as a New York Times columnist (not to mention a stint as a Conservative MP in the UK) means she wields some influence and is actually taken seriously by many fellow Russiagaters.
Her Russia-did-it antics and conspiracy theories have always been insane, but one of her latest –that Russia “started” the entire #MeToo anti-sexual harassment campaign– really took the biscuit. When allegations of sexual assault were made by four separate women against former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in May, Mensch put forward the theory that the entire movement was just a big Kremlin plot. The theory was that, since Schneiderman had been investigating Trump, Russia hatched a plan to take him down.
Unfortunately, Russiagate has not been confined to the US. Eager to jump on the Russia-did-it bandwagon, elements of the media in the United Kingdom have been propagating their own conspiracy theories about Russia meddling in British internal affairs. Despite investigations and studies claiming that Russia, in fact, had not waged some massive information campaign designed to support the ‘leave’ vote during the Brexit campaign, there are still those in the media pushing the story. It seems gullible news consumers are supposed to believe that the Kremlin had more to do with Brexit than broad social discontent with Britain’s status within the European Union and demands for new national sovereignty.
4. Europe’s refugee crisis
Back in 2015, before it was all about Trump, at the height of the refugee crisis there was an obvious spike in articles and analyses blaming Russia for the fact that millions of migrants and displaced war refugees were flooding into Europe from Libya, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Articles sprung up about Russia’s role in making the refugee crisis “worse” and causing a new “wave” of migrants to travel to Europe. NATO’s commander in Europe Philip Breedlove even suggested that Russia was “weaponizing” refugees as part of a wider plan to destabilize Europe.
The effort to blame Russia for the refugee crisis conveniently coincided with the beginning of Russia’s campaign against ISIS and other terror groups in Syria, at the request of the Syrian government. As soon as the Russian campaign began, Western media was content to forget about the fifteen previous years of American wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya which no doubt created far more refugees than one month of Russian involvement could have in Syria.