Sputnik International is a Russian state-owned “news” site run by Rossiya Segodnya. It’s not that hard for the average citizen to figure it out given some basic Google skills. But to the aimless, bored, and uncurious scouring the internet for information about the impending war of worlds, this propaganda machine run by Russian Intelligence just seems like, well, any other independent site worried about the sad state of international security. Its top-billed inclusion on my RSS feed and in Google news searches is both impressive and misleading. And that calculated simplicity is what makes it some of the most brilliantly orchestrated and yet, subtle, psychological warfare in recent years.
The name alone should raise some questions for the average reader, but in a reverse psychology move (PSYCH!) , it almost does the opposite: How could a Russian propaganda website possibly be named Sputnik? But maybe, sadly, there are enough people who have no idea what Sputnik even means. In that case it’s even more (or, perhaps far less) impressive that something so rooted in historical significance has managed to slip under the radar.
The website itself has a clean look and a user-friendly design. It isn’t even obvious that there aren’t any ads. The logo is simple and the photos are visually stimulating. Even the “About” section is relatively innocuous:
“Sputnik points the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions.”
Seems legit. Everything adds up to a well designed website with a global and even progressive view on international policy. Serious money, thought and time have gone into making this platform the Little Red Riding Hood of state-sponsored political manipulation. Except in this case, the wolf is wearing red, and it speaks Russian.
Since the site was launched last November, its articles have become increasingly more nuanced than an initial interview it published claiming a “Trotskyist” ideology behind U.S. foreign policy. Headlines like, “Angry Afghans Rally in Protest Rally Against Continuing Military Raids,” and “U.S. Embassies Return to Issuing Visas After Computer Glitch,” ensure we look like a war-mongering super power drunk on democratic dominance while concurrently being horribly incompetent. Which, in all honesty, is perhaps not an inaccurate portrayal, but when combined with, “FBI:Neo-Nazis Enlist in U.S. Military to Train for Future Race War,” adds up to a greater sum than its parts. And it’s not just anti-U.S. news that pertains to Russia–they’re drumming up support everywhere they can:
Russia has embraced the internet. As a really fabulous article in the New York Times Magazine points out (full disclosure: Mr. Chen is a former Gawker employee, but I’ve never met him... I think–Gawker parties get weeeeeird.), the misinformation campaign waged by Russian trolls has reached impressive and terrifying heights:
“On the same day as the Ebola hoax, a totally different group of accounts began spreading a rumor that an unarmed black woman had been shot to death by police. They all used the hashtag #shockingmurderinatlanta.”
Russian intelligence is flawlessly utilizing the anonymity, laziness, and collaborative disillusionment with the mainstream media found on the internet. Meanwhile we’re busy getting hacked by them—and then they’re reporting on it! And, granted, while we may not be advertising our own offensive breaches of Chinese or Russian intelligence agencies, it looks pretty bad when we’re getting shade thrown at us by semi-nude horse enthusiast, Vladimir Putin. We’re being exploited by a country led by a man that can’t differentiate between gay people and pedophiles. Now, to be fair, some of our own politicians can’t understand what it means to be attracted to people of the same sex rather than children, but they’re not (maybe????) the leaders of the first country put to man on the moon.
Needless to say, we’re getting owned in the overt psyops category. But just in case you’re worried we’re not doing our own strategizing for the impending war with Russia, we’ve got a subtle, long game campaign brewing:
[From the Youtube channel description: Paratroopers with 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division jumping into Deadhorse, Alaska, as the unit conducted its first airborne exercise north of the Arctic Circle.]
[All screenshots taken from Sputnik International.]