1. podcast episode: Kremlin’s apocalyptic stories in the context of COVID-19


Why health is one of the most popular propaganda topics, when everyday reality can stop disinformation, and how we can accidentally turn from innocent social network users into reinforcers of disinformation messages, in the video podcast “Foreign Policy. Russia. Commentaries. ” explains Mārtiņš Kaprāns, associate researcher of the Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS), leading researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia.

1.podcast episode by CEEPS – Kremlin’s apocalyptic stories in the context of COVID-19” – view of the communication researcher Mārtiņš Kaprāns on the coronavirus pandemic in the context of disinformation from the Latvian perspective.

Kaprāns states that Covid-19 is one of the most interesting phenomena that can be observed from the point of view of disinformation. It is a universal theme that is subject to various conspiracy theories and also to various stories of economic collapse, global threat. In short, all sorts of interpretations are being mingled here. And one of the most active players in this field has been pro-kremlin media.

Using Covid-19 as one of our sources of disinformation, we can see a characteristic feature from time to time when talking about the Latvian economy. It is the attempt to draw an apocalyptic picture that our whole economy will collapse shortly and in principle the Latvian state will cease to exist. And those messages found responsive ears – the amplifiers in the form of people who reinforce these messages on social networking sites, – Kaprāns indicates.

In the book “The Russian Economy: Prospects for Putin 4.0” this year published by the Centre for East European Policy Studies, we talk about ideological parallelism. Namely, we are not talking about a clear-cut influence of Russia on Latvian public opinion, but about the fact that certain moods have already matured in Latvian public opinion, including the pull towards stories of a collapsing economy, a dysfunctional health system and global conspiracies. And all you have to do is just to push these people a bit. Sometimes, they may even be ideologically anti-Kremlin in some way. But they get incited on these particular issues that are painful for them, and they join in and as completely independent and non-Kremlin sources of information they actually reproduce the Kremlin-created templates in Latvia’s public space, – researcher explains.

He points out, that attempts to create a parallel reality through disinformation often capitulate through the reality of global events, which is stronger than this proposed reality. In a way, this could also be seen in the case of Covid-19, where Latvia’s success at the European and world level neutralized, in fact deactivated the stories offered by the Kremlin.

Looking to the future at how the overall situation in the world is evolving, Kaprāns draws attention to EU’s database of disinformation messages “EU vs Disinformation” which has collected hundreds of messages on Covid – 19 topics distributed in recent months from various channels. Arround ninety percent come from Russia or the so-called pro-Kremlin information agents. We have no reason to think that anything will change rapidly in the near future, researcher explains.

The discrediting of the EU’s role and moral authority in this pandemic will continue, because it is a very feasible business – people are scared. Health, like children, has always been a very successful topic for propaganda. Economic narratives will mix with conspiracy stories and messages on global security. And we should count with that, Kaprāns concludes.

The Centre for East European Policy Studies is saying thank you for the support and cooperation to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.