When it comes to “information warfare,” illiberal regimes such as Russia have a major advantage over liberal democracies such as the United States. U.S. government agencies such as the State Department’s Global Engagement Center put the best possible spin on U.S. actions but aren’t allowed to simply lie.
By contrast, Russia’s troll farm (formerly known as the Internet Research Agency), its foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, and other organs of the Kremlin are free to spin fantasies out of thin air: Malaysian airliner MH17, shot down by pro-Russian rebels over Ukraine, was actually a victim of the CIA. A democratic revolution in Ukraine was actually a fascist uprising. Western covid-19 vaccines, which have proven highly safe and effective, are actually dangerous.
The Kremlin strategy is not so much to make people believe its individual lies as to make them doubt the very possibility of truth. As the old saying goes: In a world where nothing is true, everything is permitted. . . .
The Republican Party is increasingly catering to people who live in an alternative universe of false narratives spread by media outlets such as Fox News and Newsmax and on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube. A major political movement becoming completely untethered from reality is terrifying to see — and often accompanies the slide into authoritarianism.