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18 Oct, 2021 13:12

Stop blaming ‘Russian trolls’ & ‘RT propaganda’: US democracy declining because Americans have lost faith in their elites – Moscow

Stop blaming ‘Russian trolls’ & ‘RT propaganda’: US democracy declining because Americans have lost faith in their elites – Moscow

Growing disillusionment in American democracy can’t be blamed on a shadowy web of Russian influence, one of Moscow’s top diplomats has said, arguing Washington must face up to the lack of faith ordinary people have in politicians.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that “the threat to American democracy does not come from authoritarian regimes, as it is sometimes fashionable to say, but the distrust its own citizens have.” There is an increasingly common perception, she said, “that everything said by the political elite and the global information monopolies in the US is a lie.”

The diplomat pointed to a recent poll published last week by the University of Chicago and the Associated Press’s NORC Center for Public Affairs Research as indicative of the scale of mistrust. The survey found that “almost all” Americans believe the spread of misinformation is a problem, and the vast majority say it is a home-grown problem.

In the poll of more than 1,000 US residents, 77% said that social media was fueling the spread of misinformation, while 72% pointed the finger at politicians. By contrast, just over half said Russia and China were responsible for disinformation.

“Americans are more likely to blame US politicians, social media companies, and social media users for the spread of misinformation than foreign governments,” Sheila Kohanteb, one of the team behind the study said. “The results show that the public believes the spread of misinformation is an issue that the American government, companies, and individuals all need to try to address.”

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According to Zakharova, this shows that the persistent focus in the West on “Russian troll factories, RT ‘propaganda’ and Chinese cyber forces” is misplaced. “This ruins the whole conceptual basis on which Western Russophobia has conveniently been constructed,” she added.

“It is even risky to make claims about ‘Kremlin hackers,’ because, if anything has been hacked, it is the morals of the American establishment,” the envoy concluded.

Purported Russian disinformation has been blamed for everything from former US president Donald Trump’s 2016 election win to the high levels of Covid-19 vaccine skepticism. However, earlier this year, Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang argued that media attention was disproportionately focused on alleged Russian information-war schemes rather than on domestic fake-news propagation. Blaming the anti-vax movement on Russia, she said, gives President Vladimir Putin “too much credit ... the misinformation is coming from inside the house.”

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