In 1903, one of the most successful and damaging conspiracy theories in the entire history of mankind was published in the Russia of the Tsars.
The story of 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'
This conspiracy theory appeared in the city of Saint Petersburg, specifically in the pages of a newspaper called "Znamya", owned by Pavel Krushevan, an editor who combined Russian nationalism with anti-Semitism. The theory was published between September 28 and September 7 of that year, in the form of a series of texts that were allegedly stolen from a secret Jewish organization. The series of texts is entitled "The protocols of the Elders of Zion", and in it the Jews would confess secret plans to control the media and politicians, destroy Christianity and the nations, accumulate immense riches, promote the most diverse vices among the Gentiles, control the economy and, finally, dominate the world.
The publication of these texts was aimed at a Russian society already plagued by anti-Semitism. Just a few months before the publication of "The Protocols", several pogroms were organized in which dozens of Jews were murdered, after Pavel Krushevan's newspaper blamed them for the murder of a young Christian, Mikhail Rybachenko. Shortly after it was learned that the perpetrator of the crime was a relative of the victim, but the damage had already been done. Today it is known that "The Protocols" were an invention of the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, to demonize the Jews. The purpose was crude and simple: they were used as scapegoats to blame them for all the ills of Russian society and prevent popular discontent from turning against the tsars: the very technique of distraction that some Roman emperors used against Christians.
Years after the fall of tsarism, "The protocols" were used by Nazism to promote anti-Semitism. They were a very useful resource for an unscrupulous character, Adolf Hitler, who managed to convince millions of Germans that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against their nation. If in Tsarist Russia that anti-Semitic pamphlet served to fuel anti-Jewish pogroms with tens of thousands of murdered, in Germany that hoax that emerged in Russia in 1903 triggered the Holocaust, a colossal genocide.
That libel used conspiracism to hide an anti-Semitic conspiracy
The story of "The Protocols" shows that feeding conspiracism (the obsessive tendency to explain everything that happens in the world as the result of conspiracies and hidden interests and plans) served to disguise an authentic conspiracy: the creation of a crude lie to promote anti-Semitism and thus blame a specific group, the Jews, for all the ills of society. How many would suspect that they could be victims of a conspiracy at the hands of those who try to convince them that there are conspiracies everywhere? Totalitarianisms have taken advantage of this many times: communism killed many people at which he accused of being "counterrevolutionary" conspirators, and Nazism did the same with the Jews. The real conspirators, the real scoundrels, were the communist and Nazi elites who lured the masses with these conspiracies.
The Kremlin's disinformation campaign on the invasion of Ukraine
What happened with "The Protocols" is dangerously similar to what we have experienced in recent months. In September 2021, major Russian and Belarusian military exercises were announced, bringing together 200,000 soldiers. In the following months, Russian troops began to accumulate along the borders with Ukraine. The tension was rising, and on December 17, Russia presented an ultimatum to NATO and one to the US. Both documents contained abusive demands that I already analyzed in detail here on January 25.
The threatening tone of these demands, coupled with the extensive Russian military mobilization, pointed to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. US intelligence already warned of this possibility on November 22, 2021. The next day Russia denied it . On January 21, he denied it again, and on February 1, it even denied having deployed 100,000 soldiers along the borders with Ukraine. On February 17, Russia again denied its intention to attack Ukraine. Today we know, because the Ukrainians have captured the invasion plans that prove it, that the order to invade Ukraine was signed on January 18.
This is how the Russian government propaganda media misled their audience
On February 12, when these attack plans had been authorized for weeks, the Kremlin accused the West of "hysteria" for warning of this invasion. The Putin regime's propaganda media launched a wave of lies, using expressions like "anti-Russian hysteria", "absurd rumours", "misinformation" and "hysterical posts", slogans propagated by RT and Sputnik News to try to discredit Western politicians and media who warned about the invasion. Propaganda media of the Putin dictatorship did not stop there: on February 15 the Kremlin, via RT, even mocked those warnings about the invasion, when the orders to carry it out had already been signed for weeks.
This wave of lies from the Russian government and its propaganda media flooded social networks, opinion columns and even television talk shows with the slogans of the Kremlin, repeated by admirers of Putin who were not satisfied with denying that this attack were to take place, but also devoted themselves to defaming those who raised the alarm, launching all kinds of insidiousness and false accusations against them, accusing them of misinforming and working under the dictates of hidden interests. They even spread the idea that it was the US and NATO who wanted this invasion, and not Putin.
The conspiracy served, again, to hide a true conspiracy
The Kremlin has not even had to buy propagandists for this task. There are a lot of people on the left and right willing to believe any conspiracy theory that has as protagonists some of those who are among the main enemies of the Putin regime, starting with the US. Interestingly, these people failed to see the real conspiracy right under their noses, a Kremlin plot to intoxicate and mislead the West about invading Ukraine, a colossal disinformation campaign in which the media Russian propaganda officials have shamelessly lied, lies that many have simply swallowed, because they fit their anti-American prejudices like a glove.
The key to the success of this disinformation campaign: prejudice
The most amazing thing about this enormous disinformation campaign by the Kremlin is not that it was successful, but that itcontinues to drag followers once the invasion has begun and its lies are uncovered. Characters who should be ashamed of having accused others of "disinforming" for warning about the invasion, they continue to try to educate us from some media and from social networks about "disinformation", and they continue to launch accusations against others of being bought or of writing to the dictates of interests hidden.
Some explain all this in a conspiratorial way: if Fulanito looks like a Russian agent, if Menganito is a Moscow bot... And I don't think they're right. The Okhrana "procotols" succeeded because there were plenty of people willing to believe them, simply because they fit their irrational hatred of Jews. Today, despite all the scenes of pain and suffering that come to us from Ukraine, Putin's "protocols" continue to succeed because there are people less willing to admit a mistake than to give up their prejudices.
Photo: Asatur Yesayants.
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