The Russian campaign to annex Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine is encountering problems from Internet based organizations that are using material found on the web to debunk the Russian disinformation campaign. In Russia the national media is state controlled but the Internet censorship system the government has been trying to install is still not complete. Thus information found on the Internet gets through. There’s a lot of popular opposition to government censorship of the Internet which has slowed government efforts to shut down this annoying antidote for official media deceptions.
What the Russian government is trying to do is use a series of outright but constantly repeated lies about what is going on in Ukraine to justify Russian military moves to annex parts of Ukraine. They used the technique successfully in 2008 when they went after the tiny Caucasus state of Georgia and annexed six percent of Georgian territory. This is called the “Big Lie” technique and while often attributed to the Nazi founder Adolf Hitler (who boasted in print of using it) it’s actually thousands of years old. We have written evidence of the ancient Pharaoh’s using it as did Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon.
At the end of World War I, as Russia collapsed into civil war, the small Russian Communist Party used the Big Lie a lot. The most obvious example was calling themselves the “Bolsheviks” (Russian for majority) even though they were hardly that. Because of squabble with other faction in the socialist movement the communists needed all the help they could get. The faction led by Vladimir Lenin continued to call his group Bolsheviks until they really were. After the establishment of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s the Big Lie went on to become a standard tool for Information War operations. The Soviets admired how the Germans used the Big Lie while Hitler admired how the Soviet Police state so effectively (and ruthlessly) dealt with dissent.
When the Soviet government dissolved in 1991 the Big Lie fell into disfavor for a while but having been such an essential part of the political landscape for so long it was soon back in action. One reason the current Russian government has made such energetic efforts to impose Internet censorship is because the Internet has proved to be an effective and cheap antidote for the Big Lie. The use of the Internet to quickly cripple Big Lies may yet cause Russia serious problems in Ukraine. Then again state control of the mass media enables the Russian government to quickly pump out Big Lies faster than Internet based debunking web sites can expose the falsehoods. The Internet does not kill Big Lies on contact but does shorten the lifespan of Big Lies and diminishes the use of Big Lies for whatever issue they are being applied to. So Russia may well achieve its goals in Ukraine before the Internet can cripple all the Big Lies Russia deployed in support of their land grab.