Experts explain how Putin manipulates Russian media to sow 'sympathetic indifference' and skepticism

Vladimir Putin's war on the truth about his brutal invasion of Ukraine is a three-pronged effort to gaslight his own people and the world about the war he started and engender a "Ukraine fatigue" that pushes the public to not focus on the fighting, death and destruction.

Rory Finnin and Jon Roozenbeek, both members of Cambridge’s Disinformation and Media Literacy Working Group, write in Politico that the Russian president's disinformation campaign is rooted in his belief that the West is "decadent and self-involved" and will lull people into a "sympathetic indifference" about the Ukraine war.

They write: "To help sustain our attention and navigate the coming waves of distractions and distortions, we should anticipate the Kremlin’s go-to disinformation tactics and inoculate ourselves against them." Here are three.

"The 'tu quoque' ('you too') or hypocrisy fallacy is a Russian mainstay. Kremlin disinformation tries to deflect from Putin’s crimes by gesturing to those of Western 'partners' — the feigned collegiality is standard — and by quietly calling into question the basis for the very concept of the crime itself.

"Retconning, or 'retroactive continuity,' involves rewriting the past to suit the present. Kremlin disinformation regularly revises yesterday’s realities to chime with today’s events. In launching his unprovoked invasion, for example, Putin declared the 'denazification' and 'demilitarization' of Ukraine as his key objectives."

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To support those false claims Putin has put forth Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko to allege that “Ukraine would have attacked Belarus, had it not been for Russia’s preemptive strike.”

Finally there is what the authors call predictive projection preemptively flying a false flag. To understand what the Kremlin will do next, they say, pay attention to what it says others will do first. Before Putin’s invasion, Russian officials claimed that Ukraine was preparing to taunt the 150,000 Russian troops amassed on its border and attack its own sovereign eastern territory under Kremlin occupation. Now Russian state media is conjuring the specter of Ukraine building a “dirty bomb” and making biological weapons in secret labs with American conspirators. Such ominous finger-pointing is a characteristic projection of the Kremlin’s own actions and intentions.