Tweet Checking: Why has the Russian Embassy Become an Expert Troll?

People you have no idea how close this column came to being a “Scary Skripal Special” given the amount of low-grade conspiratorial crap on Twitter over the past week, but even then some other stupidities couldn’t help but break through.

We often deal with “fake news” here, but really, the big issue this time is not false information but the callous attitude that many have towards information that is in some way ‘inconvenient’ for them. The people demanding “evidence” are demanding it not because they genuinely need more but because they are, it seems, being awkward on purpose—they seem to not be able to accept that there has been a Russian attack on British soil, or give a modest baseline of support to the position of a government they otherwise despise.

And what “evidence” could they possibly want? Do they all have an MRes in Forensic Chemistry to review the molecular analysis themselves? Clyde Davis’ dressing down of disgraced diplomat Craig Murray’s conspiratorial ramblings makes short shrift of amateur attempts at “debunking” claims.

Less and less it seems like over-cautiousness, and more like intentional subterfuge on the part of those attempting to muddy the waters.

5. Daniel Hannan

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I’d love to see Hannan attempt to explain to the survivors of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre or the Hola massacre that all along, “liberty” was the goal, if only they could stop being so difficult and accept they were the white man’s burden. I don’t think all those black people in the Caribbean were guest workers either.

I’ve never been fond of the Commonwealth and its attempt to carry on the ‘spirit’ of the British Empire, giving certain Britons a continued inflated importance in the process—and this is coming from someone who thinks the constant reference by some to historical imperial crimes regularly goes too far. The severe contradictions of someone like Hannan with supposedly liberal aspirations glossing over the traumas of empire is not uncommon—John Locke drafted the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina which upheld slavery and aristocracy some ten years before writing (but not publishing) his famous Two Treatises, giving foundation to modern liberal theory.

However, Hannan doesn’t really have a grandiose ideological vision here—rather, he’s just desperately trying to uphold the flawed notion that Britain can rely on Commonwealth trade after Brexit.

4. Kevin Maguire

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This one is so bad I stopped following Maguire on Twitter. There are a lot of variations on this but given Maguire is an associate editor at the Daily Mirror, he deserves a particular shaming. How on Earth does a flawed intelligence dossier on the military activities of a secretive police state compare with the forensic analysis of an attack on people on our own country a week ago? Is he really risking his professional credibility to go along with the Milne line?

3. Bevan Boy

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There were many examples of this kind of tweet this week, but this was one of the dumbest and the most popular. I just have to ask: where has someone who supports strong action against Russia actively and immediately advocated for war? I haven’t seen it. No one to my knowledge has written an article or even a tweet to that effect.

What this repeat assertion shows—spreading even amongst Labour MPs such as Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who tweeted that certain individuals “beat the drums of war without a clear plan”—is that some on the Left are so fearful of the possibility not even of war but mere confrontation on the international stage that they’d in essence ignore or downplay flagrant and open acts of aggression taking place right here in this country, if not indulge in groundless insane conspiracism.

2. Sharmine Narwani

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Okay then—let’s debunk.

An image search shows that you are the source of these pictures, and in the initial two tweet thread you just show this picture and a picture of the exterior of a building in which members of the Syrian Arab Army (Assadist forces) are entering. The latter is useless as it shows nothing. The former in this tweet here is also pretty inconclusive: I observe two fridge-like units and a table filled with pipe segments. What exactly am I looking at here? No explanation is given.

Really, the process is completely wrong here: you’re supposed to prove to me this is a rebel chemical weapons lab, not me debunkyou.

A further image search shows that you presented a fuller range of images in an article you wrote for some insult to human intelligence called “OffGuardian”, but this doesn’t really prove anything either—you just go along with the SAA assertion that “they tested these canisters immediately & found traces of chlorine.” Why do you believe them? And why should I believe the forces of the regime that the UN holds responsible for the most recent chemical weapons attacks? You say “I couldn’t even hazard a guess at what was cooking in this terrorist-run lab”, before then immediately asserting that “something was being manufactured in this terrorist-held lab”—like what? You say that this “stuff needs to be tested by independent experts”, but then assert that “the int’l community isn’t interested.” How do you know? If this is really happening, then why are you so dismissive? Don’t you want credible opinion? A neutral investigation?

Also, if this site was producing chemical weapons until recently, why is it all so filthy? Why are those beakers empty? All these images produce far more questions than answers.

None of this adds up. All you’ve done is show yourself to be the tool of the regime—now just here, but continuing to tow the Assadist line on your account. Someone asked you to take them there and you refused, instead referring them to the state’s Ministry of Information. No independent verification seems available.

Therefore, I’m going to safely assume the whole thing is a set-up.

  1. 1. The Russian Embassy

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I’ve decided to make this the “top tweet” for this week because it showcases the issue of when you begin to believe your own propaganda.

This sort of emotive begging and facetious attitude shows that the Russian government is either trolling us or possibly simply believes that it has done nothing wrong.

Maybe I’m being unfair; maybe the embassy staff aren’t total nuts. But Russian exceptionalism certainly plays a key role here, not to mention the theories of Putin’s media advisor Vladislav Surkov, who literally wishes to “undermine people’s perception of the world, so they never know what is really happening.”

If we take this as a given in this situation, the effect has been to use an obvious Russian weapon to kill a known Russian target, and act like nothing happened. Then when questioned, get all defensive about it. The attempted (and perhaps one day soon successful) killing of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on the streets of a British city warns exiles abroad and dissidents at home of their possible fate, while the machinations of the Russian foreign ministry and English-language propaganda networks keep us in Britain not only confused but at each other’s throats. And with the Defence Secretary turning into a stroppy teenager, and the Leader of the Opposition wringing his hands and bringing up Iraq for no reason, it’s worked beautifully. Everyone in this country is angry at and accusing each other, rather than uniting against a foe that will quite cheerfully destroy us all.

As to who is responsible for “groundlessly wrecking relations with Russia”, that’ll be Lavrov for saying the UK government is “insane”.

More about the author

About the author

Harris Coverley writes the Tweet Checking column for Disclaimer and is constantly looking for readers to help him correct the worst of internet. No stupidity or falsehood is too great a challenge.

He lives in Manchester and holds an MA in Intellectual History from UCL. He also writes short fiction and poetry, the former of which only Disclaimer has had the good sense to publish.

Follow Harris on Twitter.

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