“Ideology of Victory” and the Death of Daria Dugina

Daria Dugina (Darya Dugina), daughter of Alexander Dugin, was reported to have died on August 20, 2022 in a car bombing in the Moscow suburbs. Russian political authorities, federal police, and propagandists have consistently portrayed it as an act of Ukrainian terrorism and pointed to Ukrainian suspects.

Conversely, Ukraine has officially denied these allegations. Rather than taking the event at face value as it has been portrayed in Russian media, many Western reports have questioned whether it was an act of “false flag” terrorism.

In this scenario, the killing of Dugina would be intended to bolster public support for the war in Ukraine by reinforcing the idea of Ukraine as a fascist, terrorist state. It would be analogous to a widespread theory that the FSB had carried out a series of apartment bombings in September 1999 in order to bolster public support for a second war in Chechnya.

When Alexander Dugin first released a public statement about the assassination, he did so through Konstantin Malofeev on Malofeev’s Telegram channel [1]. Malofeev, like Dugin has not only been sanctioned for his actions related to Ukraine, but is a member of the ultra-conservative Izborsky Club; a philosophical group which was co-founded by Alexander Prokhanov and Vitali Averyanov, and includes many prominent Russians, some close to Putin [2].

This long-read report demonstrates that regardless of whom may be responsible for the crime, the death of Daria Dugina has been consciously manipulated by figures like Alexander Dugin, Alexander Prokhanov, and Konstantin Malofeev in order to frame the murder as a kind of symbol of martyrdom which supports the neo-imperialist “Ideology of Victory” that was formally articulated by the Izborskists in October 2021, prior to the Ukraine invasion.

The death of Daria Dugina provokes enduring symbols of Russian ideology

This observation in and of itself does not mean the Izborskists have complicity in the murder. But it does seek to prove objectively that the death has been used consciously from the start as an ideological and political instrument of Russian imperial power. Continue reading ““Ideology of Victory” and the Death of Daria Dugina”

Plant “Stirol” as Potential Site of Russian Chemical Weapons Provocation

Last week I blogged on how Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had claimed that Russia was the victim in a global information war, and how that narrative had many parallels to previous Russian denials of chemical weapons attacks for which Russia bears clear responsibility. Additionally, Shoigu’s remarks on information war had come just weeks after he foretold chemical weapons provocations by American agents in Ukraine in a context which evoked prior disinformation narratives about the White Helmets in Syria [1].

It was reported yesterday that US officials have claimed that Russian operatives may be planning a “false flag” attack in the Donbas as a provocation to justify a broader invasion of Ukraine [2].

This morning, Ukrainian intelligence sources warned:

According to the military intelligence of Ukraine, on January 14, tanks with ammonia were delivered to Gorlovka [Horlivka], occupied by Russian troops, at Concern Stirol PJSC, from which, due to a leak, toxic substances are leaking into the atmosphere.  The man-made disaster caused by the actions of the Russian invaders can be used to accuse Ukraine of using toxic chemicals and as a pretext for expanding armed aggression against our state.” [3]

Continue reading “Plant “Stirol” as Potential Site of Russian Chemical Weapons Provocation”

The ROC’s Pro-Vaccination Conspiracy Theories

In American conservative media, there has been a recent push encouraging vaccine adoption. Notable examples of figures making public statements advocating for vaccines over the past week include Mitch McConnell, Steve Scalise, and Sean Hannity. Such gestures have been welcomed by semi-puzzled liberals, who have come to associate conservative politics during much of the pandemic with skepticism of vaccines and an embrace of conspiracy theories [1].

In the past month, a similar push for the acceptance of vaccines has been furthered in Russia. This seems to have been kicked off on June 30 with Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in show where he said he had received the Sputnik V vaccine. This added additional detail to quieter earlier disclosures that the Russian president had received a second shot in March. While promoting the safety of domestic Russian vaccines, Putin continued to stoke fears in Western vaccines, saying: “thank God we haven’t had tragic situations after vaccinations like after the use of AstraZeneca or Pfizer.”  [2]

Putin’s patriotic vaccine statements seemed to form a cue for senior clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to come out publicly in favor of vaccination with domestic vaccines, using many of the tropes of conservative conspiracy theory. This vaccine promotion is interesting because these figures have themselves often been associated with national ideology, conspiracy theories, and disinformation – and even rumors of involvement with the FSB.  Their approach may offer some constructive lessons in how conspiratorial language can be repurposed to promote vaccine adoption. But it also raises more questions about the state of disinformation in Russia and its effects abroad.

Holy men Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Vladimir Putin, and Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov)

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Russian Origins of the Vaccine Microchip Conspiracy Theory

I recently read an article which suggested that the conspiracy theory that vaccines contain microchips emerged following a March 18, 2020 Reddit AMA with Bill Gates [1]. In response to the AMA, biohackers began to write positively about the potential for chip-based medical devices to combat epidemics and deliver vaccines.

Within several days of the Reddit AMA, a Baptist pastor from Jacksonville Florida named Adam Fannin – known best for his anti-Semitic conflicts with comedian Sarah Silverman in 2019 – found one of these biohacking blog posts online. Fannin then developed it into his own interpretation of apocalyptic prophecy largely based on his “deep distrust of Gates”. Fannin made a 9-minute YouTube sermon which went viral and accumulated nearly 2 million views before it was taken down.  “The pastor titled the post, “Bill Gates – Microchip Vaccine Implants to fight Coronavirus,” adding one pivotal word to the biohackers’ title: vaccine.”[1]

Looking more deeply into the origin of the vaccines and microchips story, I think it is important to observe how it may emerge from and complement Russian Orthodox nationalist geopolitics and information warfare. Continue reading “Russian Origins of the Vaccine Microchip Conspiracy Theory”

Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” helped a Russian information strategy

Last evening, I attended a virtual lecture on disinformation in which the claim was made that the Russians were responsible for the narrative that the US government created the 1990’s crack epidemic in Los Angeles.

In discussion of the topic however, the presenter did not provide the source for the claim, but related it to the well-known case of Operation Infektion or Denver, in which the KGB had created disinformation that the US had begun the AIDS epidemic as a biological warfare program targeting Black people.

While I had previously researched a hunch that the claim of CIA involvement in the crack cocaine epidemic was Russian disinformation, I was unable to find a Russian source; forcing me to leave it in the ‘unverified’ column. The best I could find was that such claims officially started with American journalist and author Gary Webb, best remembered for his “Dark Alliance” article series (1996) and book (1998).

Duped on Dope: Gary Webb (1955-2004)

Riding partly on the lingering antiwar buzz of the Iran-Contra scandal, Webb claimed that CIA involvement in the drug trade stemmed from its cooperation with Nicaraguan Contra fighters seeking to overturn the (Soviet-instilled and KGB-linked Sandinista) government of Nicaragua. (Official retrospective investigations revealed some of these resistance fighters backed by the CIA were involved in drug smuggling activities; but not at the scale which has been alleged by Webb.)

Despite my suspicions about Webb, since I hadn’t ‘cracked the crack story’ as Russian disinformation, I’ve looked into Webb on this blog only so much in the case of his close collaboration with the independent journalist Kristina Borjesson who has been responsible for building a conspiratorial case that the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster over Long Island Sound was the result of a missile shootdown – possibly by the US Navy – and was covered up by the FBI.

My conclusions from that research into the 1996 TWA conspiracy theories were that they were more plausibly linked to an Iranian disinformation campaign in retaliation for the 1988 US Navy shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in Iranian territorial waters – than that of a Russian one.

However, there was also some evidence that (much like the Nicaragua Sandinistas,) the terrorist groups implicated in previous Iranian retaliatory actions for the 1988 accident (such as the PFLP-GC) had strong linkages to the legacy of the KGB. Continue reading “Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” helped a Russian information strategy”

Coronavirus as Hybrid Total War (Correlation is not Causation)

From the start of this pandemic, it has been likened to a war – especially to our generation’s equivalent experience of a world war.

Although this war seems to primarily affect civilians, as of today (January 3, 2021), the US has experienced more than 350,000 deaths due to COVID-19; this is more than the  approximately 53,000 U.S. combat deaths in World War I, and it seems likely that within months casualties will eclipse US WWII combat death totals of 416,600.

Graph demonstrating that there is some moderate correlation between US military alliance and COVID-19 death rate (Source: Statista.com)

Of course, a comparison with the global influenza epidemic of 1918 may be more apt in this case. The influenza infected almost 25% of the planet. It killed nearly 45,000 American soldiers – almost equivalent to the overlapping US combat deaths in World War I – and caused 675,000 deaths among American civilians.

It seems reasonable to state at this point in history, that the current pandemic is taking on some features which give it some feature similarity to prior world wars and pandemics from the perspective of the public experience.

With that said, we are objectively in a pandemic – but are we objectively in a war? Continue reading “Coronavirus as Hybrid Total War (Correlation is not Causation)”

Don’t Buy the ‘Chinese Meat’ of Chekist Disinformation

The position of my blog has generally been oriented towards viewing Russia as a rogue and China as a peer – such that they respectively merit foreign relations approaches weighted towards war and diplomacy. Despite this, the informational evidence shows that the idea of an inevitable “Thucydides Trap” between China and the US has been exacerbated by Russian disinformation and active measures. Now it seems many very fine people on both sides are eating a similar tainted “Chinese meat” of disinformation sourced from Russian intelligence which will lead to Chinese-US hostility if carried to a logical conclusion.

A long time to go and a fallacy from far away (Approved for Chinese and US audiences)

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Interview with Matt Makowski about Nostradamus Disinformation

Maciej “Matt” Makowski is a veteran of An Garda Siochana (Ireland’s National Police and Security Service), where he specialized in intelligence and cyber-crime. He was the first foreign national to be admitted to the highly selective police service and worked there over a decade. After retiring early in 2019, he currently is employed in the private sector in the information security industry. Matt operates the very interesting OSINT ME (osintme.com) blog which has a focus on open source intelligence methods (I’ve even found the site useful for my day job).

Recently I reached out to Matt noting that he had written in February about the utilization of the novel coronavirus in the context of nation state (dis)information warfare . Of specific interest to me, he traced using open source web data how a false Nostradamus prophecy was utilized by the misleadingly-named pro-Kremlin website Ukrainia.ru, which is actually based in Russia. This kind of insight on Nostradamus in disinformation lines up very closely with my observations from prior research.

In order to promote continued awareness about Nostradamus’ use in Russian information warfare, I reached out to Matt to share some of my papers. A question and answer session over email ensued about my perspectives on the subject. I found this an enjoyable experience and hope you will visit Matt’s blog to check it out. You may also learn a lot about open source intelligence in the process.

Nostradamus Prophecies and their Links to Russia @ OSINT ME

The Priory of Sion Hoax as a Surrealist Conspiracy and Provocation

I had noted that there is a database of debunked claims about COVID-19 at Carnegie Mellon University, which includes reference to the idea of the virus as some kind of Russian bioweapon. As I was unaware of any example of disinformation on this matter (with the exception of hoping the reference didn’t somehow come from this site), I did find a reference to such a claim at a site generally associated with Russian disinformation targeted at the US Military: Veteran’s Today.

The story is posed in a geopolitical and Christian-apocalyptic context. It closes with a comment on the supposed relation of Jesus Christ to the Merovingian dynasty of France. The idea of a Merovingian dynasty is primarily associated with ideas of Pierre Plantard, and the so-called Priory of Sion, which influenced author Dan Brown’s novels most notably, ‘The Da Vinci Code’. 

Most charitably, the matter of the Priory of Sion has the appearance of being a French attempt at creating a Holy Grail mythology for France similar to that for example of King Arthur in Britain; on the other hand, this hoax also seems to have many hallmarks of fascistic propaganda linked to historical Russian influence. 

The interesting thing about the cultural background of the milieu of prophecy related to COVID-19 in the Veteran’s Today article is not only its ‘Duginesque’ apocalypticism, but the idea that Plantard’s purposeful efforts to create the Priory of Sion hoax were largely based on his work with espionage-linked occultists and Surrealists. His efforts seem intended to prove that he himself was heir to the Merovingian bloodline – predicted by none other than Nostradamus – and therefore himself a descendant of Jesus by the logic of the false prophecy.

Not to praise myself, but there are many examples of Nostradamus conspiracy now being discussed in the context of disinformation and information warfare around COVID-19 (1, 2, 3). I see this as a replication of my prior efforts to some extent. (Once again, the Nostradamus piece of this conspiracy is only a facet of the total disinformation.) 

I’ve been sitting on most of the below analysis for a while, but I think it is complete enough to post in light of the use of such ideas in COVID-19 disinformation.

The Priory of Sion and the Quest for the Holy Grail, or Lincoln's ...
Pierre Plantard: con man

Continue reading “The Priory of Sion Hoax as a Surrealist Conspiracy and Provocation”

It has to be asked: Coronavirus as a Russian ‘Hybrid Biothreat’?

Given the unprecedented nature of both the true public health risk and accompanying informational hysteria associated with ‘coronavirus’ (a.k.a. COVID-19 / nCoV2019), I have some hesitancy to blog this because I think it is potentially irresponsible given the current public anxieties. In the worst case, it could be wrong and amplify conspiracy thinking about the crisis, which is certainly not my intent. That said, based on my research, this crisis reminds me of Russian information warfare associated with the AIDS epidemic as well as 9/11 conspiracism; and the informational profiles of modern warfare campaigns in Syria and Ukraine as well. Despite the potential for contributing to conspiracy thinking with this analysis, I think talking about things like this openly is important to improve our informational (and apparently public health) security posture.

It is inarguable that Russia is spreading disinformation about the coronavirus in multiple sources, accusing both China and the United States of releasing it as a bioweapon. Resultingly, there seems to be evidence that public officials in China and the US have accused the other respective nation of strategically orchestrating this crisis for warfare purposes. Allegorically, conspiracy theories about the virus as a bioweapon seem popular online, and I’ve heard them in personal conversations as well.

To give this unprecedented crisis the unique definition it deserves, I think it is clear that the Russian activity around coronavirus may classify the outbreak as a ‘hybrid biothreat’ – a mashup of the terms ‘hybrid threat’ and ‘biothreat’.

A hybrid threat has been described by NATO as: “Hybrid threats combine military and non-military as well as covert and overt means, including disinformation, cyber attacks, economic pressure, deployment of irregular armed groups and use of regular forces. Hybrid methods are used to blur the lines between war and peace, and attempt to sow doubt in the minds of target populations.

A biothreat has been described in military academia as: “Biological threat agents or, more colloquially, biothreats or bioagents are pathogens and/or their toxic products that pose a substantial threat to human health. They are a diverse group that includes viruses, bacteria, and toxins from biological sources, and indeed that diversity is reflected in the extraordinary range of transmissibility, infectivity, and lethality that they exhibit. Bioagents encompass both naturally occurring and engineered pathogens and the threat they pose originates from natural outbreaks as well as from their intentional release.

Thus, a ‘hybrid biothreat’ could be seen as such a biothreat which supports a hybrid threat kind of warfare campaign, but which does not rise to the level of perceived threat which is likely to result in a direct military confrontation.

The question is whether Russia is simply exploiting an impromptu opportunity to sow international discord – or whether the disinformation is supporting actual biowarfare as a component of a higher-order hybrid warfare campaign. There’s no hard evidence that the novel coronavirus is a Russian bioweapon, but perhaps I can persuade you circumstantially that the Russians have masterfully exploited the crisis to the benefit of their broader ‘portfolio’ of operations. Maybe it is common sense.

Bat Shit Crazy: A Russian Mission to Mars?

The first piece of evidence I would highlight is the legacy of the ‘Operation Infektion’ active measure from the 1980’s, where Communist Russian and East German disinformation agents claimed the HIV virus which causes AIDS was a bioengineered weapon of the United States military. It was a successful operation which seems to have fundamentally undermined faith and confidence in the US government.

So just to note, there is a clear precedence in this idea of blending disinformation with a public concern about a viral biothreat as an ‘active measure’ –  accusing the U.S. military of criminally bioengineering the disease as a weapon – and it is a tactic historically attributable to Russian influence.

The next piece of evidence I’d reference is that the well-acknowledged Russian proxy disinformation outlet ZeroHedge was banned from Twitter over spreading allegations that coronavirus was a Chinese-engineered bioweapon, and for ‘doxxing’ a Chinese doctor associated with the crisis in late January 2020.

The offending ZeroHedge article claimed that the novel coronavirus contained inserted HIV genes. Although the scholarly paper they cited in the article was withdrawn because the same gene segments could be found in a variety of organisms, ZeroHedge seems to have continued to amplify this debunked theme over time. (This is a site I’ve been watching a while for its far-right ideology, financial apocalypticism, and bitcoin promotion. It’s the kind of Russian disinformation site which apparently “promotes Trump” (like Infowars) in order to achieve Russian objectives.)

According to ZeroHedge [highlighted as disinformation]: The theory is that the virus, which was developed by infectious disease experts may have originated in the Wuhan-based lab of Dr. Peng Zhou, China’s preeminent researcher of bat immune systems, specifically in how their immune systems adapt to the presence of viruses like coronavirus and other destructive viruses. Somehow, the virus escaped from the lab, and the Hunan fish market where the virus supposedly originated is merely a ruse.

Now, a respected epidemiologist who recently caught flack for claiming in a twitter threat that the virus appeared to be much more contagious than initially believed is pointing out irregularities in the virus’s genome that suggests it might have been genetically engineered for the purposes of a weapon, and not just any weapon but the deadliest one of all.

In “Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag”, Indian researchers are baffled by segments of the virus’s RNA that have no relation to other coronaviruses like SARS, and instead appear to be closer to HIV. The virus even responds to treatment by HIV medications.

Next, in more transparent alignment with Russian disinformation such as the prior case of Operation Infektion, it has been widely reported that Russian state media have outright blamed the virus as emerging from an American bioweapons program and being intended to target the Chinese economy. George Soros – a frequent concept in Russian conspiracism is also included in the milieu (perhaps giving the conspiracism an anti-Semitic dimension).

Examples pointing to the use of Nostradamus and Baba Vanga prophecies in these coronavirus hoaxes by Russian state media and influencers are also closely in line with my prior observations.

The idea of putting a wedge between East and West (to wit China and America) is an idea I’ve discussed previously here in association with Russian disinformation, and may potentially serve Russian interests. (Specifically in the case of China, one might also look historically to the case of the Boxer Rebellion, where diplomats saw Russia playing both sides of the crisis.)

It is well acknowledged that as in the case of the 2016 election that Russia played both sides in an information war – and continues to sow such divides in American society in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. (See how I tried to define ‘schizowarfare’ politically.)

However, it is also clear that Russia played both sides of the informational coin in the lead-up to the hot war of WW2 as well, as evidenced by both anti-fascist propaganda, Russian ‘theosophical’ influence on Nazi ideology, and the very substance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

On matters of human migration, in line with the current crisis, Russia’s prescient border closures with China could be seen as suspect. But in addition broadly elsewhere, the coronavirus hysteria has created problems for Europe in line with ‘weaponized migration’ that is historically associated with aggressive Russian action in Syria. This can be related to the case of Turkish interactions with Russia in Syria leading to new waves of destabilizing migrants into Greece, as Turkey also defends against a high infection rate emanating from Iranians. 

In Ukraine, another of Russia’s clear hybrid war zones of influence, hostility against Chinese workers and migrants has emerged as a result of disinformation consumption.

Italy, home of Roman Catholicism – a faith which Russian Orthodoxy is historically adversarial to – is one of the hardest hit areas by both the migration crisis and the epidemic.

Indeed in Europe, Far-Right parties often associated with Russian influence are using the coronavirus and migration problem to argue against open societies and borders.

Next, we could turn our attention to not only the harsh impact of the coronavirus on the US economy, but of the subsequent shock which was sent through global financial markets as Russia ignited an oil price war with Saudi Arabia. (Looking back at the 2008 financial crisis, it was noted that Russia had attempted to crater the US market recovery by dumping mortgage bonds (which China apparently refused to do and notified US regulators).)

So certainly, from the standpoint of information warfare, synergy with existing campaigns in Ukraine and Syria, and potentially economic warfare as well, there may be a lot of good evidence to tie Russia to aspects of the coronavirus hysteria. It certainly seems to fit the definition of a hybrid threat.

Biothreat seems self evident in the case of coronavirus. But what about a bioweapon? Russia has accused both the US and China of having created coronavirus as a bioweapon, but has anyone asked if Russia may have? Russia is historically known not just to have an outstanding disinformation capability, but to have one of the most clandestine and advanced bioweapons programs in the world as well.

And for the record, it is actually not crazy to ask if the coronavirus had emerged from a lab.

As Scientific American reported on March 11, the Chinese bat coronavirus expert expert Dr. Shi Zhegli – who had discovered the origins of many former coronaviruses (including the previous Chinese SARS outbreak of 2002-2003) “had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China”, and remembered thinking “could [the coronavirus] have come from our lab?”. ‘Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals—particularly bats, a known reservoir for many viruses.’

It seems conceivable to me that a large-scale hybrid warfare campaign most likely linked to Russia (but possibly including some collusive involvement from China, North Korea, and/or Iran) is being waged around coronavirus.

It is interesting to wonder if the virus was actually engineered and released by Russia’s allegedly mature bioweapons program in order to achieve some kind of advanced synergistic hybrid warfare agenda. Russia’s accusations of both Chinese and American bioweapons activity are interesting in light of Russia’s purportedly more mature capabilities in biowarfare; not to mention past notoriety for its AIDS disinformation campaign.

I’d assume the very idea of discussing coronavirus as a bioweapon has become a taboo subject for most intellectuals because of the sheer face value stupidity of the Russian disinformation and its consumers. Followingly, I assume the ‘fog of falsehood‘ around the virus has made the idea of discussing it being a Russian bioweapon forbidden too.

However, maybe the idea of rejecting it as a bioweapon at the academic level is just what Russia wants, because then nobody who cares about how they look in the scholarly community asks if Russia is responsible. If nobody asks the question, then it is possible we could never be prepared for the scenario. So I think it is important to ask, especially of the ‘guy’ with a behavioral pattern of being guilty of the crime before – but who is currently pointing the finger at everyone else.

Certainly it is more parsimonious that the virus came from the outdoor market, or was a curated sample leaked from the Chinese lab, than it came from a Russian source. But based on Russia’s lies about the United States in the past on similar matters, and Russia’s strategic capitalization of the current matter to augment its warfare campaigns in Ukraine and Syria – or to ignite an oil price war simultaneous to the stock market drop on coronavirus – and I would say it is much more likely that Russia is responsible than America is, if it is a bioweapon afterall. Who benefits?

Neither China nor America clearly benefits, but I think Russia seems to be attempting to. It seems a masterful move to divide China and the U.S., along the contours of previously observed patterns associated with Russian strategy. Perhaps the location of the initial outbreak was perfect for both finger pointing and plausible deniability by Russia.

By these measures, I think even if the novel coronavirus is not bioengineered or a bioweapon, the simple fact of Russia’s weaponization of information, migration, and economics around the epidemic highlights the similar weaponization of the virus itself – placing it in the category of what I’d call a ‘hybrid biothreat’.

UPDATE 3/18/2020: Given genomic evidence suggesting the novel coronavirus evolved normally and is not genetically modifed, it strongly debunks Russia’s bioengineered weapon assertions. But it does not prove that the virus was not intentionally leaked. I believe that the raft of press reports of Russian disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak over the past few days supports most of the ideas in this blog. I think it is only a matter of time before the clear connection is made to Russian hybrid activities.