Political forums on the internet are relatively new for the Russian
public. They're today's "universal kitchen", where public opinion is
The Kremlin's virtual squad
Political forums on the internet are
relatively new for the Russian public. They're today's "universal
kitchen", where public opinion is "cooked up". Users report that before
1999 such forums were fairly homogenous sociologically.
70-80% of the audience consisted of like-minded people of liberal and
democratic convictions, representatives of the Russian middle class and
However, in a mere four years this has all
changed. Suddenly, totalitarian opinion makes up 60-80% of all posts on
Russian political forums! This dramatic increase does not correspond to
the spectrum of public opinion. It diverges
significantly from data of internet voting on key problems of modern
For example, today 80% of participants on all
web forums criticize the USA aggressively and monotonously. But on sites
where you can only vote once from one computer, 84% of Russian speaking
internet users support the USA...You find
the same with attitudes to the Chechen war, support/criticism of the
Kremlin policies etc. Wherever voting is protected, wherever it is not
possible to vote several times, surveys come to exactly the opposite
conclusions from those on sites that are "unprotected"
from repeat voting.
On liberal and neutral public political forums of
ru.net there has been a dramatic increase in activity among users
with very similar views. They're the backbone of any forum. Their
activity is so characteristic and unusual, so methodologically and
ideologically similar, that it has begun to attract the
attention of regular visitors to forums. They represent people of
different professions, they write their posts from different cities and
countries, and supposedly belong to different social and age groups. But
after watching them for a while you find that
they share a range of quite specific features which differentiate them
from other participants in such forums.
The conservative and aggressive or
totalitarian ideology propagated by these people is not the main feature
they have in common. Some even try and appear relatively liberal. But
apart from the "statist" ideology that any sane person
is sick of (along with the usual xenophobia, anti-Americanism,
anti-Semitism and intolerance of dissent), what distinguishes these
people is the harshness of their views, their corporate mentality,
shared information pool, behaviour "tics" and very particular
approach to polemic. Whatever the forum, their method of manipulating
mass consciousness involves the same systematic, deliberate lies,
slander and misinformation.
Let's call them ‘the G team'. Let's try and
list the features which enable us to identify whether a forum
participant belongs to this G team.
24-hourpresence on forums.
Some stalwarts of the G team are online all
the time, always ready to repel any "attack" by a dissident liberal. Day
and night, there is never a moment when you can have a discussion on a
forum without these "curators".
the topic, your discussion will inevitably be interrupted by someone
from the "G team". They are omnipresent on significant forums, day and
night, moving from one to another with their homogenised materials and
"Flexibility"of their own ideology, which always coincides with state ideology.
The "G team" invariably purveys an eclectic
array of views and values which correspond to the latest directions of
state PR, the ideology and policies of the Russian leadership. Any
change in state thinking leads to a dramatic change
in the views of all members of the "G team".
If for some other reason the tone of state
propaganda suddenly changes towards the USA, for example, or towards
Mayor Luzhkov, then without even bothering to change their user name,
the same person from the "G team" will dump yesterday's
views and start peddling something he despised yesterday... And vice
versa! And his praise today is as overheated as his abuse was yesterday.
This behaviour is absolutely inconsistent and lacks any common sense or
concern for their own reputation...
Discussions of the Kuril Islands issue is a
good example. Before Putin held talks with the Japanese government, the
members of the "G team" were saying in unison: "not an inch of native
land to the cursed Japanese". As soon as these
closed talks were over, the same authors, without even changing their
user names, started to imagine that it might be possible to hand over
the islands, at a price, or in exchange for vast Japanese investment.
They even started enthusiastically pointing out
the many advantages of this course of action.
Another example: while the bill on the burial
of radioactive waste on the territory of Russia was being discussed in
the State Duma, the members ofthe "G team" zealously assured readers of
the "undoubted advantage, benefit, profit
and safety" of turning Russia into an international nuclear dump. The
people who advocated this called themselves "private individuals and
patriotic emigres", but they were clearly all drawing on information
from the press service of the Russian Ministry of
Unlimited devotion to the Head of state and his circle.
Membersof the "G team", under user names
well-known on many forums, invariably express their boundless love for
the President. They are prepared to physically "destroy" anyone who
expresses the slightest doubt about his merits. The
smallest piece of criticism will have them threatening their opponents
with the law, flogging, reprisals and murder - not only of them, but of
their relatives too. And this is not just a once-off. It happens on all
the political web forums.
Sometimes, members of the "G team" are very up-front about the purpose of their visits to forums. For example:
Let us support the first President to have
tried, over the last 11 years, to change the course of our
long-suffering Motherland's history. May he be judged by his actions,
and not by the gossip ofthe scandal-mongering media. Let
us make constructive proposals here, so that even if the KGB (ha ha) is
present, Putin gets a folder placed on his table where he will find not
vulgar chat, but the "voice of the people", discussing today's problems
and tomorrow's solutions in a civilised
This appeal is interesting for its frankness.
It's a straight exposition of the tasks of the "G team". The only odd
thing is the bit about the hypothetical print-outs "placed on Putin's
table" in the form of proposals, reasoned,
but uncritical, so as not to spoil the president's mood.
Respect and reverence for the Cheka-KGB-FSB.
The "G team" bursting with love and respect
for the FSB in all its historical forms, starting with the Cheka. The "G
team" calls all the "reincarnations" of the hawks the "neo-nobility",
"law enforcement" and "state-forming patriotic"
bodies, whose activities, including the GULAG, should be something to be
proud of for Russians!
Anyone taking part in online discussions who
does not show sufficient respect for the Cheka-FSB will be declared by
the "G team" to be an "enemy of Russia, Russophobe and betrayer of the
motherland". The team constantly stresses
the "honesty, heroism and selflessness" of the Chekists, "the devotion
of their service to the state and the Motherland", the"lack of
corruption" among the ranks of state security bodies, unlike other state
They are endlessly saying on the forums: "The
special services have always existed, and they have always been present
in all democratic states of the West". Or "The FSB is the same kind of
special service as the FBI in the USA, Mossad
in Israel or MI-6 in Great Britain."
Any discussion of the activity of the KGB-FSB
arouses genuinely strong emotions. For example, the following excerpt is
addressed to a reader who expressed insufficient respect for the
KGB-FSB (we apologize for the language used,
but this is how it was in the original): "
NIT DREAMS OF BECOMING A LOUSE. EVERY NIT ON THE FORUM DREAMS OF BEING
NOTICED BY THE KGB. He yells, writhes and prays: "Notice me, I'm the
biggest nit" - but the KGB couldn't give a
shit about you, they have NO INTEREST in nits. If you grow to the size
of lice, then maybe you bastards will get noticed."
The "G team" has recently started
distinguishing the FSB from all its previous "reincarnations" and
portraying it as an organization that is not the direct descendent of
the Cheka-NKVD etc. (as it is portrayed on all its official
symbols) but a kind of "Aphrodite born from the waves", appeared from
The phrase that always drives members of the
"G team" crazy and forces them to show their true colours is the
"lustration of KGB officers". They just can't bear the thought of former
party bosses and KGB officers being subject to
peaceful, legal restrictions. Usually, even after the most measured,
innocent mention of "lustration", the "G team" starts shouting in unison
about "bloody repressions of democratic murderers" and "witch hunts",
after which they just lapse into obscene hysteria.
Main "G team" propaganda lines.
Their propaganda on all the Russian language
forums is anti-liberal, anti-American,anti-Chechen, anti-Semitic and
anti-Western. They back up their slogans and theories with arbitrary
interpretations of facts and events, often completely
false, forcing their opponent to search for links that refute them...
This method is convenient and effective: it distracts attention away
from topical discussions that are inconvenient for the authorities. They
quote extensively from official and semi-official
Russian state propaganda, such as the web publication
strana.ru or the revamped newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (kp.ru). Sometimes they use old ideological tools, like Yakovlev's book
CIA Target - USSR, which is very popular with the "G team". They also draw strongly on odious texts, suchas
Protocols of the Elders of Zion or Mein Kampf. They regularly quote
A Short History Course of the All Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (published during the lifetime of "Comrade Stalin"), but without mentioning the source.
The mythology and the main ideological values of the G team include:
1. The whitewashing of Stalinism and the
rehabilitation of Stalin and his imperial idea of the great Russian
people. The cult of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka.
Underestimating the number of victims ofthe Leninist-Stalinist
2. A ban on the discussion of the lustration and crimes of the
Cheka-NKVD-KGB.The absolute sanctity of this organization from the day
of its founding to the present day;
3. Unremitting Judophobia;
4. Loyalty to the present authorities, the cult of Putin, stories about
the economic and social prosperity of Russia under his leadership;
5. Promoting the Chechen war "down to the last Chechen". Stories of
"perfidious Chechnya attacking poor Russia". Mythological tales of the
"hundreds of thousands of Russians" killed by Chechens in the early
1990s, before the start of the first war. Two years
ago they gave a figure of 20,000 Russians killed - today that figure is
already a million;
6. Xenophobia, racism, justifying the actions of skinheads, and pogroms;
7. Savage hatred of deserters and traitors from the ranks of the KGB;
8. Anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism reminiscent of the time of the cold war in its intensity;
9. Nostalgia for the USSR as a totalitarian empire and a great power feared by the whole world;
10. Restoration of Soviet historical concepts and propaganda clichés, excluding only internationalism;
11. Hatred of the intelligentsia, particularly emigrants, seen by the "G team" as "traitors to the motherland";
12. Hatred of dissidents and human rights advocates, political prisoners
and journalists, from both Soviet times and the present day;
13. Hatred of perestroika, its ideology, its personalities and events. Hatred of the time of Yeltsin and Yeltsin himself;
14. The new element in the "G team" ideological arsenal is that all
dissidents (or simply dissenters) are accused of "Russophobia". This is
now the equivalent of "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda", which was
the 70th article
of the Criminal Code during Brezhnev's time.
G team ideological enemies
The main enemies of the G team are democrats
("dermocrats" [from the word dermo = shit]), liberal westernizers,
Chechens, Europeans, Americans, Jews... Special hatred is reserved for
the Russian liberal intelligentsia, former dissidents,
independent journalists and the human rights movement. Certain
individuals are particularly loathed:
Andrei Babitsky, A. Politkovskaya,
Valeria Novodvorskaya and others known for their critical attitude to the current regime.
Members of the "G team" always use "the higher
interests of the state" to justify restricting freedom of speech or
introducing strict censorship, up to and including arrests of dissident
intellectuals, human rights advocates and
journalists. For them the journalist and ecologist Grigory Pasko is
consistently a "spy and traitor to the motherland". The sadistic
Yury Budanov, on the other hand, is an innocent victim of the war
(injuries,nervous breakdown, corrupt generals, liberal journalists, the
corrupt justice system etc.), or alternatively "a true patriot", "a
genuine Russian officer","a true son of the Fatherland",
and even "the pride and hero of Russia".
Paradoxically many liberal authors whose
articles are discussed on forums are also listed among the enemies of
the "G team". In other words, the members of the "G team", portraying
themselves as honest citizens and private individuals,
take part day after day and year after year in forums of publications
which they dislike, discussing authors they hate. Stranger even than
that, the editorial boards of these publications take no measures
against people who insult their authors, while acting
decisively against their opponents who support liberal journalists. For
example, Viktor Shenderovich wrote a short article about a theatre
studio in the paper Moskovskie Novosti. Readers posted their views on
the site, but the administration (obviously pressurized
by the G team) removed the positive statements, leaving only a comment
that the author "had already licked Gusinsky's ass, and was now having
oral sex with Berezovsky"...
Attitude to the USSR
The attitude to the Soviet past among the "G
team" is usually positive, although not always. There is a certain
divergence of opinion here. Many members of the "G team" have warm
memories of the USSR and idealize the Soviet past
with all its attributes, from everyday life to the legal (often in the
language of the Short History Course of the Communist Party, even if the
writer is supposed to be a very young person who has lived in the West
from early childhood). They dream openly
of the restoration of the USSR with its former borders, or even better
with expanded borders.
At the same time there is active discussion of
Communist leaders, such as Lenin, Stalin, Beria, Brezhnev, Andropov,
and of Soviet totalitarian ideas. Only internationalism is ruled out
completely and replaced by "national patriotism".
At the same time the concept of the Motherland is associated exclusively
with power, and the Fatherland with the ruling regime. Devotion to
leaders and totalitarian organizations like the KGB is interpreted as
patriotism, and statements against the regime
are considered to be treason and Russophobia. The G team constantly
tries to portray the entire Soviet period in a rosy light, using
propaganda clichés of the Soviet era. They knowingly underestimate the
number of victims of repressions, attribute guilt for
all the misdeeds of the Bolsheviks to Jews or enemies abroad, and
glorify the imperial nature of the Soviet Union.
Low cultural level and characteristic language.
Despite the seeming diversity of members of
the G team, the cultural level of the majority is very low. Most of them
have a poor command of their "native" Russian language. They make huge
numbers of characteristic stylistic, lexical
and grammatical errors, so it is very hard for them to hide behind
different user names. At the same time, many of them have an excellent
grasp of all ideological clichés from Soviet times to the present day.
Comrade Zhdanov's (now 50-year-old) aphorism "Whose
mill is he pouring water on?" sounds very strange on the internet in the
third millennium, but the G team use it frequently and seriously,
without any hint of parody....
G team members clearly have problems with
their sense of humour: lavatory jokes and barrack humour are connected
exclusively with defecation,homosexuality, prostitution and pornography.
A typical example of G team"humour" addressed
to a female opponent would be: "Toska, make your skirt longer, or we'll
see your balls!"
Many G team members use words incorrectly on
liberal web forums. This is not done for irony, it merely shows the
level of their knowledge of Russian! The constant flow of obscenities,
the distorted words and phrases are very different
from the language of the majority of internet users and clear evidenceof
the G team's cultural and educational level.
"Foreigners" in the G team.
Many members of the G team say on forums that
they live abroad permanently or frequently visit: the USA, Germany, the
Netherlands, Israel, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic etc.
For the G team this is always an excuse
to talk about the "horrors of life in the West and the advantages of
Putin's Russia". On some sites the computer's IP address makes possible
the identification of the internet providers. Strangely enough, it is
these "foreigners" who are the most aggressive
and consistent members of the G team, zealous supporters of the USSR,
the KGB and Putin. They like to report on the poverty and oppression in
"their" countries, the violations of human rights and the contrasting
magnificent realities in Putin's Russia. They
always avoid mentioning the positive sides of western life and
frequently lie. For example, there were rather amusing disputes about
the price of goods and services in a city where a"foreigner" from the G
team and a "liberal" both lived. One gets the impression
that these people not only live in different cities, but on different
Individual work with opponents
As soon as a dissident liberal, clearly an
"ideological enemy", appears on the forum,he is immediately taken up for
"active processing" by the entire G team. The opponent is usually
insulted without provocation, or faced with a killer
argument which an ordinary person might well find difficult to refute.
The liberal either replies rudely, causes a scandal and is branded as
rude by the entire G team, or he starts to offer counter-arguments to
their obviously ridiculous point of view. His
opponents ignore this, ridiculing him and coming up with other similar
arguments. One member of the G team writes, for instance, about the
ideological inaccuracy and mistakes of the new user, a second writes
obscenities about the dissident, a third accuses
the liberal of insanity, a fourth threatens to beat him up or kill him
etc. The fifth complains to the administration of the site about any
outbursts the persecuted user may have made, completely ignoring the
fact that these are only caused by collective persecution.
It would seem that the G team's aim is to drive away the new liberal
immediately, robbing him of any desire to take part in this forum. If
the liberal is stubborn and does not leave, then a whole arsenal of
methods is used against him: collective complaints
by the entire G team to the site administration, or even putting
pressure on the administration behind the scenes, with the goal of
blocking the dissident's access to the forum. At this point the stubborn
liberal's computer may experience mass virus attacks.
Accusing opponents of working for the "enemies of Russia"
When opponents of the team criticize Putin on
the forums, condemn the suppression of freedom of speech and democracy
in Russia, call for an end to the war in Chechnya, or show disloyalty to
the state security bodies, the G team immediately
starts to accuse them of working for money for: Boris Berezovsky, the
CIA, Mossad, Saudi Arabia, the Zionists, the Masons, Movladi Udugov etc.
Members of the team portray things in such a
way that any critic of the FSB or Russian policy in Chechnya is an enemy
of the state, a "Russophobe", and the only reason he takes part in
political discussions is to receive money from
enemies. Another way of discrediting an opponent is the monotonous angry
invectives by the G team addressed to "emigrant betrayers of the
motherland, who lecture true Russian patriots from abroad for dirty
money". According tothis "logic", the whole of mankind
is possessed with such a fierce (and most importantly platonic!) love
for the Cheka-FSB and the Putin regime that people can only suppress
these feelings for huge sums of money. Logic is actually rarely
encountered in the G team texts. The constant accusations
that their opponents are being paid says more about the members of the G
team themselvesand their motives for going online among a cultured
public that is alien to them and on liberal forums that they find
Frequent change of pseudonyms (user names)
Members of the G team tend to change their
pseudonyms (user names) frequently. The same "authors" write on the
forum under numerous pseudonyms, imitating dialogue with themselves,
expressing support of themselves and showing that
their opinion is shared by a large amount of people. When the author
changes his user name, he calls himself a different person, sometimes
even of the opposite sex, despite the identical vocabulary, phraseology,
level of command of Russian, ideological position
and arguments. From the low level of culture and tendency to use
clichés, it is not difficult to tell that several "team user names"
belong to the same author.
Information noise and faking user names
On forums with weak moderation or no
moderation at all, the G team uses the method of destroying topical
political discussions that are uncomfortable for the authorities by
posting huge amounts of meaningless texts on other subjects,
known as a"flood". These texts are frequently of a pornographic or
anti-Semitic nature,and repeated dozens or hundreds of times in a row.
Sometimes the G team writes insulting and obscene texts, using the name
of an opponent with a liberal reputation, under
his user name and address. On the Lenta.ru
forum, this practice is called "cloning", and fake texts are called
"clones". It should be noted that this method is almost never used
against the G team itself, i.e. the liberal opponents
do not stoop to using fake names and addresses.
The political spectrum of the G team - the fine comb principle
Regular members of the G team on any popular web forum are
supporters of a party or movement that is distributed across the entire
Russian political spectrum, except the liberal part. On each forum there
will always be an anti-Semitic nationalist,
a communist, a representative of United Russia, and several users who
say they voted for Yavlinsky, but became disappointed in him because of
his insufficient loyalty to Putin. Others will always include someone on
the extreme left, who condemns the West,
the USA and capitalism, but never criticizes Putin and his regime
(completely illogical for an ordinary "lefty").The views of the members
of the G team supposedly diverge on unimportant tactical issues, but
they are all unanimous on key and base issues - absolute
loyalty to Putin and the FSB, the "prosperity" of Russia under his rule
and the other tenets of their ideology listed above.
One could call the political positioning of
the G team the fine comb principle. Any person, of any political
persuasion,who happens to wander in to the forum will fall between the
teeth of this comb i.e. the members of the team.
Each team member with views that are close to the new user's will
declare that their outlook is fairly similar, but will inevitably
correct him on the unshakeable values of the G team.
Anyone who criticizes Putin, the FSB or the
Chechen war risks receiving unpleasant reprimands from the G team, from
both the "right" and "left", from a user who is a "simple fascist close
to the criminal classes" to a user who is
a "refined patriot and former Yabloko supporter"... A communist, a
moderate liberal who believes in a strong state, a supporter of
Yavlinsky, a person with a "difficult past" who has reviewed his
beliefs, a modest and sensible mother from Florida (always loyal
to the Russian authorities, for some reason), a simple man of the people
with a criminal background, an anti-Semite, an intellectual, a "former
dissident from Siberia" who now dreams of hanging human rights advocates
from the nearest lamp post -these are the
types the G team uses on web forums. But they always respect Putin and
the FSB and unquestioningly support all the authorities' "active
measures". On the remaining issues, the members of the G team have
minimal divergences of opinion, which provide the basis
for an imitation of a "discussion" among themselves. If an opponent
continues to assert his convictions, then the G team will collectively
apply more elaborate methods of influence.