Russian Propaganda is Affecting People More than We Can Imagine

russian propaganda

I live on an island in the USA but we do see lots of tourists from all over the world. We have just over 30,000 residents here, but in the summer months, we see about a half million tourists every week all summer long. It feels like we are a tiny chihuahua dog with a half million fleas crawling all over!

To supplement our workforce the Work and Travel program here is robust and diverse. In the early 2000’s we saw mostly students from Russia and Ukraine but also from Georgia, Lithuania, Armenia, and a couple of other former Soviet states. We all got along pretty well with the exception for some reason of the Lithuanians. They did not like the Russians here at all. We hire an average of 5,000 students every summer to make hotel beds, work in our restaurants, flip hamburgers, and help at the grocery store. In March of 2002, I moved back to North Carolina from the west coast. When I returned I immediately noticed, even in winter, that we already had quite a few Russian and Belarusian people that stayed on from the summer. If you live on a small island where you know everyone and have known them since you were a child, well, eventually you begin to see the bigger picture. The dating scene here is horrible, so I dated someone from Belarus… my now ex-wife.

She is super smart and attractive, and yet her cold side emerged more and more. Having met her mother when I invited her to the USA when my son was born, I can see where she gets the cold from! My roommate then were 2 Siberian guys from Novokuznetsk, Russia. We became close, close like brothers in fact. They were at my wedding. They were the first to the hospital the night my son was born, and they lived in the USA for 6 years after that. One of my friends had to move back to Russia because of his mother’s health and his own mental health. My friend we can call Brad (not a Russian name for sure) invited me to Siberia many times after he moved back. In the winter of 2012-13, I decided to take him up on his offer. The flight from New York to Moscow then Moscow to Novosibirsk, and the train north for 12 hours to Novokuznetsk was long and taxing. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but when I got to my friend’s apartment, I took a shower, ate a nice meal, and got drunk until I fell asleep. Brad loved the USA and yet is also a patriot. He’s a bit of a conspiracy quack, so when Crimea was taken by Russia he embraced it but stayed somewhat neutral. Fast forward to last year in Odessa… he was supposed to come to visit but could not take time away from work. He’s married now with a stepdaughter and his own son. He’s big into crypto and lives a good life there.
He was the first person I told about the pregnancy and then the loss of the pregnancy. He spoke to my then-partner about all of this pre-invasion hype, and then quickly covered his tracks with the standard line, “Ukraine is full of Nazis” and “look at what the USA did in Iraq and Syria!”. My answer was that I didn’t believe in the Iraq war but supported anti-terrorism efforts all over the world wherever and whoever carries them out. We tried not to talk about politics, but he would slip in that he needed some car parts or wanted some western goods sent to Turkey. My answer was sure, no problem, but then I would remind him that it was his government’s fault. He fully believes that Russia has never bombed or shot civilians, ever. He fully supports their president no matter how many times I point out that the opposition often ends up dead or in prison, or in exile.
This opinion of mine may upset some that read it, but I do think this angle has been forgotten. When spring of 2014 rolled around and the Maidan had started I was, of course, behind the people of Ukraine and understand their plight. In the USA we have the impeachment process to remove a political leader. The same system exists in Ukraine as well. It is the right of the nation’s citizens to choose their leaders. There are so many strong leaders in Ukraine, even with the corruption, that I thought and still believe in the impeachment process.
This makes me wonder if that process was ever explored to remove the Ukrainian president in 2014. It would have been less bloody, Crimea may have stayed Ukrainian, and the Donbas may have not been tossed into the war. This doesn’t mean I think what is happening now is right. The president in 2014 fled under the cover of darkness and his vast corruption was exposed. New leaders have been chosen and that is no justification for an invasion and all of this killing.
Back to my Russian friends. About 1 month ago, this brother of mine, my best friend really, sent me some links to YouTube channels that were pro-Russian. They came through easily and were not blocked. But when I sent him images or interrogation videos of Russians saying they thought they were going on a training mission or that they had to steal food to eat, the videos were BLOCKED. The easy answer is that his government is blocking the truth. After all, he can send me videos or links that I can access, but he can’t see mine. A month ago we had a fiery exchange where I told him that his captured soldiers were saying they had no food when they got sent into Ukraine or that they were dying by the thousands. He sent back a few voice messages saying it was not true and telling me it was the USA controlling NATO and Ukraine. He told me NATO was to blame and that people in the Donbas were being bombed every day and that was why Putin invaded Ukraine. When I told him Zelensky is Jewish, his answer, was that he’s a drug addict. He is certain that the USA is blocking all the news, not Russia.

What can I say? He is a grown man that, as we say, “is drinking the Kool-aid!” He absolutely believes in his president. He dismisses the rest as fake. He says that the opposition leaders that died or are in prison were… AGENTS OF THE USA! So he didn’t mind living here for years to make $100,000 to take back to Russia, but now he thinks we are all just blind sheep? He was getting kinda upset with me when I finally said “ok, but what about Crimea?” And, “if you’re so sure you won’t get in trouble if you call this war what it is… a war, and not a Special operation” he just got angrier. We had tried to stay off politics and the war and focus on the small things. Things like taking a vacation and who would allow a Russian visa? War crept in and the lies that his government, like all governments, kept coming back up. We all say “stand in the light of truth” but in reality, there are just some places where the truth is so bright and so loud that it makes the viewer blind and deaf. I get the impression that many Russians are just opportunists now. Take what you can, and settle for a boot on the neck rather than a bullet to the head.

That doesn’t mean the USA is free from flaws and huge mistakes. Iraq was a giant mistake that killed thousands of people from all walks of life. Afghanistan, until we left, was a mission I believed in. Terrorism should not be left to spread like a wildfire. Rich, arrogant men took us to war in Iraq and I just don’t know if it was the right thing to do. We can’t say that about this unjust invasion of Ukraine, or the militarization of the nuclear power station that is currently occupied by Russian troops now. The whole world, with the exception of Iran, North Korea, and some of China thinks that we need to all stay away from nuclear power plants. Russia is now firmly seemingly a military terrorist state. Its citizens, my friends, and millions of people in its republics live under a sad illusion. A new cold war has begun and I fear I will NEVER see my Russian brothers again. I fear it will take decades to undo all of this damage.
Ukraine, stand strong in your defiance and God be with you.


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Author: Andy Scoggins

Andrew has traveled extensively from his home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina having starting his journey through the former Soviet Union in Winter of 2012 to Novokuznetsk, then on to Ukraine's Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkov, and finally his second home, Odessa.  

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