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TSAREV: Be wary of Russian misinformation

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All of our political parties should be united in helping stop Russia’s aggression and protect Canada’s political institutions against misinformation and destabilization

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Those who know the history of the Cold War are well aware that the USSR vigorously tried to destabilize and influence the internal politics of Western democracies.

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Due to its ideological stance, the Soviet Union supported primarily left-wing organizations in the West, ranging from radical and violent Marxist groups to moderate and established social democratic movements.

The Russia of President Valdimir Putin, however, has gone further — in addition to using the left, the traditional mouthpiece of the Kremlin, to a similar if not even a greater extent it has now been also trying to use groups on the populist right to amplify its message and destabilize our society.

Putin’s propaganda, such as the Russia Today channel, has been specifically targeting the populist right by emphasizing the flaws and weaknesses of our mainstream politicians and domestic policies, while portraying Russia as a bastion protecting traditional values against the decadent Western liberalism.

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Unfortunately, this strategy has fallen on fertile soil, including in Canada. According to a recent Leger poll, asking Canadians whether they support Ukraine or Russia in the ongoing war by voting intention, the highest percentage of those siding with Russia were found amongst the supporters of the PPC, following by the supporters of the CPC.

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Traditionally, voters on the right of centre tend to be critical of mainstream narratives, especially if a government they do not support is seen actively promoting such. Just because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expresses some point of view, for example, some people feel like they have a duty to stick to a diametrically opposite point of view.

While it is true that on many issues our Prime Minister certainly deserves a lot of criticism, it does not justify blind acceptance of everything contrary of what his government says, as even a broken clock is correct twice a day. Just because the Liberal government is condemning Russia’s aggression and is trying to support Ukraine, this does not mean this is a partisan issue and that we should adhere to a narrative that is opposite it, which would be the false narrative Russia wants us to believe.

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Sadly, especially those on the right with a populist bent, best exemplified by the People’s Party of Canada, seem to take this uncritical approach and are thus helping Vladimir Putin to justify his unacceptable aggression against Ukraine and to sow division in our own country.

PPC Leader Maxime Bernier recently took to social media to call Canada’s reaction to the war in Ukraine a “mass psychosis” that “has replaced the COVID mass psychosis.” He also criticized our imposing of sanctions against Russia and shared articles claiming that “Russia is doing us a favour” and that “NATO expansion” was responsible for the war in Ukraine.

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Ironically, these words coming from a right-wing populist sound surprisingly like the talking points of the Marxist groups in the West from the times of Cold War whose job was to speak in defence of the Communist dictatorship in the USSR.

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As most COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted, some politicians and commentators on the populist right are eager to embrace a new topic on which to oppose the government in whatever it does or says in order to get more clicks and views on their social media.

We should not fall for such spin and deception. The ongoing situation in Ukraine is a non-partisan issue.

All of our political parties should be united in helping stop Russia’s aggression and protect Canada’s political institutions against misinformation and destabilization.

— Denis Tsarev is a Toronto-based political analyst who has been involved in numerous projects dedicated to human rights in Russia and other former communist countries

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