Laser Bears and Occupants: These Are the Masterpieces of Delusional Russian Propaganda
A pair of propaganda videos provide a pure expression of the Russo-nationalist id.
Really good propaganda is like a fever dream: delirious, paranoid, and marked by leaps of logic that at first blush might withstand scrutiny. With Moscow and the West engaged in a fierce standoff over the future geopolitical alignment of Ukraine, one Russian propaganda outfit has in recent months distinguished itself as a master of this art form, proudly defending Russian occupation of foreign lands and casting Russian President Vladimir Putin as a shirtless savior riding to the rescue astride a bear shooting laser beams from its eyes.
If that sounds absurd, it’s because it is. In a pair of videos that have become online sensations, a group whose mantra loosely translates as “anti-Western creative activity” has distinguished itself as a master of the totally paranoid, totally outrageous genre of postmodern propaganda. It’s a style that abandons all facts, wholeheartedly embraces conspiracy theories, and trafficks in the ludicrous.
Its latest effort is called “I’m a Russian Occupant” and offers a staunch defense-bordering-on-promotion of Russian intervention and, indeed, occupation. Russian occupation of the Baltic states, the video explains, brought factories and power plants and production of radio and audio equipment. Now, with Russian troops gone, Balts sell cheap fish and a large portion of their population are migrant workers, cleaning European toilets. Elsewhere, the story is much the same. Russia brought cosmodromes and stadiums to Central Asia, aerospace technology to Ukraine.
Predictably, now these efforts are being destroyed, according to the video. “They don’t build anything new, except for endless ‘Maidans’ and dictatorship,” the narrator says, referring to the Kiev uprising that toppled the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych. “Yes, I’m an occupant! And I’m tired of apologizing for it!”
The video reads as a pure expression of Russo-nationalist id, and it was tacitly endorsed on Twitter by Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s hawkish deputy prime minister.
But this defense of Russian occupation isn’t even the oddly named artistic collective’s greatest work. In September, the group released a nutty video presenting the war in Ukraine as a ruse orchestrated by the United States to weaken Europe and Russia — all for the sake of boosting America in its competition with China. The downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 is presented as a CIA operation. War, the video frantically argues, will save the American treasury — just as World War II rescued the U.S. economy from the great depression. At one point, a shirtless Putin rides into a cityscape atop a bear shooting lasers from its eyes.
We can only humbly bow to these master YouTube propagandists.
Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace. @EliasGroll