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Chernobyl (1986), Covid-19 (2020): a new global panic attack. Disinformation and conspiracy theories used deliberately to amplify fear

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These days we are experiencing a global panic attack, the second after the Chernobyl accident. Now, just like then, those in the front line, the "rescuers", are fighting an unseen enemy, wearing common textile masks. Both then and now, disinformation and conspiracy theories have deliberately amplified panic.

April 26, 1986 was a bright, beautifully scented Sunday; but spring would soon be swallowed up by the radioactive cloud coming from Chernobyl, leaving a trail of death in its wake. The Romanians were lucky then - the cloud went to Belarus, to the northwest, and not to the south. When Swedish scientists noticed a strong increase in radiation, they suspected that the source was in the USSR. Moscow denied it. Instead, it sent soldiers to Pripyat, a town built for the employees of the nuclear power plant, without telling them that they were risking their lives going there. They would be known as "liquidators," but also as "rescuers." The next day, the town's more than 40,000 residents were evacuated. The Soviets owed mankind an explanation, which only came on May 14, from Mikhail Gorbachev. First, he announces that the situation is under control: “Thanks to the effective measures taken, we can now say that what was worse has passed. The worst consequences have been avoided." Then, in the second part of the speech, he addresses the governments, politicians and the media of "some NATO countries, especially the USA", who "welcomed the incident": "They launched an unstoppable anti-Soviet campaign. God only knows how much they have said and written these days about "thousands of victims", "mass graves", "abandoned Kiev", "entire Ukraine poisoned" and so much more. Overall, we have faced a huge pile of malicious lies.” Gorbachev also found the reason for this campaign: "they needed a pretext to denigrate the USSR and its international policy, to minimize the impact of Soviet proposals to ban nuclear testing and abolish nuclear weapons."

It took Moscow four years to admit it needed help. The plant was secured in 1986 and 2016 by an international team at the request of Ukraine. More than four million people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia still live in radioactively contaminated areas. Pripyat is a ghost town, increasingly sought after by tourists. Mikhail Gorbachev would later say that the dissolution of the Soviet Union began at Chernobyl.

Disinformation covered the tragedy in a thick layer of slime. The campaign to sabotage the truth has carried on until this very day and conspiracy theories abound. An HBO series caused outrage in Moscow. The Kremlin claims it is just a conspiracy against the Russian nuclear industry, accusing the series of disinformation and the CIA of being no stranger to the accident. The state media has announced that Russia will make its own film version of the events. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinformation, fake news [1] and conspiracy theories that have accompanied the spread of the virus are just as lethal. One of the major sources of disinformation is Moscow. The narratives created and amplified by the state or pro-Kremlin media speak of a weapon manufactured by the Pentagon in laboratories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia, about biological weapons, some created to kill older Italians, that the USA made the virus in 2015, that the end of the EU is near, as a result of the pandemic, this being the global occult’s version of a world war, aimed at imposing global tyranny and thus ensuring American hegemony. The pandemic was just another pretext to return to the false narratives promoted by the Kremlin after the annexation of Crimea. While in the case of the Chernobyl disaster the silence was followed by disinformation and conspiracy theories, now it’s infodemic - and abundance of false and fake information – that makes people distrust the media and the authorities.   A March 16 internal document of the European External Action Service states that "a significant disinformation campaign by the Russian state and pro-Kremlin press on COVID-19 is underway", with the aim of "aggravating the crisis in Western countries", in line with the Kremlin's broader strategy of "destabilizing European societies". More than 80 cases of disinformation have been documented. The main false narratives are that the EU has failed in its attempt to cope with the crisis, is on the verge of collapse, is selfish and betrays its own values, benefits from the crisis, while Russia and China are responsible powers. Disinformation campaigns are one of the specialties of the Soviet and Russian intelligence services: over time, the KGB has accused the CIA of spreading Dengue fever in Cuba and malaria in Pakistan, of producing HIV / AIDS, and more recently that vaccines cause autism, and they are a weapon used to subjugate the population to the world occult. A February 2020 State Department report provided information on the Russian disinformation campaign that began on January 20, documenting more than 2 million tweets produced by trolls and bots in just 3 weeks. The US administration then came back, towards the end of March, with new information about the Russian Federation's campaign, but also about China and Iran. Fear is consumed individually, panic is amplified by the crowds; fear has accompanied us in our evolution as a species, panic is contagious, pathological; fear is an emotion one can control, panic is uncontrollable in a community. Communities are rarely caught in the vortex of panic, in exceptional moments. When information is missing or severely distorted, panic can be devastating. What we are experiencing today, this infodemic that accompanies the pandemic, is the infernal noise of another global panic attack that does not entail warfare. The restriction of civil rights and liberties around the world is unprecedented. For liberal democracies, in the age of Fake News and populism, it will be a test; for authoritarian regimes it’s the temptation to return to the Chernobyl era.

 

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  • In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinformation, fake news [1] and conspiracy theories that have accompanied the spread of the virus are just as lethal. One of the major sources of disinformation is Moscow. The narratives created and amplified by the state or pro-Kremlin media speak of a weapon manufactured by the Pentagon in laboratories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia, about biological weapons, some created to kill older Italians, that the USA made the virus in 2015, that the end of the EU is near, as a result of the pandemic, this being the global occult’s version of a world war, aimed at imposing global tyranny and thus ensuring American hegemony.
  • If after the Cernobil disaster silence was followed by disinformation and conspiracy theories, now the infodemic – an abundance of false and fake info – is making people no longer trust the media and the authorities.
  • For liberal democracies, in the age of Fake News and populism, it will be a test; for authoritarian regimes it’s the temptation to return to the Chernobyl era.
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