Last week, Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert reminded me why we shouldn’t be too quick to judge Russians for falling for fake news.
As the world is shocked by Russian war crimes, many Russians still believe what Putin is telling them.
Seeing the images from Ukraine makes us wonder how any Russian could not see what’s obvious to us. Listening to Putin’s rants makes us question his sanity. And then, I see folks at Trump rallies making statements.
And all of a sudden, we get an idea of how people fall for certain narratives.
A lot of Republicans still talk about stolen elections. Others chose to believe in QAnon. Let’s not forget about those who rejected vaccines because they are worried about a so-called New World Order.
Anderson Cooper perfectly points out the main difference between Russians and Westerners falling for fake news. It’s about choices.
Russians are not able to watch our news without using a VPN or similar tools. They might even get in trouble for sharing, reading, or liking certain content on the internet.
On the other side, we have folks in the United States and Europe who are able to get real news but choose to take a different path. Anyone who decides to watch Fox News, Alex Jones, or other questionable sources of information does that voluntarily.
Nobody is forced to watch Tucker Carlson’s show, but millions of Americans are still doing it.
So, how can we blame Russians for watching the only news available to them while finding excuses that half of our population wants to get fed with lies?
It’s easy to access verified information, and we still see a large part of our society drifting away from reality. Who are we to judge those who don’t even have access to reliable sources?
I am German. I live in Germany. Up to this day, you can still find old Germans claiming that they had no idea of what the Nazis did. They pretend that they played no part in the biggest crime of humanity.
In the United States, you will easily find folks who claim that racism does not exist in America.
And in Russia, there are people who believe what Putin and the state media are telling them.
The fact that people fall for misinformation should not be used as an argument against any nation, society, or culture. Instead, it’s a reminder of how important journalism, free speech, and education are.
A society is doomed to fall apart if its members are not able to process information. The existence of reliable news networks is only the first step to protecting democracy.
As we can see in North America and Europe, it’s not enough to make news available to everyone. We also need an educational system that enables folks to differentiate between news, opinions, and lies.
But how can we expect Russians to stand up against a brutal regime when millions of MAGA cult members are still promoting the Big Lie? How can we expect Russians to question Putin when Conservatives are claiming that climate change doesn’t exist? How can we expect Russians to start a peaceful revolution when our school board meetings cause parents to fight each other?
There is no excuse for Putin’s invasion—but there is also no excuse for January 6th.
Fake news is a worldwide thing.
Misinformation and propaganda are the biggest problems of our time. After years of not caring about politics, many members of society are not able to put things into context. Thanks to social media, almost anyone is able to share unverified information with thousands of friends.
It’s easy to judge Russians, but why not take this as a warning?
Just take a moment and think about how the situation in Ukraine could have unfolded if Trump had been in office. Imagine Kayleigh McEnany holding a press conference defending Putin’s actions—not too far-fetched, right?
Speaking of elections. France is voting today–and I am already scared. Marine Le Pen might win. If France elects the “female Trump,” the European Union might be done. If France leaves the European Union as Great Britain just did, the party in Brussels is over.
And the information is all out there. Le Pen met with Putin, she admires Trump, and she wants to make France great again (while claiming that it’s broken right now). So, why would anyone vote for her? Didn’t the French voters see what happened in the United States when Trump was president? Is that really what they want?
So, please don’t forget about the brave Russians who dare to speak up against Putin. Please stop bashing average Russian people for being the victims of Putin’s propaganda.
And instead, let’s focus on the two main problems we are facing around the world: we need more journalism—and more people who are able to see the difference between journalism and entertainers who are millionaires funded by billionaires.
As long as Fox News has millions of viewers, we should refrain from making fun of average Russians who fall for Putin’s state media.
Thanks to Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert for reminding us to check ourselves before judging others.
Here’s the clip: