Media outlets bear a huge level of responsibility over whether a propaganda campaign is successful or not. What do Astroturfing, False Flags and the Maskirovka have to do with this? Let’s define some terms to start things off.
Astroturfing, is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word “grassroots”. The implication behind the use of the term is that instead of a “true” or “natural” grassroots effort behind the activity in question, there is a “fake” or “artificial” appearance of support.
The term false flag originated in the 16th century as a purely figurative expression to mean “a deliberate misrepresentation of someone’s affiliation or motives.” It was later used to describe a ruse in naval warfare whereby a vessel flew the flag of a neutral or enemy country in order to hide its true identity. The tactic was originally used by pirates and privateers to deceive other ships into allowing them to move closer before attacking them. It later was deemed an acceptable practice during naval warfare according to international maritime laws, provided the attacking vessel displayed its true flag once an attack had begun.
The term today extends to include countries that organize attacks on themselves and make the attacks appear to be by enemy nations or terrorists, thus giving the nation that was supposedly attacked a pretext for domestic repression and foreign military aggression.
Maskirovka is a Russian term for a military doctrine developed from the start of the twentieth century. The doctrine covers a broad range of measures for military deception, from camouflage to denial and deception.
The use of a maskirovka is not exclusive to Russia. Hitler employed this technique in the creation of the fake Polish attack on a German radio station creating the pretext for his invasion of Poland in 1939. A famous U.S. maskirovka operation was the Gulf of Tonkin incident that propelled us into major escalation of the Vietnam war. There have been announcements that Russia may be engaged in some sort of maskirovka operation right now in Ukraine setting the stage for Putin’s invasion.
False Flag and Maskirovka can be used interchangeably.
There is another aspect to these terms. They are frequently used as tools by right-wing media and provocateurs. The recent flap of the Canadian Truckers “freedom” convoy is a case in point which has consumed media attention.
That is an astroturfed false flag operation. The organizers and leaders are not even truckers, reports political historian Heather Cox Richardson.
Prominent leaders of the convoys, including conspiracy theorist James Bauder, are not truckers themselves. Instead, right-wing agitators appear to be the ones behind the Trump and Confederate flags at the protests. More than 55% of the donations to the Christian fundraising website GiveSendGo for the protesters came from the United States.
Truckers’ organizations say the protests undermine the real concerns of truck drivers—wage theft, bad roads, and a lack of bathrooms—and worry that the convoys will hurt the public image of truckers.
Media outlets, still being total suckers for anything that draws eyeballs and generates clicks, ate up the “controversy” of the convoy. And of course lazy journalism didn’t even look for the easily available information that over 80 percent of the actual truckers in Canada are vaccinated against COVID-19 and revile these “demonstrators” for interfering with their work.
This points up a key factor. The provocateurs and agents who employ these black propaganda techniques are a tiny minority. They strive to make everyone think they have far more numbers than they do. The idea is to manipulate perception and make it look like a popular movement, but in reality is nothing more than hot air and some professionally designed banners. And that last item, “professionally designed” should be the biggest clue. Spontaneity does not include factoring in printer lead times—like the professionally printed sweatshirts worn by some of the “tourists” invading our Capitol on January 6th.
Shallow reporting is something that Trump and his allies and enablers have relied upon since 2015. It not only enables astroturfing of outrageous claims and false flag black propaganda operations it amplifies them.
All such operations are based on lies. The broader public depends on facts and when media outlets forward deceptive campaigns because of the pursuit of eyeballs they fail in their duty.
Right wing propagandists, and this includes their own media outlets, depend utterly on making themselves and their “causes” seem more popular than they really are. But like Anna Sorokin, they are just a shallow fraud that hopes people will not look even slightly below the surface. Of course, if one does ask uncomfortable questions of a propagandist, they will hiss like snakes and accuse the questioners of being propagandists. So looking a tiny bit below the surface requires a bit of confronting. But there is always something there.
The bottom line is that horrific and devastating amounts of damage to economies, materials, possessions, infrastructures and lives can result from black propaganda, astroturfing and false flag and maskirovka operations. Some, like the Canadian fake trucker protest were little more than a mere annoyance and resulted in economic issues. Others resulted in the deaths of millions.
Journalists and media outlets need to step up their game because forwarding these campaigns and amplifying them puts the blood on their hands. Ask some damn questions. The real scoop is what you are not being told. Find it.