The Integrity Initiative Guide to Countering Russian Disinformation May 2018 v1.pdf
off. Others, though, saw this as a warning sign: if Trump’s spokesman could lie about this (and
apparently not care when it was so easily disproved), what could we expect in the future?
Fig.1 US Presidential inauguration photos. The absurdity of the claim that more people attended Trump’s inauguration is
there for all to see.
Spicer’s demeanour was crucial to the peddling of the lie. Had there been a sly smile or a
twinkle in the eye it would have been clear that he was playing a game with his audience and
they would not have been expected to believe the nonsense he was spouting. But by
maintaining a completely serious expression, Spicer actually encouraged some to doubt the
evidence of their own eyes. As we shall see, maintaining the mask of seriousness is something
which purveyors of disinformation, notably those from the Kremlin, have mastered.
Whilst the above example is clear, the waters are muddied when the purveyors of
disinformation start using the term (or its substitutes, such as “fake news”) to try to discredit
genuine facts. This is a disturbing trend which the Trump administration has made something of
a specialty. Accusing others of pedaling disinformation is a common trick of the disinformers. It
illustrates the need for careful checking of sources.
What makes Trump’s “fake news” worse is that it confirms in many people’s minds in the West
that America is not to be trusted; and this was already a key element in Russia’s disinformation
campaign. An old principle of Soviet propaganda was that it would be easier to convince people
to believe it if it contained an element of truth. And the Kremlin knows that many people in the
West do not trust the USA and its intentions.