Inflaming the Imported Ideological Confrontations Augmented by Flood of Disinformation
“Culture wars” or ideological conflicts between the left and the right wing became a dominant topic in US political discourse. Both sides are trying to present their truth and viewpoint as the only right option, while “those others” are the strike of evil wanting to destroy humankind. These imported culture wars, with all of their intolerance for the opponent, arrived in our country
“Culture wars” or ideological conflicts between the left and the right-wing became a dominant topic in US political discourse. Both sides are trying to present their truth and viewpoint as the only right option, while “those others” are the strike of evil wanting to destroy humankind. These imported culture wars, with all of their intolerance for the opponent, arrived in our country
Author: Naum Lokoski
With time, this incited rhetoric from social networks and American university campuses became part of mainstream politics, especially when former US President Donald Trump went into politics. In an attempt to attract a new group of voters – that previously was on the margins – Trump initiated the division rhetoric in his speeches that only intensified the process of dissemination of conspiracy theories of extreme groups targeting wider audiences. The right-wing group “QAnon” from 2017, by means of disinformation and fabrications, tried to present some kind of a plot against Trump from satanist and cannibal groups involved in child trafficking. Frequently, these “Satanists”, “cannibals”, “pedophiles” etc., were top politicians of the opponents from the democrats or powerful American businesspersons known worldwide.
With such rhetoric, the “culture wars” of the ideological battle between the left and the right, were transformed into a disinformation offensive by the extreme right-wing representative sacrificing the truth. Internet and social networks helped the fast dissemination of these narratives beyond the USA. Subsequently, these disinformation and conspiracy theories directed against the policies of liberal Western countries were planted in many countries, including North Macedonia. The right-wing “soldiers” in this “culture war” regularly attack abortion rights, and the rights of the LGBTI+ community, spread disinformation against Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum, and Western leaders, advocate against the benefits of 5G technology in telecommunication… The biggest damage was surely inflicted during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were the most vocal opponents against mask-wearing and vaccines, indirectly causing the death of thousands of people. What all these characters, authors, and distributors of disinformation and theories have in common is that they all always offer authoritarian leaders who, according to them, are fighting for traditional values as an alternative to liberal Western values.
“Culture war” particularities
Almost coordinated, such narratives are spread in North Macedonia by a group of social network users who, mainly, are translating and repeating the same disinformation and conspiracy theory pieces, attacking liberal values in the attempt to, allegedly, protect traditional values and children.
Most disseminated narratives are those about abortion and the conspiracy theories related to the vaccines against COVID-19 causing miscarriage or that some of the biggest Western brands contained aborted fetus cells.
Abortion is criticized for the purpose of safeguarding traditional family values and in line with the plot that the”world elite wants the Earth depopulated”. Frequently, these narratives flirt with politics (the abortion rules from the time of Nikola Gruevski). Religion or religious communities (MOC-OA and IRC) are involved in a similar context. In the last ten years, the narratives against abortion in North Macedonia are repetitive, distorting acquired rights and medical facts into the ”right to death” or murder. In an attempt to create panic and front against abortion, popular disseminators of such conspiracy theories connected this medical process with the vaccines against COVID-19. Apart from the false claims that the vaccines contained aluminum and mercury, conspiracy theory believers went as far as claiming that vaccines contained tissue of aborted male fetuses. Conspiracy believers even shared videos and content created by right-wing American circles that claimed that the cells of the kidneys of aborted fetuses were used in the products of “Pepsi”, Kraft”, “Nestle” and Campbell’”.
Resistance towards sexual education as part of the conspiracy theories
The attacks against Comprehensive sexual education and the claims that it promotes pedophilia come from the same place. QAnon followers are trying to establish a link between some kind of Deep state and pedophile network i.e., into international child trafficking. According to QAnon – which has national supporters and “soldiers” – the former American President Trump is a child savior who stopped this trafficking. Once the “Pizzagate” affair from 2016 subsided and the case with the accused American financial magnate Jeffrey Epstein ended when he committed suicide in his cell in New York Penitentiary, QAnon took over the narrative about the connection between the American liberal, political, Hollywood and business-elite with pedophilia and satanism, while Trump is presented as the Great Savior of children from the claws of evil.
These conspiracy theory believers in North Macedonia equate pedophilia with Comprehensive sexual education, which is untrue, slanderous and is part of the long-term propaganda that some circles, opponents of sexual education, have been promoting for months. Such positions are amplified with disinformation that US academicians deem that pedophilia is a sexual orientation and should be accepted as such by society, as well as that in our country “pilot-pedophilia” was promoted with Comprehensive sexual education.
Such opinions were denied by HERA, but also by official documents like the pilot curriculum of sexual education. Pedophilia is often used in the context of LGBTI+ rights since these theoreticians are trying to present LGBTI+ people as “outcasts” from normal society i.e., as “sick”, fabrication of the West, and an attempt to put them within the agenda that supposedly is violating their values.
Such a narrative is often used by authoritarian leaders and political figures in Europe and the USA. They try to win votes with inflammatory rhetoric and often times that is copied in our country by spreading disinformation.
From all the examples of debate mirrored in our society and social discourse, most impressive are those that constitute direct attacks on personalities and politicians from the Western world who are representatives of liberal Western values.
Biden – a traitor!
One example is the American President Joe Biden. Once he came into power, Trump supporters initiated a disinformation campaign against him portraying him as a traitor who was incapable of performing the function of president. Edited videos and cuts from videos and statements are frequently shared presenting Biden as the evil opponent of traditional values as they have conceptualized them. Disinformation went so far that even the claim that Biden was killed and substituted by an actor or a clone was shared. The attacks on Biden as the leader of the USA is considered as an attack on the liberal West and they are directed towards destroying liberal values and an attempt to offer an authoritarian option to the democratic West. The manipulations related to Biden and the USA are quite often adjusted to the “domestic market” thereby creating disinformation of local or regional nature.
These so-called “culture wars” of the right-wing are completely mirrored in the country and imported from abroad, but the goal is identical – to attack liberal values and to try to turn public opinion against the West. Often, the appeal for respect of somewhat traditional family values is accompanied by the promotion of authoritarian leaders such as Putin, Trump, Erdogan, Orban…
Authoritarianism and “Macedonian national feeling”
Glorifying these leaders, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin frequently moves in the direction of developing close relations between North Macedonia and Russia to protect and promote Macedonian national feeling. Such narratives are enriched with disinformation about the Western civilization and the liberal market leading to the death and destruction of the “indigenous European population”, while Russia is presented as the “last bastion of traditional values” in Europe.
What appears to be a constant note throughout the entire “culture war” based on disinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories is that Russia – quite frequently – is introduced by the traditionalists and the supporters of the radical right-wing policies in Western countries. For a long time televisions funded by the Russian State such as “RT” and “Sputnik” were broadcast in Western liberal countries, while the propaganda spread aimed at undermining the confidence in Western systems frequently shared by right-wing groups. Recently, France revealed a sizeable Russian campaign that was targeted at subverting the support of the West for Ukraine, as reported by the French state agency Viginum, whose purpose is to intercept foreign digital interference. The war in Ukraine significantly intensified these disinformation and fake news pieces that are spreading to the West, especially on the Balkans, but originate from “the Russian kitchen”.
The risk of “marginals” becoming “mainstream” is not small
The import of such “culture wars” in North Macedonia, accompanied by a series of disinformation, fake news and manipulation is a risk for democracy that additionaly widens the societal gap. For the time being, these debates remain on the margins since they do not originate from the problems of society, but are imported for other interests. The fact, however, that next year both Presidential and Parliamentary elections are due in the country, and the fact that most of them appear on social networks as well as the fact that a large portion of young people obtain their information on political events on social networks increases the risk of those currently treated as “marginals” becoming an important moment during the pre-election campaign. That may lead to additional polarization and division of society, including conflicts between parties instead of a political competition.
In the struggle for votes, when extreme rhetoric dominates in both the left and right campuses, the parties frequently flirt with these of groups of citizens so they start to use more extreme speech and propose extreme policies of the political spectrum. We saw this practice last year – before, during and after the acceptance of the so-called French proposal – for opening accession talks with the EU, when the opposition parties, helped by the unskillful government in terms of transparency, tried to mobilize support by using disinformation and spins, including rhetoric that incites nationalistic feelings that can bring about inter-ethnic conflicts.