Galvanized by the results of recent American polls and the popularity of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Fox News and its audiences, the Kremlin is proceeding with a new charm offensive targeting Western conservatives. Russia cannot offer much in terms of gun rights, freedom of speech, or standard of living—at least not for those excluded from Putin’s mob-like circle of trust. Rather, the Kremlin intends to attract Western converts with another type of currency—bigotry—turning Russia into the land of ultimate political incorrectness, the world’s anti-woke capital.
On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov published an op-ed that left many readers scratching their heads. “In a number of Western countries, students learn at school that Jesus Christ was bisexual,” Lavrov claimed. Aside from a single viral post on TikTok featuring the ramblings of a child, there doesn’t seem to be any suggestion—much less any evidence—of such a curriculum actually being taught.
Far from simple non sequitur, Lavrov’s musings seem to be part of a larger agenda. In fact, they appear to fit squarely within the strategy pursued by the Kremlin’s elaborate propaganda ecosystem.
The topic of inappropriate lessons being taught in Western schools surfaced last week on the state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev. Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state media outlet RT, claimed to be personally helping multiple foreign families hoping to relocate to Russia. The reason for their desired move, Simonyan claimed, is what the children are being taught in school. Reminding the audience of Simonyan’s status as a prominent Kremlin insider with direct access to the Russian president, host Vladimir Soloviev immediately hinted that Simonyan ought to speak directly to Putin to expedite the process.
Back in January, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, told Soloviev that she has received a flood of inquiries from American Trump supporters imploring her to provide information about obtaining Russian citizenship. She seemed particularly impressed with communications from a certain blogger, who immigrated to the United States from the USSR and was now interested in going back to Russia, allegedly fearing “repressions.” Zakharova didn’t specify whether she was talking about the Russian YouTuber who posted videos at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and subsequently went on Russian state TV to blame “antifa” for the violence.
The Kremlin has long been toying with the idea of attracting Western supporters—and even potential émigrés—to side with Russia, and even move there. A stream of Steven Seagals would fuel Putin’s claim that Western democracies have lost their credibility and appeal. In 2018, a photograph of Trump supporters donning T-shirts that read, “I’d Rather Be A Russian Than A Democrat” was proudly showcased in Russian state media as evidence of the Kremlin’s growing popularity with American Republicans. A recent opinion poll confirmed that Putin is more popular than President Biden among Republican voters.
Simonyan excitedly claimed: “More and more people see our country—and Putin as its leader—as the embodiment of the place they can run to, like the West used to be for former Soviets.” She boasted that her media outlet receives plenty of support from English-speaking audiences, claiming that it proves the massive disenchantment of average Western denizens with their governments and popular ideologies.
Russia’s approach to courting Trump supporters has proven to be quite simple: to appeal to their belief that so-called “political correctness” threatens their livelihoods and even their future. In coming up with their tactics, pro-Kremlin propagandists rely quite heavily on the material pumped out by Fox News, with clips featuring Tucker Carlson regularly appearing on Russia’s most popular state TV programs.
Without even trying to conceal her glee about divisions in Western countries, Simonyan said: “What’s happening there honestly brings me joy. For the first time in Russia’s history—at least in the last 200 years—it has a unique opportunity to become a patron of its own homegrown ideology, which we couldn’t accomplish with communism.”
The head of RT explained the ongoing goal of state propaganda in detail: “Russia is becoming the last refuge of a normal person.” She specified that a normal, “healthy” individual is someone who does not agree with liberal goals and ideas of Western countries, which she described as “totalitarian liberal fascism.” “It’s all such nonsense,” she moaned, referring to American public discourse on cultural appropriation, systemic racism, and LGBTQ rights. The host mockingly proposed the idea of a “heterosexual pride” event, and Simonyan enthusiastically played along. Disregarding damning statistics and contradicting RT’s own reporting, Simonyan boldly claimed that absolutely no discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation exists in Russia. “We’re different. I hope we will continue to be different,” she proclaimed.
Other top propagandists like Dmitry Kiselyov have been drawing absurd parallels between the prosecutions of the Capitol rioters and the suicide of John McAfee, claiming that McAfee killed himself because he was so afraid of the corrupt U.S. justice system. “America forever lost its moral leadership in the world,” he argued on his Sunday program Vesti Nedeli on channel Rossiya-1.
The program alleged that white people in America are being “shamed” and subjected to “mass humiliation.” Vesti Nedeli showcased clips from Fox News featuring Tucker Carlson, who claimed that the critical race theory amounts to racism against white people. Earlier in June, popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda opined that President Joe Biden “declared white Americans to be the main enemies of the United States” and vowed that Russia would not help the U.S. in its fight against the proponents of white supremacy.
Shortly after the Capitol riot, the host of the state TV program 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva, described the death of Ashli Babbitt as an example of “the negroes lynching the whites.” In the weeks following the attempted Capitol insurrection, Soloviev complained that unlike George Floyd, Babbitt wasn’t buried in a golden coffin and pondered out loud why there was no movement entitled “White Lives Matter.”
With Russia positioning itself as the anti-woke empire, it is ready to reel in more Western supporters by any means necessary. During Soloviev’s show last Friday, Vitaly Tretyakov, dean of the Moscow State University’s School of Television, suggested: “It’s time to move on to more active measures—and I don’t mean sending ships into their territorial waters. I mean sending political vessels. Do you want me to spell it out?”
Simonyan quickly interjected, keeping her fellow propagandist from divulging too much. “No need,” she said.