Sputnik staged a “pussy (for the Americans)” riot in August

The US president, Donald Trump, met with the Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, at the White House, on August 20th. SOURCE: Flickr/White House
The US president, Donald Trump, met with the Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, at the White House, on August 20th. SOURCE: Flickr/White House

August was another very hot summer month boiling with anti-Americanism in Romanian media. Not across all media, certainly, but anti-US topics were definitely the first and most important target for the classics of misinformation and propaganda: Sputnik, Național, Evenimentul zilei and Cotidianul.

According to the figures, August was busy: around 1,300 articles on anti-EU (40%) and anti-US (60%) topics. Around 20% of the articles were labeled “biased” for both EU and US categories. Based on the previous months reports, this ratio is rather normal for the anti-EU biased articles. However, this percentage certainly shows an increase of biased anti-US articles figures. Put differently, (some part of) the Romanian media in August was more anti-US than before. And that is mostly due to two events that triggered waves of misinformation: the first – the investigation on the alleged kidnappings, rapes and murders that took place in Caracal, the latter – president Iohannis’ visit to the White House following president Trump’s invitation.

The EU, under the radar

US foreign and domestic politics were a generous source of articles: topics such as the tensions in the Gulf, the INF Treaty demise, the tariffs wars (with China and France), the repeating mass shootings (those in Daytona and El Paso being the most noticeable), Jeffrey Epstein’s death, two Democrat Congresswomen banned of entering Israel, North Korea missiles test-fires, Trump’s intention to buy Greenland and the Hong – Kong protests generated hundreds of mostly neutral news and analyses.

As for the EU, it provided topics such as Italy’s political turmoil (originated in the actions carried out by far right Matteo Salvini), Turkey’s defying attitude towards NATO and the Macron – Bolsonaro over the Amazonia fires row.

In terms of media outlets transforming reality instead of reflecting it in compliance with journalistic rules, it is worth mentioning that Sputnik rioted in August: unlike previous months, the Russian propaganda channel was extremely active. In July, for instance, the Romanian language Sputnik published 49 anti-Western articles (the vast majority, 44 of those, labeled as “biased”). In August, Sputnik published no fewer than 150 anti-Western articles (three times more than the previous month), out of which 127 were biased. The ratio is in favor of the anti-US biased articles, 76 (whereas only 51 were labeled anti-EU). Out of those 76 biased anti-EU articles, 51 were news and 25 analyses. It was, basically, a flood: more than four biased articles on every single day. For the Sputnik daily reader, it must have been a war zone: a constant bombardment of misinformation.

The “smuggled underaged girls for the US troops at Deveselu” conspiracy

On August’s first day, three articles published by Sputnik suggested (no proof provided) in an extremely open way that the US Ballistic Missile Defense Site troops at Deveselu are connected (as beneficiaries of sexual services) to an infamous case of alleged kidnap, rape and murder of several underaged girls based in Caracal, some ten kilometers away from Deveselu. The headlines are cynical (Pussy networks for the allies), insinuating (The out of the blue visit that the US ambassador to Romania paid to the Govern, connected to the rape scandal?) and demanding (The US ambassador to Romania has to explain: is there any connection between the US troops and the rape scandal?).

Another three articles, published on the 2nd of August, use the “syllogism method”: if something happened, then something else must have happened as a consequence. Creativity, though, doesn’t seem to be Sputnik’s strength, let alone logic, therefore their “syllogisms” are as follows: the “famous investigative journalist” Mirel Curea (Evenimentul zilei) says the US troops at Deveselu benefitted from underaged girls sexual services, hence the lethargy of the judicial concerning this case; as long as FBI is invited to help solve the rapes case, that’s the proof that the Americans are involved – but there’s no official confirmation of an invitation sent to the Federal Bureau: three days later, it was revealed that there was no request of the Romanian authorities for FBI to take part, in any way, in the investigation; every year, some hundreds of US soldiers are accused of sexual misconduct all over the globe so this demonstrates US troops are also involved in the rapes in Caracal.

On the 6th of August, Sputnik revisits the topic, based on an article published by Cotidianul a day before and tells its readers in the very headline what’s the relevant info: (prostitution) networks for Americans.

A week later, Libertatea published testimonies of some girls (that used to be victims of sex trafficking networks in Caracal) according to which some of the smuggled girls were offered to “Americans” at the US Deveselu base. When the scenario Sputnik was so keen to spread was finally backed up by testimonies (including some under oath, for prosecutors), the Russian channel didn’t miss the opportunity. Interestingly, Sputnik chose not to mention the conspiracy headlined by Libertatea, which used the words “cover up” when describing the way prosecutors avoided to summon “Americans” for testimonies.

However, Sputnik mentioned “the secret plan of concealing the Caracal – Deveselu connection”, but did not say who carried out the plan (except naming the (American) “propaganda”), instead listed all the voices that supported the American involvement scenario in the sex trafficking case.

Trump, the new sultan

A raging attack on Klaus Iohannis, that lasted for several days in a row, was started by Sputnik before the visit that the Romanian president made to the White House on August 20th. On the previous day, the Russian propaganda outlet used the term “cretin/imbecile” to characterize the Romanian president in the context of US investments in Romania. Then, Sputnik quoted Liviu Pleșoianu, social-democrat MP, who said Romania’s only a supplier of mineral, human resources and cash for the US. On the same day, the Russian outlet wrote that Iohannis’ visit to the White House is not presidential, but electoral. In yet another article published on August 19th, Sputnik quoted Antena 3’s Mircea Badea denouncing some Romanian journalists being critic to Trump while favorable to Iohannis.

On the day of the actual visit to Washington, the Russian propaganda kraken was released. First, an apocalyptic message was spread: “Trump made us part of a big conflict” (where “us” stood for Romania and “conflict” for “conflict with China”). Then, more worries: a “famous general” (in fact, a former communist Militia officer, Pavel Abraham) was of the opinion that the Romanian president went fully unprepared to the US, without previously having any talks with the Government and the Parliament. Strategically, the visit is not beneficial to Romania due to EU –  Trump bad relations, Sputnik generously cited a member of USR. The floor was also given to a social-democrat MEP – that expressed her belief according to which Iohannis was not to take from, but to give to the US, then to a defendant – who used a blunt metaphor: “we kneel in front of these new sultans and pay tribute”.

The next day, echoes of the visit could still be heard, at least according to Sputnik. Under the headline “Iohannis is collapsing”, the Russian outlet quoted Bogdan Chirieac who criticized the anti-Chinese memorandum. Things got more serious later on: president Iohannis was denounced as a traitor, Mircea Badea was cited calling for Bechtel to get back to Romania and Exxon was “uncovered” as the sponsor of the Romanian president visit to the US.

Two days after the meeting at the White House, another “famous general” (this time, a former Army general and former member of the Communist Youth Union) labeled as traitors both president Iohannis and the Romanin ambassador to the US for organizing the visit for the benefit of Donald Trump. Would you say disaster? Well, you would be right, according to Sputnik: following his total surrender, Iohannis is now of no use for the US and will be dumped as a bag of trash. And that’s not all, the trap is even more harmful: instead of being protected as a result of the Deveselu base presence, Romania was turned into a war zone by the very deploying of US equipment and troops here. Eventually, the Deveselu air base itself was (figuratively) reduced to rubble by Mircea Badea (quoted again, yes): what’s the use of accommodating that here as long as it does not prevent murderers and rapists such as Gheorghe Dincă from committing crimes?

On the 23rd of August, the people was allowed to speak: Sputnik thought of surveying its readers – did Iohannis get anything in and from the US or simply gave everything away for nothing?

* The authors of this analysis/study divided the media articles into two categories (news and analysis), each classified as biased or neutral. A geographical criterion was also used to link the media articles to the EU and the US. According to this study, a piece of news is nothing more but a short article covering a fact or a statement whereas an “analysis” may be a column, an investigative piece or any other type of article that is based on several facts and statements that are premises for the conclusion that the author of the article wishes to make public. The neutral characteristic is attributed to those news and analyses that use actual quotes (and not made up or out of context ones), rely on fact checking and logical syllogisms, provide side relevant data (context) in order for the public to get the bigger picture. News and analyses are labelled as biased when, on the contrary, the journalist’s work is not compliant with all of the above: quotes are partial and/or manipulated/manipulative, there’s no vetting process, neutral context is not added (and when there’s some context provided, facts are selected to match the conclusion – which, in this sort of cases, is pre-set – and not the other way round).

Based on this report:

Discursul anti-Occident – interviu cu jurnalistul Cătălin PRISACARIU
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