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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses scarecrow tactics

“Scarecrow” is a propaganda tactic in which the arguments of opponents are replaced by weaker ones. After that, it is they who are refuted, and not the primary, stronger positions. This tactic exploits a logical flaw called “thesis substitution”.

A classic example of this tactic being used is this dialogue:

A: “Sunny days are good.”

B: “If all days were sunny, there would never be rain, and without rain there would be drought and starvation”.

In this case, B replaces A's statement with the fact that supposedly only sunny days are good and refutes it. In fact, A says that sunny days are good, without mentioning anything about rainy days.

Although the “scarecrow” is considered a rather primitive manipulative technique, it is often used both in domestic political battles and in international propaganda. For example, opponents of the legalization of medical cannabis in Ukraine, which has an exclusively analgesic effect for the seriously ill and wounded, say that Ukraine will become “one of the leading drug hubs in the world” and “a second Afghanistan”, etc. Against the legalization of civil partnerships, including for same-sex couples, there are arguments like “I don’t want my son to become gay” or “the church and God are against it”. Or, for example, reproaches about the adoption of children by same-sex couples, although the profile bill does not provide for this.

Russian propaganda also constantly uses this manipulative technique. So, in the assertion that Ukrainians are a nation separate from Russians with their own language, history and culture, there are answers like “the Black Sea was dug up by ancient ukry (Ukrainians)”  or “and Jesus Christ was Ukrainian”, etc.

If someone dares to criticize the “cult of Victory” in Russia, they are accused of supporting Nazism. If someone demands democratic freedoms and rights, they are accused of inciting unrest and destroying order in the country. Under the dictation of the West, of course. When Ukrainians accuse Russia of illegally annexing territories and a war with many victims, they are answered that “you have Nazis in power who illegally overthrew the legitimate Yanukovych” or “and who bombed the Donbas and killed children for 8 years?”. This is how substitution, monkeying and depreciation of strong and rational arguments with outright nonsense occurs.

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