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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses “join the masses” tactics

“Join the masses” is a propaganda tactic by which propaganda backs up its messages with claims supported by large masses of people. This is how propagandists try to convince the audience that everything they say is true. This tactic is based on conformism - the tendency of people to adapt, bow before authorities, accept opinions and positions shared by the majority of representatives of their social group.

As part of this tactic, propagandists can use both truthful data, sociological surveys in their favor, and manipulate them and resort to perversions. There are also links to frankly custom or even fictitious surveys that no one has conducted. Such technologies are often used during elections to add votes to certain parties or blocs, because people tend to vote for those who are supposedly stronger and have more support. How this works is noticeable when candidates try to overcome electoral barriers: the voter fears that his or her vote will actually be “lost” if they vote for a party that does not overcome the barrier. Therefore, due to false opinion polls, their choice may change at the last moment. Texty.org.ua has collected a whole database of Ukrainian pseudo-sociologists, some of whom openly worked for Russian propaganda, which also uses this tactic for its own purposes. In particular, in a full-scale war.

For example, one of the pro-Russian anonymous telegram channels to discredit the Ukrainian authorities cited data from a real sociological survey “Veterans' Needs” conducted by the Ukrainian Veterans Fund. In the title of the message, the authors made the wording “53% of Ukrainian veterans believe that the Ukrainian state is not fulfilling its obligations to them”. In this case, the propagandists resorted to brutal manipulation: they used the opinion of veterans who fought against the Russian occupiers to promote anti-Ukrainian messages.

Another example of propagandists using sociological surveys for their own purposes is the report of an anonymous telegram channel about the results of the Internews study, according to which 74% of Ukrainians consume information from social networks (60% specifically from telegrams), and only 36% trust television. Propaganda uses these numbers to criticize the United News telethon and accuse the authorities of censoring television. The marathon is opposed to the telegram, which supposedly is a platform for obtaining independent and objective information. At the same time, the authors of the messages deliberately do not mention that over the past few years, people in the world have mainly consumed information on the Internet, and not from traditional media. Anonymous telegram channels, which spread the thesis of government censorship, are often sources of disinformation, in particular pro-Russian. Due to their anonymity, they do not accept any responsibility for their content.

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