As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued through 2023, so did attempts by right-wing bloggers and broadcasters on the fringe to generate and promulgate ghoulish allegations against Ukrainians.
One recent example is the claim that Russian troops discovered “baby factories” within Ukraine, used to traffic children for “elite pedophiles,” or to have their organs harvested for profit, a claim that has been circulated by video bloggers “The People’s Voice” on the right-wing platform Rumble.
The claim is based on an interview with an unidentified Russian soldier; the video also includes their attempt to dispel in advance any criticism — such as the lack of outside evidence or confirmation regarding these purported “baby factories,” or its similarity to the “Pizzagate” and “QAnon” conspiracy theories:
Western media and intelligence arms have been quick to dispel Russian claims about Ukraine’s child factory farms as the latest Russian disinformation campaign. Ukrainian and Western press outlets alike seem to have sprung into a fit of CNN-like Trump Derangement Syndrome circa 2017. There is a whole elite-funded media industry, including fact-checkers, working hard to convince anyone who will listen that any claims out of Russia are fake news.
Scapegoating fact-checkers as “elite” is part of a rising wave of harassment against the profession at large; a March 2023 survey by the the International Press Institute revealed that 90 percent of respondent outlets in Europe “experienced smear campaigns and online abuse from politicians and public figures.”
But even as it criticizes “elite-funded fact checkers,” the video seeks to bolster its claim by including a photograph of a headline from NewsPunch, a blog with a notoriously untrustworthy history:
That blog used to be known online as “YourNewsWire,” which, as the Poynter Institute reported in 2018, “regularly [pumped] out hoaxes and conspiracy theories,” including “Pizzagate,” which inspired at least one real-life attack against a Washington D.C. restaurant.
Poynter reported in 2019 about the NewsPunch rebranding, saying that it had enabled the site to maneuver around efforts by fact-checkers to report disinformation on Facebook.
“The People’s Voice” seems bent on publishing the same kind of content; recent works include a claim that the implosion of an unregulated commercial submersible craft that was to explain the wreckage of the Titanic was an “inside job”:
(It was not.)
Another story pushes the idea that U.S. President Joe Biden had deployed military troops around the country because the World Economic Forum had declared “martial law”:
(He has not.)