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On 7 June, the first episode of a video blog by Tucker Carlson, a TV presenter who was fired from the US TV channel Fox News in April this year, was posted on Twitter. One of the key topics of the video was the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region and speculation about Ukraine’s involvement in the crime.
Within five hours, the 10-minute video received over 60 million views and over 155,000 retweets on Twitter. Among others, the video was shared by Elon Musk, a number of US congressmen and Russia’s representative to the UN.
Despite the fact that the video begins precisely with the mention of the Kakhovka HPP, Carlson devoted only one minute to this event. This was enough time for him to state: “the Ukrainians probably blew it up.”
The presenter devoted most of his time to criticising his political opponents: Republicans who do not support Donald Trump and Democrats. He also criticised their position on the need to help Ukraine. Carlson actively manipulated and used Russian fakes.
Manipulation 1: “blowing up Kakhovka HPP is beneficial for Ukraine”
Tucker Carlson “argues” that Kyiv’s involvement in the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant explosion is beneficial for Ukraine and disadvantageous for Russia. The “arguments” are quite simple: the Kakhovka HPP was controlled by the Russians, built by the Russian government, and the destruction of the dam would damage water supplies to Crimea. Carlson did not forget to repeat the thesis of Russian propaganda about the importance of the peninsula for the Russian Federation, because it “was home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet for 250 years.” The presenter admits that blowing up the hydroelectric power plant “could be bad for Ukraine.” But, according to him, “it is much more harmful to Russia.”
What is wrong with these statements?
- the explosion of the hydroelectric power plant has led to an environmental disaster on the territory of Ukraine. It affects the environment, economy, and citizens of Ukraine, both in the temporarily occupied and government-controlled areas. The flooding of the territories is a blow to the agricultural sector, whose products make up a significant part of Ukraine’s exports;
- the flooding of the territory complicates Ukraine’s offensive in the South and allows the Russians to release at least some of the forces they have been keeping on this part of the frontline;
- it is not the first time that the Russians have resorted to the scorched earth tactic in an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible on Ukraine.
In addition, Tucker Carlson ignores the facts that point to Russian involvement in the explosion:
- last autumn, the occupiers mined the locks and supports of the hydroelectric power plant, and during the retreat from Kherson, they partially damaged the dam;
- Ukraine sought to avoid a catastrophe and warned the world of its threat. Last October, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the European Council to deploy an observation mission to the hydroelectric power plant.
The statement about the involvement of the “Russian government” in the construction of the Kakhovka HPP is a continuation of the Russian narrative that the Russians (in the guise of the Soviet government) “built all the factories in Ukraine.” This narrative does not take into account that Soviet industrialisation for Ukraine was not an act of charity on the part of Moscow, but was carried out at the expense of the Ukrainian economy and by the hands of Ukrainian workers.
Manipulation 2: “Senator Graham rejoices in the deaths of Russians”
To discredit American support for Ukraine, Tucker Carlson used a video that was one of the key stories in Russian propaganda in late May — a meeting between Senator Lindsey Graham and Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. The video was edited to combine two of the senator’s phrases in different contexts: “Yes, the Russians are dying” and “This is the best thing we’ve ever spent money on,” giving the impression that they are part of a single logical structure.
The presenters and guests of Russian propaganda shows, Putin’s spokesman Peskov and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Zakharova were demonstrably “indignant” by this video. The head of the Investigative Committee, Bastrykin, instructed his subordinates to open a criminal case against Graham, and the Secretary of the Security Council, Medvedev, “reminded” the senator of the fate of Robert Kennedy and other assassinated American politicians.
The Office of the President of Ukraine promptly provided journalists with the full version of the video, which shows that Graham’s statements about the deaths of Russians and the spending of American money do not follow each other and are not connected. The senator’s phrase “This is the best thing we’ve ever spent money on” was a response to Zelenskyy’s words of gratitude for the US assistance to Ukraine.
The unedited version of this conversation was made public. But Tucker Carlson ignored it. He was “indignant” in the same way as Russian propagandists and accused both the senator and the Ukrainian president of bloodlust.
It is not the first time that Tucker Carlson has spread fakes and Russian propaganda messages, spreading lies about “biolabs”, “Putin being pushed to war by the West,” etc. Russian propaganda, in turn, readily quotes Carlson. Using one of the cornerstones of Western civilisation — freedom of speech — the Kremlin and Russian agents of influence are doing everything to destroy it, spreading outright lies and speculating on the suffering of millions of people.
Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security