Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Scholar tells of ongoing anti-Ukraine psyop targeting U.S. audiences

    The UOC (MP) is running an aggressive policy overseas, in particular in the USA. It is known that this organization hired a famous lawyer and political lobbyist, William Burke-White. In addition, last year, Donald Trump supporter Tucker Carlson had as a guest on his show the main partner at Amsterdam&Partners, Robert Amsterdam. That interview caused quite a stir and gained millions of views.

    Archimandrite Kyrylo (Hovorun), an acclaimed Ukraine-based theologian, who gives lectures at many Western universities, told Glavcom about the consequences of such an aggressive campaign by the UOC-MP in the USA already seen today.

    “The USA has now entered the period of the presidential campaign. The race will be brutal and tough because the stakes are too high. The issue of Ukraine aid became hostage to internal contradictions in the American political system, in particular between Democrats and Republicans. They all agree that Ukraine should receive assistance, but they are all ready to throw Ukraine under the bus, as they say in America, in order to achieve their goals. This applies to both leading parties. Among themselves, they use any arguments to poke their opponents. Moreover, it is not important whether these arguments are valid or not,” explained the archimandrite.

    According to him, many aspects of aid to Ukraine became part of the election campaign in the U.S.: “Many Republicans, in particular from Trump’s circle, began to use arguments provided by both Russian sources and UOC MP sources. Father Vadym Novinsky (businessman and ex-MP – ed.), who pays for the lobbying campaign for the UOC-MP in the USA, seized the moment of the election race and is exploiting the situation quite effectively. In particular, I mean spreading the slogan that Ukraine seems to be putting pressure on the UOC-MP and religion in general. I predict that this slogan will be heard throughout the election campaign even louder than it is now. This is not about whether these accusations against Ukraine are fair or not. The Republican wing that nominates Trump does not care about facts. Trump himself said that there is an alternative reality. For him and his supporters, what we call post-truth is more important. That is, these are some things taken out of context, which they interpret in their own way and immediately politicize them, turn them into slogans and rally millions of people under these slogans.”

    The speaker believes that Robert Amsterdam’s interview with Tucker Carlson, which has received more than 50 million views, had a tremendous impact on the formation of the point of view on Ukraine, particularly among Republicans. Theses voiced by Amsterdam claim that the UOC-MP and the UOC/OCU are different religions, so, as the Archimandrite explains, when Ukraine puts pressure on the UOC-MP, it actually means oppression of religion as such.

    “Reagan’s legacy is very important for Republicans. Ronald Reagan fought with the USSR, including because religion was suppressed there. And now, from the point of view of many Republicans, we find ourselves in a similar situation: Ukraine in religious terms is the heir of the USSR, which is ‘doing the same thing that the Soviet Union did with religion. And that’s bad.’ This is the twisted logic here.

    You and I understand that this is absurd, a lie, a distortion of reality. But many Republicans in America don’t care about reality. It is important for them that there are parallels and associations. And propagandists involved in the presidential campaign on Trump’s side are actively exploiting these associations,” the priest emphasized.

    In his opinion, Ukraine turned out to be a hostage of this campaign. At the same time, the UOC MP defends itself as best it can. In particular, it reaches out to American lobbyists, hires Amsterdam, who, by the way, is not a pro-Russian lawyer. He himself is a persona non grata in Russia because he defended Russian opposition figures.

    “Defending itself, the UOC MP created a huge information wave that will continue to rise like a tsunami in the American information space. This tsunami can really hurt Ukraine a lot. And again we must distinguish between cause and pretext. The cause of this tsunami is not Ukraine itself, but the American presidential race. And what is happening in Ukraine is just a pretext for the parties to the conflict in American politics,” Hovorun emphasized.

    At the same time, he assured that there are many people and organizations in the United States who seek to understand more deeply and convey to the public the true picture of what is happening.

    “I personally try to explain what is happening. To this end, I write opeds for various American media that expose the post-truth. Among them, I can note the Ukrainian edition of Voice of America. But I see that not as many people as I would like want to really understand. For the most part, people were satisfied with what the high-profile Tucker Carlson told them. Yes, he is accused of lies, manipulation, he was even kicked out of Fox TV because of it. But he still has a colossal audience and is an acclaimed media persona,” says the theologian.

    According to his conviction, what Carlson is doing can be opposed by high-quality media: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and others, which cover Ukrainian topics and with which he closely cooperates. “But 55 million views for Carlson’s videos are difficult to beat with anything. If an article about the religious situation of Ukraine appears in a quality media outlet, it is definitely not on the front page. And, ironically, a relatively small number of people will read it. These readers are people who do not need proof for anything, they already think they know what is happening. It is much more difficult to penetrate the Republican-Trumpist bubble, which it is, although it’s already a very large one,” the priest explained.

    This “bubble”, he says, is religiously motivated. For example, Ron DeSantis, second most-popular one after Trump, is a convinced South American Baptist. Unlike Trump, he is very sincere in his faith and has tremendous support. “It is possible to reach him and his audience only through religious messages, in religious terms. (DeSantis has already dropped the electoral race – ed.). A secular newspaper like The New York Times, for example, certainly cannot penetrate this bubble. Only religious arguments work there. And I work with my colleagues to create religious narratives that are understandable to a religious person to persuade them to look at the problem from another angle. Cooperation with Ukrainian evangelical churches, which have close ties with evangelical circles in the USA, is important here,” the archimandrite emphasized.

    He considers Catholics to be another important segment: “Catholic Church in the U.S. is very divided. There are Catholics who support Pope Francis, and there are large numbers of Catholics, including high-ranking ones, who oppose him. In principle, the Pope is an ally of Ukraine, despite all his contradictory statements. He advocates Ukraine a lot in the Global South. But when it comes to conservative Catholics in America, his voice is not so significant there. American conservative Catholics, who are against Francis, like evangelicals, are very actively involved in political processes in America. They will also elect Trump and other politicians with the anti-Ukraine agenda. This is also a very important stratum that should be kept in mind and an approach to them should be sought. Such is the reality.”

    The speaker noted that there is very little time left before the U.S. elections to radically change the opinion of Republicans, but still “we have to break this rock.”

    When asked who else, besides Vadym Novinsky, among influential Ukrainian and Russian businessmen is investing in the campaign rooting for the UOC MP, which is actually anti-Ukrainian, the archimandrite answered: “I don’t know who is investing, but I think someone is because the campaign is effective. Putin is a master of division. That is, if he sees that somewhere there is a crack, a conflict, he starts hitting this spot in order to break the monolith.”

    It should be recalled that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church made a decision to strip Archimandrite Kyrylo (Hovorun) of his sacred rank as he had opposed Russia’s war against Ukraine. This was reported by the press service of the Russian Orthodox Church. This happened against the background of the fact that in 2022, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hovorun co-authored a theologians’ declaration, in which the concept of the “Russian world” was defined as pseudo-science.