Our Analytics 2 february — 13:50

Rumour: On board Azerbaijani sunken ship were 30 tonnes of gold and 4 billion dollars (How to defeat?)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

The Azerbaijani opposition is returning to its favourite tactics of the late 1990s - the beginning of the 2000s. This is a mechanism for distorting information and spreading rumours. In Soviet times, this mechanism was concentrated in the hands of the KGB. And rumours were spread or redirected through the mouths of a wide agent network: in government agencies, institutions and universities. The current opposition leaders, who formed the backbone of the Popular Front leadership, were in the KGB's agent service. Therefore, the frontists have extensive experience in the dissemination and manipulation of rumours since the Soviet times. After all, rumours satisfy a certain information need.

Rumours are a whole fundamental science. In Soviet times, there was an entire scientific discipline called the rumour psychology, which studied the typology, the functional model, the scale and reproducibility of the rumour propagation process.

Today, the spread of rumours is a formidable weapon in the hands of the opposition, because social networks, which are popular in society, are fertile ground for introducing and cultivating rumours. Opposition activists use all three types of emotional rumours, described in scientific studies of the psychology of rumours.

For example, a few days ago, one of Ali Karimli's associates, Ganimat Zahid, posted on his Facebook page information about a vessel that had disappeared in the vast Caspian Sea. According to Zahid, allegedly this ship belonged to a high-ranking official, and on board were 30 tonnes of gold and 4 billion dollars in cash. Tell me, what sane person in our time - in the age of banks and money transfer systems - will send cash on board? And where, according to Ganimat Zahid, sailed this ship? To Astrakhan, the periphery, the Russian wilderness, where there is still the faraway 1970! Are you aware of the absurdity of this information? But no! Ganimat Zahid can be blamed for anything, but not oligophrenia. He himself is well aware that the information he spread is a primitive invention, a trivial fake, a two-penny canard. But who is this fake intended for? That is the question!

Indeed, in Azerbaijan, millions of people are sitting in social networks, and most of them perceive the common two-penny canard at face value. According to the psychology of rumours, this type of rumour refers to the classification of 'aggressive rumours,' or 'scarecrow rumours.' After all, one of the functions of this type of rumours is to discredit an opponent and provoke the population to take some kind of action. Say, where are you looking? An official from Azerbaijan, as in the Middle Ages, without fear of pirates, transports tonnes of gold on board a ship to Astrakhan. Zahid provokes discontent of the masses, pushing them to protest actions. And after all, some part of the population can believe Ganimat Zahid, doubt and become a hostage of his emotional feelings.

Alas, the authorities are limited in their ability to deal with unscrupulous journalists such as Ganimat Zahid, since any adequate response with the requirement to prove the fact voiced causes an angry reaction from international organisations that deny the thin line between freedom of speech and irresponsibility of a journalist who makes absurd and unsubstantiated accusations.

Another example. Another colleague of Ali Karimli spreads information: they say the Azerbaijani police allegedly supplied fake passports in Baku to the rebels of the terrorist Kurdish PKK organisation. Again, there is another aggressive rumour designed for the emotional feelings of the Azerbaijani society, which is traditionally solidary in the struggle of the Turkish authorities against the Kurdish rebels. In general, the PKK theme is one of the popular opposition information sabotage campaigns used against the authorities since the 1990s. If earlier, Musavat parasitised on cooperation with the PKK, today it is the most beloved topic for the sabotage of Ali Karimli’s supporters. The goal is an open intention to stain the reputation of high-ranking officials, to bring discord, aggression, cause inter-ethnic collisions.

Another fresh example. The opposition is actively applying the 'rumour-wish' methodology. In recent days, rumours are spreading about the inevitable devaluation of the manat. Another informational diversion aimed at demoralising the population, its panic reaction, hatred of power. Although all heads of financial institutions in the country refute the likely devaluation, convincing and proving the absence of prerequisites for the financial crisis. But opposition activists are adamant and in every way support the desired development scenario on the web... What is the danger of the functioning of this mechanism for spreading rumours? The danger lies in the fact that the target audience seriously begins a discussion in the networks of rumours, which contributes to the formation of a unified position, excluding the inter-individual variation of opinions. And no official statements can dissuade the blind conviction of a consolidated social group. This process is strengthened and systematised with the help of the so-called 'street sociology.'

I am overcome with fear at the thought of the transformation of our society into a certain dystopia. I regret to admit that there are no serious sociological institutions left in the country that would study political phenomena on the basis of methodological research. Nature abhors a vacuum. This vacuum was filled by the so-called network, or street sociology. The opposition creates false space for non-representative network (pseudo-sociological) polls, revealing the most popular political leaders and political parties in society. And, of course, opposition leaders are winning in these polls by a large margin. It is on the basis of this 'street encyclopedia' that the opposition cultivates a false public opinion, like a true vox populi vox Dei...

I often ask myself: what can the authorities oppose this interactive, but a priori uncontrollable community? Unfortunately, the authorities are still unable to use the most effective and institutional means of mass communication - television. But this is the most effective means of interconnection and interaction of millions of people who, under the yoke of poor pops and the lack of alternative information, have renounced systemically important media.

Fighting network rumours and sabotage is useless, because network rumours have their own life cycle, and they 'die' natural death. The stupidity of the mass media itself and the restriction in this media of creative and other freedoms inevitably lead to the popularisation of informal, unprofessional or, as it is often called, 'civil' journalism.

How to defeat homegrown and partisan journalism that produces rumours in a non-legal field? Courts and arrests? In vain, the smartphone does not obey the courts and the Constitution, and also works and distributes from anywhere on the planet. The fake network can be defeated only by professional and creative mass television. Otherwise, crowds with gaping mouths will be waiting for new information about a sinking ship with gold bars and billions of dollars...

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