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This article was published on October 8, 2018

Viral video of woman pouring bleach onto manspreaders is staged Kremlin propaganda

Viral video of woman pouring bleach onto manspreaders is staged Kremlin propaganda

On September 25, a viral video filmed by Anna Dovgalyuk showed a Russian “feminist” pouring bleach on men’s crotches in a protest against manspreading. Except it wasn’t bleach, it was water, and also Kremlin propaganda.

Dovgalyuk’s film, FIGHTING MANSPREADING… WITH BLEACH!, shows bleach attacks on numerous manspreading men on Russian subway trains. It quickly went viral worldwide but the original video has been removed from Dovgalyuk’s YouTube channel.

Along the way, it picked up over 6.4 million views on In The Nowa social media channel owned by Russia Today.

At the time of the video’s release, Dovgalyuk said: “Men demonstrating their alpha-manhood in the subway with women and children around deserve contempt.” The 20-year-old self-proclaimed “activist” justified her actions against manspreaders “on behalf of everyone who has to endure the manifestations of [men] declaring [their] macho qualities on public transportation”.

People were unsurprisingly mad about this video and many took to social media to express their anger:

Ever since the video was uploaded its authenticity has been called into question. The St. Petersburg-based Magazine Bumaga finally revealed Stanislav Kudrin, one of the men in the recording, was actually paid to act as a victim and he admitted it was staged.

Published on his Facebook page, roughly translated Kurdin said: “They poured water on us […] Naturally, staged. That feeling when you come to the shoot with two spare pants and leave with a salary.”

Propaganda performance

It’s hard to see at first why anyone would sponsor such a video, but EU vs Disinfo clearly illustrates the Kremlin’s ties to the stunt.

In The Now, a media brand which shared and spread the staged video, is a social media project under the umbrella of Russia Today — which is owned by the Russian government. It specializes in distributing viral videos outside of Russia and doesn’t clearly advertise its relationship RT and the Kremlin.

The video appears to be meant to demonstrate extreme feminism — something that the Russian government has targeted in its propaganda. State-owned media outlets frequently attack the West’s political correctness and “malignant feminism” — such as the #MeToo movement — and the “manspreading” video reactions echo Russia’s stance on these topics.

The powerful effect of #MeToo hasn’t shaken the Russian government or Vladimir Putin as he recently labeled the mass movement as a “media conspiracy” since he believed alleged cases should be handled in courts and not as media campaigns.

Women who attempted to speak out in support of the #MeToo movement in Russia were met with violence, public ridicule, and commonly blamed for their attacks. Alongside this, Russia decriminalized domestic violence early last year, reducing the penalty for abuse to fines, community service, or 10 to 15 days in jail.

In The Now and the “manspreading” video are eerily successful parts of Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, provoking people beyond its borders and sowing disunity. It’s yet another reminder that we need to be responsible in our media consumption and sharing. That’s the only way forward.

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