A narrative is an overarching message, communicated through text, images, metaphors and other means. For example, repeatedly portraying individual politicians as crooks will eventually establish a narrative that politicians, in general, are corrupt and deceitful.
The narrative is a technique of telling a sequence of related real or fictional events. Originally, this technique was invented to guide people on appropriate behaviors, cultural history, community identity formation, and values, as is particularly studied today in anthropology among traditional indigenous peoples.
ReclaimTheFacts founder Peter Metzinger recognized these manipulative techniques in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was this realization that led to the founding of ReclaimTheFacts as well as research into the origins of much of the misinformation and conspiracy theories spread in the West by Russian troll factories.
The narrative is found in all forms of human creativity, art, and entertainment, including speech, literature, drama, music and song, comics, journalism, film, television and video, video games, radio, gambling, unstructured entertainment, and performance in general.
Narratives can also be found in some paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and other visual arts, as long as a sequence of events is presented. Many art movements, such as modern art, reject the narrative in favor of abstraction and the conceptual.
The narrative is also a key to disinformation, used strategically to convince citizens of certain theories over time and to encourage distrust and social fragmentation. Pro-Kremlin disinformation organizations, for example, use a set of narratives that serve as templates for particular stories and can be tailored to a target audience. Of course, different narratives are used for different audiences.
Some of the pro-Kremlin narratives have been used for hundreds of years. Variations of the “decaying West” narrative have been documented since the 19th century. Obviously, these narratives can be combined and modified according to current events and prevailing attitudes.
LES ELITES VS. PEUPLE
A great example of this type of widespread narrative is that of elites versus the people. Based on the idea that “evil elites” are out of touch with the needs of “the people,” this is a common populist trope that can be particularly powerful during election cycles. As we have seen many times before, a populist party or candidate, claiming to be the “voice of the people” or “the silent majority,” deploys this narrative to attack the political establishment and offer voters easy solutions to complex problems.
This discourse has been very successful because it has provided a scapegoat for the target audience to blame for all their grievances: bankers, big business, Jews, oligarchs, Muslims, and Brussels bureaucrats.
The narrative of elites versus people has a long history, more than a hundred years. Its proponents claim to be the voice of reason and to defend disenfranchised citizens, speaking truth to power against elites who seek to hide the “truth” at all costs.
The “truth” can relate to a wide variety of issues, including migration, politics, and economics, while the particular elites deemed “guilty” of hiding the truth are strategically selected to address the grievances of the target audience.
Indeed, this narrative can be adapted and applied to a seemingly infinite number of issues: ‘The migration crisis is caused by big business in order to obtain cheap labor; ‘The global warming hoax is used by bankers to distract the public from real-world problems.’ The list goes on…
Ultimately, while this narrative appears on its surface to be sympathetic to ordinary people, its roots are in fact strictly authoritarian. Evidence is rarely provided to support the claims made and, following the principles of conspiratorial thinking, the very absence of evidence is sometimes used as proof: “See how powerful the elites are, hiding all traces of their conspiracy!”
Typically, this type of narrative also requires the reader to rely exclusively on the narrator’s words: “I know the truth, trust me!” Indeed, like all narratives based on conspiracy theories, this one requires its audience to accept claims on the basis of faith rather than fact.
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