The Russian ‘fake news’ campaign about AIDS that damaged the United States — in the 1980s

Ronald_&_Nancy_Reagan,_Ken_Khachigian,_Larry_Speakes,_Don_Regan,_and_Dennis_Thomas_aboard_Air_Force_One

President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan, speechwriter Ken Khachigian, press secretary Larry Speakes, chief of staff Don Regan, and aide Dennis Thomas – 1986

From The Washington Post by Alexander Poster:

Imagine a covert plan to weaken the United States, not through military sabotage or stealing state secrets, but simply through the manipulation of the news media. The plan involves foreign agents who write and disseminate false news articles with the aim of destabilizing American society and driving a wedge between the United States and its allies.

No, this isn’t a story about the 2016 election, but rather about how the Soviet Union capitalized on perceived American indifference toward the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and began disseminating “fake news” as part of a disinformation campaign that had major ramifications for American foreign policy — and may well still be influencing Russian-American relations .

To be fair, the Reagan administration was slow to act when it came to HIV/AIDS. In a news conference on Oct. 15, 1982, journalist Lester Kinsolving asked White House press secretary Larry Speakes whether President Ronald Reagan had any reaction given that “AIDS is now an epidemic.” Speakes provided a terrifyingly ignorant response: “What’s AIDS?”

Read the rest of the article at The Washington Post

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Categories: Cold War History, History of Medicine

Tags: , , , ,

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