Conflicts & War

NAFO, the guerilla meme fighting Russian propaganda with humor

By Jesús Calero

Vienna, Oct 21 (EFE).- A group of pro-Ukraine activists have set up a social media account under the name the North Atlantic Fellas Organization to fight against Russian propaganda and fundraise for Ukraine.

The platform, whose acronym NAFO is a satirical twist on the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, or NATO, is battling against Kremlin disinformation about the war in Ukraine with the use of memes, humor and sarcasm.

NAFO’s success is down to its “irreverent humor” which is much more effective against disinformation than conventional communication, according to Jesús Pérez Triana, a Spanish security analyst and member of NAFO.

“NAFO uses humor in the midst of tragedy and so much pain and suffering, it offers an escape and a feeling of camaraderie,” he tells Efe.

The group’s main aim is to stop Russian propaganda from spreading across social networks and raise awareness of the Kremlin’s illegal war in Ukraine, as well as raise funds to support families affected by the war.

“We are a movement without hierarchies or a command center, which is organized around a few basic ideas,” Pérez says.

NAFO started as a joke when in May, a user called Kama began to post images of the invasion of Ukraine accompanied by caricatures of Japanese Shiba Inu dogs, now one of the most famous memes in Internet culture.

The success of his cartoons was immediate and today, his dog memes have become the symbol to combat Russian propaganda on social networks.

Kama is also using the platform to raise funds for Ukraine. To receive one of his custom memes, users must donate money to the Georgian National Legion, a militia of Georgian volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine.

Christian Borys, founder of Saint Javelin, an online platform that sells products made in Ukraine, is also raising funds by turning NAFO memes into pins, T-shirts, mugs and stickers.

His platform has raised over two million dollars and has donated its first half million to a Canadian NGO that has been working with Ukrainian orphans since 1991.

NAFO began to gain popularity in June after Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative to international organizations in Vienna, responded to a user who had challenged him on the inconsistency of Moscow’s arguments for invading Ukraine.

“The most popular Western narrative: Russia carried out an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Unprovoked? The shelling of the civilian population in Donbas by the Ukrainian army began in 2014 and continues today,” the Russian diplomat had tweeted.

The NAFO member reproached Ulyanov, who made the mistake to respond to the troll, which later became a meme that went viral.

NAFO has gained so much popularity that even Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, posted a NAFO image on Twitter with the message: “NAFO expansion is non-negotiable!”. EFE


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