You’ve probably heard about the Russian special operations troop killed recently in Syria. As the story goes, he was alone, low on ammo, and surrounded by Daesh attackers. He called in an air strike on his own position, martyring himself to kill the enemy hordes converging on his position. If you read SOFREP regularly, you’ve probably already seen Jack Murphy’s scathing deconstruction of this narrative. Unfortunately, that piece wasn’t the final nail in this absurd coffin. No, the story continues.

Russian psychological warfare operatives are astute. As Murphy observed, it doesn’t matter if informed consumers see the propaganda for what it is. What matters is that their audiences don’t. Undoubtedly this story has created a swelling of national pride among Russians, and good for them. The problem is that Russian propaganda continues to gain unfathomable traction here in the West. Although Moscow is pushing the narrative through Kremlin mouthpieces like Russia Today and Pravda, British tabloids were more than eager to spread the message. Despite enormous cause for skepticism, even mainstream sources like the Washington Post began including this tale in reports on Syria.

It isn’t old media that’s the primary vector for delivery, though. Russian propagandists don’t have to engage in traditional underhanded methods to slip their stories into journals of record anymore. The Internet provides delivery platforms that are faster, have deeper penetration, and take almost no effort to compromise. The story has spread like wildfire across social media, from Reddit to Twitter. Shepherded along by Russia’s web brigades (or Internet trolls), the story has tens of thousands of likes, upvotes, comments, and shares across multiple sites. In what continues to be an amazing 21st-century information coup, even stalwart and patriotic U.S. veteran pages are eagerly promoting Russian propaganda. Think about the brilliance of that for a moment.

Murphy’s aforementioned article focused on challenging the narrative based on factual aspects of the story. For example, if the Russian was killed in an air strike, how did Daesh recover the Russian’s pristine and dust-free gear?