Looking for where to read news on the Internet, a potential reader may come across unscrupulous sites that spread not objective points of view but harmful propaganda. One such resource is the German “Anti-Spiegel”, which is actually a source of pro-Russian narratives. This was openly announced by the owner of the publication, Thomas Roper:
“Anti-Spiegel” aims to correct the completely false image of Russia that is spread by German and Western media. The reason is that I have lived in Russia for over 20 years and since then I have been annoyed by how false the reports about Russia are. I love this country and its open, warm, and happy people, and it’s important for me to show that Russia is just a normal country where some things work well and others don’t. Basically the same as in Germany».
We became interested in investigating what kind of media this is. Also, we want to know if they followed the «coverage of all points of view of the conflict and objectivity» mentioned in the description of the site.
Let’s meet «Anti-Spiegel» and its sole author
«Anti-Spiegel» positions itself as «substantiated media criticism» and is in fact a platform where Thomas Roper publishes his thoughts and Russian propaganda. Roper is not very active on social networks. He regularly runs Telegram and YouTube (created in 2015). His last post on Facebook was in March 2022, and on Twitter on February 25, 2022. The total number of Roper’s Telegram and YouTube subscribers exceeds 200,000.
After looking at the statistics from Similar Web, we saw that this media is read the most in Germany (74.10%). We also found that the average age of the reader is 25–34 years, mostly men.
There is an important point here, although this media is written in German, it is actually Russian, for a number of reasons. First, it is registered on a Russian domain, as evidenced by the web address that ends with «.ru». Also, his mail is also registered on the Russian service. Secondly, this media is regulated by Russian legislation, which the author openly reported in the column «About Anti-Spiegel».
“The site is governed by Russian law and there is no obligation to source data in Russia. Of course, I stand behind my work with my name, and Russia also has laws against falsely defaming people, e.g.”.
The question arises whether the author of the site can write objective materials while being guided by the legislation of the Russian Federation. For example, if a journalist wants to support Ukraine in his material, will he do it?
Thirdly, Thomas Roper himself has been living in Russia for over 20 years, which actually makes him a Russian journalist. He is often called on propaganda TV shows, positioning him as a German journalist. But he often criticizes the German government for helping Ukraine and accuses it of dependence on the United States.
In general, this media characterizes itself as an «alternative opinion», as evidenced by the very name «Anti-Spiegel». She opposes the German edition «Der Spiegel«, which according to Roper “turned into a newspaper that excessively marginalizes US war crimes, gleefully welcomes any war for “Western values” and supports the bombing of Libya and Syria”.
This publication also specializes in conspiracy theories. For example, in 2021, the «media person» published the book «Inside Corona«, which was devoted to conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, on April 21, 2022, he took part in a conference organized by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and which had a telling name «Evidence of mass war crimes of the armed forces and national units of Ukraine in Mariupol».
Wikipedia writes about Thomas Roper as follows:
“Thomas Roper — is a German-language nonfiction writer and blogger based in St. Petersburg. He is considered a «Kremlin loyalist» to disseminate disinformation such as proven false claims, conspiracy theories and Russian government propaganda. Since 2018, he has been running the Anti-Spiegel blog”.
It is significant that the article on Wikipedia about this person has a huge block about his participation in spreading fakes. Among them were the justification of the crimes in Bucha, and the annexation of western Ukraine by Poland, and even conspiracy myths about US biolaboratories in Ukraine.
Also, this journalist repeatedly came into the field of view of various media due to his activities. Among them: Ukrainian Pravda, Fact Check, Get The Trolls Out and others.
We’ll cover two of his recent submissions at the time of this writing. In this way, we want to demonstrate all the beauty of the «objectivity» of a journalist.
Grain deal and Roper’s fake
The first article that caught our attention was entitled «Spanish pigs need Ukrainian grain more than starving Africans». It said that Spain received 2.9 million tons of grain from Ukraine, while the countries of Africa, where hunger prevails, received much less.
“Without wheat from Europe’s granary of Ukraine, the poorest countries of Asia and Africa would starve en masse. This was the main argument of the EU in negotiations with Russia regarding the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian wheat through the corridor to Turkey. But the poorest countries in the world did not receive valuable grain. Instead, rich Spain became the main buyer. And this despite the fact that the Spaniards produce enough grain for their own needs. But Spain is one of the largest producers of pork in the world, and it is there that 2.9 million tons of wheat and corn from Ukraine went”.
To analyze this fake, we need to go to the UN website, the link to which was left by the journalist. We trivially used the calculator and found that Spain received 1.54 million tons of grain from Ukraine since August 12, 2022. During this period of time, African countries received a total of 1.34 million tons of grain, which does not agree with the author’s claim that the grain was illegally sold.
We also asked the expert, deputy director of «Real-trend» LLC and deputy director of «Sosonivka-Agro» LLC Serhiy Hrytsenko, why such a situation with grain distribution has developed. He replied that as a result of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports in February, 2022 grain prices rose almost immediately. The balance of the world market included ours, at least 50 million tons of crops, which simply disappeared without clear prospects of return. Countries, large importers of grain, were forced to revise the budgets planned for grain purchases. For example, already in March 2022, Egypt applied to the IMF for a loan of several hundred million dollars to cover the difference in wheat prices.
“Therefore, when it became possible to send grain through the ports as part of the grain initiative, grain prices on the world market immediately began to decrease, which definitely had an effect specifically for countries where hunger is a problem. Regarding direct exports, Spain is a traditional and permanent importer of our agricultural products, and the fact that we cover its demand shows that the Spaniards are not looking for the necessary grain, for example in South America, and it remains, for consumers in South Africa at reasonable prices”.
It should be noted that Ukrainian farmers participated in UN programs for the supply of grain to starving countries, and during the grain corridor, a number of ships were sent under such programs. Over 20 million tons of grain were exported during the operation of the grain corridor.
Head of the Strategic Planning Department of the Institute of Governmental Relations, Kateryna Shtepa, added that in July 2022, the Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN. The document testifies to the unblocking of Ukrainian ports and guarantees the safe export of products by sea.
“To help third countries, the «Grain from Ukraine» initiative was introduced. Each state can allocate funds for food, which will contribute to the stabilization of the humanitarian crisis and help prevent internal conflicts in African countries. Already today, 30 countries have joined the initiative, in particular, Spain has allocated 4.4 million euros to help developing countries. Ukraine supplies as many products as other countries need and ask for. The issue of supply is controlled by the UN, so that everyone who wants to receive Ukrainian exports», — said Kateryna Shtepa.
The Syrian theme of the pro-Russian propagandist
Roper’s other material is devoted to the earthquake in Syria, after which the EU and NATO countries seem to be preventing aid to the victims.
“The West has imposed sanctions and refuses to help the Syrian people living in areas controlled by the Syrian government to rebuild the country. Western sanctions go so far that they even make it difficult or even prevent the delivery of medicine and food”.
The journalist probably hoped that no one would check the link he provided as «proof» of the EU’s refusal to help Syria after the earthquake. For some reason, he decided to cut out of context the words of EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell, spoken back in 2020. Not only is the information not relevant, it is also distorted, because the official’s speech contains the following words:
“Since 2011, the European Union has collectively provided €20 billion in aid to Syrians in need, inside and outside Syria. This assistance will be provided as long as it is needed, but it will depend on the success of our pledge today. Only from the EU institutions (promised) 2.3 billion euros for this and next year. This includes €560 million for 2021, an increased pledge of over €1 billion for 2020 and €700 million in macro-financial assistance”.
It is not known how this confirms the refusal of European countries to help the Syrians.
Bohdan Myronenko, an expert on Central Europe and the Balkans of the ADASTRA Analytical Center, explained to us what the situation really is.
“The idea that the EU is not helping Syria comes from anti-Western narratives that, unfortunately, are sometimes successfully spread by Russian propaganda. They are deceiving that the countries of Europe are doing everything to keep Syria in their zone of influence, so as not to allow Russian influence to spread there. It is obvious that this is not the case, and the EU has already spent more than 10 million euros on providing humanitarian aid and eliminating the consequences of natural disasters in Syria and Turkey. The most necessary equipment, household items such as generators, specialized rescue equipment, tents, blankets, medicines and others were transferred”.
European institutions specifically clarified the mechanisms of sanctions against Syria — they reminded that they do not apply to items used by the civilian population, such as food, clothing and medicine. And they made the necessary legal corrections in order to enable the fastest and most efficient delivery of everything necessary to Syria. The purpose of sanctions, firstly, is to affect the military-industrial complex or persons who are involved in making decisions that have a negative impact on human rights. It is logical that the continuation of Assad’s sanctions is in the interests of the Syrian people. The EU shows itself as a defender of humanitarian law.