The battle took place on Twitter in June. It contradicted an anonymous account with a profile picture of a dog wearing a hat and a trellis of a Russian diplomat. The latter, Mikhail Ulyanov, first pretended to rebel against a “popular western story” who wanted Russia to make an unprovoked invasion on the part of Ukraine. “The shooting of the civilian population of Donbass by the Ukrainian army began in 2014 and continues today”he reasoned, took a well-known justification for Kremlin propaganda.
Second degree creepy response from Ukraine Memes for NATO Teens account: “So we had to bomb all the civilians in Ukraine because Ukraine was waging an internal war and some civilians were bombed. The Russian diplomat made the mistake of dropping a response that quickly became a meme (a viral joke endlessly replicated on social networks): “You said that nonsense. I’m not.” (“You say this nonsense. I’m not.”)
You say this nonsense. It’s not me.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) June 19, 2022
Other Twitter accounts with smoke profile pictures came and ridiculed the response of diplomat Ulyanov, who in a few minutes has become a symbol of the Kremlin’s propaganda contradictions. The diplomat disappeared from the social network for a week, claiming a long-planned vacation.
The accounts looking for him all claim to be from “NAFO”, for “North Atlantic Fellas Organization” (“The Companions of the North Atlantic Organization”). They are linked by a variant of “dog” meme, a simple purebred Shiba Inu dog, but disguised as a Ukrainian soldier, CIA agent, special forces operator, etc.
From humor to dollars
“No decision, NAFO was naturally born from a joke that we all found funny”one of them explained, Matthewthirty years old and former marine in the American army who however prefers to identify himself as a “Love of the hippopotamus”.
At the beginning of the famous “joke”, an artist named bedwhich explains the Vice which recently started including small dogs in camouflage in images of the war in Ukraine for no particular reason, in May. Until everyone comes to claim his own canine avatar in exchange for group donations Georgian volunteers fighting alongside the Ukrainian army. A small market has already made it possible to collect around 60,000 dollars (58,700 euros), according to Matthew.
This is how a small online community is created. “There is no hierarchy or plan”ensures our “man”. “We’re just a bunch of ‘shitposters’ [des trolls, ndlr], who uses humor to bring comfort to the Ukrainian people.” His role? “I helped popularize ‘fellas’ when Kama started his drawings. But this is just a meme, not an organization or an operation. At the end of the day I’m still the hippopotamus lover I’ve always been.”
However, the joke goes too far. NAFO now has its own page on Places called Saint Javelinwhere you can buy T-shirts, mugs, stickers or even patches with the image of “fellas”, and even products derived from Ulyanov’s famous tweet, for several dollars donated to Ukraine for every purchase.
“My goal is always to have fun while raising funds to support Ukraine. And I will continue as long as possible”Matthew explained. “Things like Ulyanov taking his ‘holiday’ after making a complete fool of himself, that’s obviously a nice bonus.” He and his team also mobilized to allow the Georgian Legion to purchase valuable antidrone guns.
The troll is the troll
They have also contributed to the emergence of a subculture on the internet with a large production of videos and images mocking the misfortunes of the Russian army and glorifying the resistance led by the Ukrainians with the help of weapons provided by the United States . We can see “fellas” shoot down a Russian helicopter with a Stinger, knock out a tank with a Javelin, or even watch the bullets explode with a tear of emotion in the corner of the eye.
Before leaving for her “holidays”, Ulyanov accused his tormentors of bots, artificial accounts piloted automatically from afar. A good projection: the tactic has long been used by Russia, especially when trying to influence elections in the United States and Europe, such as the famous “troll farm” of the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. Operations that are still ongoing as part of the invasion of Ukraine, according to the British government.
So the question inevitably arises: are not the “comrades” just conducting a psychological operation for a Western intelligence service, as their pro-Kremlin detractors claim from the group? Random, the CIA? “Come on, everyone knows the CIA doesn’t exist!”break Matthew just to answer. “That’s part of the joke: Official Russian accounts have no power against cartoonish dogs who post stupid images in their comments, because if they start arguing with them, they look funny.”
NAFO has become a rallying point for opposition to Russia beyond the Ukrainian conflict alone. Recently, accounts of support for the Syrian rebellion, which appeared its solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance since the first days of the invasion, request to join the game.
The community is growing day by day. And while relentlessly harassing pro-Russian social media accounts, some of the ‘fellas’ also began advocating for stronger Western military support for Ukraine, and even direct US intervention . NATO. NAFO is unlikely to change the situation on the ground. But on the internet, Russia may have lost its edge.