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NAFO: The meme movement countering Russian propaganda amidst Ukraine conflict

NAFO

In response to Russian propaganda and disinformation surrounding the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO) has emerged as an influential internet meme and social media movement. Dedicated to countering false narratives, NAFO combines irreverent commentary, Ukraine-themed memes, and fundraising efforts to support the Ukrainian military and pro-Ukrainian causes.

NAFO, a play on NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), has been recognized as a form of information warfare, utilizing internet culture and humor to challenge Russian propaganda efforts. At the center of this movement is the representation of a NAFO “Fella,” depicted as a Shiba Inu dog. The Fella has become an iconic symbol and avatar associated with the group’s activities.

Created in May 2022 by Twitter artist Kamil Dyszewski (@Kama_Kamilia), NAFO gained traction when Dyszewski started adding modified images of the Shiba Inu dog to photographs from Ukraine. Since its inception, the movement has attracted a diverse community, including current and retired service members from Ukrainian and NATO militaries, Eastern Europeans, and members of the Eastern European diaspora.

NAFO engages in various activities to counter Russian narratives. In addition to sharing irreverent commentary and memes that either promote Ukraine or mock the Russian war effort, the group fundraises for the Ukrainian military and other pro-Ukrainian causes. Its efforts have raised substantial funds, although an official tally is not available. Notably, NAFO facilitated the inscription of custom messages on Ukrainian artillery shells and equipment through the Signmyrocket.com initiative.

The movement has received attention and recognition globally. High-ranking military and civil officials, including Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, have changed their Twitter avatars to feature the Fella. The Fella has become a symbol of unity and resistance against Russian propaganda.

Despite its humorous and irreverent nature, NAFO’s impact in countering Russian narratives cannot be underestimated. The movement has successfully hampered Russia’s propagandists, ridiculing their arguments and drawing attention to Ukraine’s war. The widespread use of English in NAFO’s memes has helped keep Western attention on the conflict, which is vital given the importance of Western support to the Ukrainian forces.

Internetintelligence.eu recognizes NAFO’s unique approach in utilizing internet culture and humor to challenge propaganda and disinformation. The movement’s grassroots and decentralized nature has contributed to its strength, making it an important player in the battle for sovereignty of interpretation in online spaces.

As the conflict continues, it is essential to acknowledge the role that online communities like NAFO play in shaping public opinion and influencing policy discussions. Internetintelligence.eu will continue to monitor and report on the evolving situation, highlighting the efforts of organizations and movements like NAFO in countering disinformation and promoting a more accurate understanding of the conflict in Ukraine.

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