/Of elves and trolls

Of elves and trolls

From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.

The world’s problems are becoming so complex that it appears politicians are turning to elves for help.

It’s happening in Mexico. Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently posted on Twitter a photo of what he said was an alux, an elf-like creature that lives in the woods.

Some Maya peoples believe these are knee-high sprites, usually invisible but who sometimes assume a physical form to communicate with humans.

Obrador posted the photo of a little figure with glowing eyes crouched in a tree at night.

“Everything is mystical,” he wrote.

He made the Twitter post the same weekend as tens of thousands of Mexicans protested his electoral law changes they say threaten the country’s democracy. Some saw the alux post as a way of diverting attention from the electoral reform protests.

Lopez Obrador is not the first politician to have a relationship with elves.

Some years back Arni Johnsen, a member of the Icelandic parliament, said he was saved by a family of “hidden people” when his car left the road, flipped and rolled down a cliff. A family of elves, who lived inside a large boulder near the crash site, saved his life, Johnsen said.

An expert on elves told Johnsen he could thank the family by moving their home to a better location. So Johnsen had their 30-ton boulder home moved to his property where it was placed on a spot with a fine ocean view, and plenty of grass on which they could raise their invisible sheep.

Elves are very popular in Iceland. Road construction projects there have been delayed to allow elves living in the area to find other homes.

Meanwhile, elves have become active in combatting Russian disinformation campaigns against Ukraine and western democracies.

These “elves” are real people – anonymous volunteers who are part of a growing movement fighting Russian lies through cyber activism. They call themselves “The Elves” because, like elves, they want their identities to be invisible.

Cyber activism, also called digital activism, uses the Internet and digital media as platforms for mass mobilization and political action.

This elf movement began in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine to annex the Crimea peninsula. Some volunteers in the former Soviet state of Lithuania decided to counteract Moscow’s disinformation machine and formed “The Elves”, named for the little people who work unseen and anonymously behind the scenes.

The movement has expanded to an estimated 4,000 volunteers in 13 European countries. They have a co-operation agreement, which includes an annual Elves Academy at which 100 volunteers learn from leading elves new skills to help make them more effective at their work.

A main target of “The Elves” are Russian efforts to manipulate public opinion and build support for the invasion of Ukraine. Troll farms, sponsored by the Russian government, regularly fill social media with disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

For instance, the trolls have spread Russian defense ministry claims that bodies of civilians lying dead in Ukraine streets are fake. Eyewitness accounts, satellite images and other photos all support Ukrainian claims that Russian soldiers brutally murder civilians in the streets and commit rape and other atrocities.

Mass graves of civilians, plus torture chambers, have been uncovered in Russian invaded areas since liberated by Ukrainian fighters. Also, television networks every day show video clips of civilian apartment buildings blown apart by Russian missiles.

When “The Elves” see Russian disinformation on a social media site they report it en masse, generating hundreds, even thousands, of complaints and requests to have it removed. In addition to getting fake accounts shut down and fake news blocked, “The Elves” try to counter disinformation by publishing facts.

“The Elves” have been considering expanding their work to include countering disinformation from China. They are working with people in Taiwan to establish the first Asian chapter of “The Elves”.

So maybe critics shouldn’t be so quick to call President Obrador a nutbar for seeing an alux and considering it mystical.

If not mystical, the work of “The Elves” in Europe certainly is worthwhile and appreciated.

Disinformation is becoming a global pandemic, and the more elves fighting it the better.