The Russian state-owned television network Rossiya 24 aired a news segment last month about the supposed connection between the sudden popularity of “fidget spinners” and the actions of Russia’s anti-Kremlin political opposition. Titled “Spinners: Stress Relief, a Get-Rich Scheme, and an Oppositionist Toy,” the report aired on June 19, but it didn’t draw public attention until comments by journalist Alexey Kovalev.
“These toys are popular not only among high school and college students. More than once, they’ve been spotted in the hands of representatives of the non-systemic opposition,” said Alexey Kazakov, the host of the news program “Vesti,” when introducing a report by Nikolai Sokolov.
In his segment, Sokolov reviewed the popularity of fidget spinners in the West, noting that they only arrived in Russia somewhat later. “Who is promoting this so actively to the masses?” the reporter asks, before revealing that the toys were sold at anti-corruption protests on June 12. “Videobloggers sold them right in the thick of events, and used the profits, they say, to film new videos,” Sokolov claimed.
Continuing his segment, Sokolov said YouTube channels that collect videos about fidget spinners are often highly political. This, the “Vesti” reporter theorized, is how opposition channels seduce their “potential protest audience.” The segment concludes with comments that Catherine Hettinger, the creator of the fidget spinner, has apparently criticized the U.S. government. She has also supposedly recommended a “Facebook page” that has been blocked by Russia’s federal censor. Meduza was unable, however, to determine which Facebook group this is.
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