Fidget Spinners vs Putin: Russian State Media Warns That Toy Will Turn Kids Against Kremlin

Fidget spinner
A girl plays with a fidget spinner toy in London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Tom Jacobs/Reuters

Not everyone gets fidget spinners. The trendy new toy is meant to ease stress and anxiety but Russian state TV fears it could have more nefarious purposes, namely turning the nation's youth to vandalism and acts of opposition against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The palm-sized device "makes a person impressionable for manipulation," news show host Alexey Kazakov said on one of multiple segments broadcast by the state-run Rossiya24 dedicated to the dangers of fidget spinners.

The toys themselves look innocuous enough, mostly consisting of a bearing center with a three-pronged ring which spins when pushed. They come in different colours and have become a global phenomenon among young people, including young Russians.

But over the last month, fidget spinners have puzzled Russian pundits, who suspect them to be U.S.-made tools of manipulation for Russia's opposition.

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"Probably it is no coincidence that they started selling the spinners at events by the non-systemic opposition," the host of the programme Virus said on Wednesday. Kazakov explained that according to experts the item could be used as "an object for zombifying" yourself, shutting down critical thinking and experiencing a kind of "hypnosis."

Featuring a report from a psychologist named Svetlana Filatova, the program claimed that spinners can help the dexterity of very young children but beyond that, the spinner "dulls" a person's mind and focusing only on the spinner "takes you to a different world."

This was not the channel's first on air assault against the fidget spinner, as the hazards associated with the device made another evening news broadcast last month.

Fidget spinners "have frequently been seen in the hands of members of the non-systemic opposition," Alexey Kazakov said at the time. He noted schoolchildren and college students were using the devices in Russia, where the trend was at its peak, unlike in the West where it was apparently waning.

"As you can see here there is only writing in English, on the other side there is not a word in Russian," Nikolay Sokolov, Kazakov's co-anchor chimed in, brandishing a new fidget spinner. He underlined the lack of medical evidence that the item had many benefits but that the interest in it among scientists "is not big."

"Why the spinner has become so popular in Russia now is a mystery," Sokolov said. "Who could be promoting it en masse?"

According to Sokolov, fidget spinners were being distributed at opposition leader Alexey Navalny's last rally on June 12

Russian independent journalist Alexey Kovalev was among the first to draw attention to the initial bizarre segments on Russian national airwaves, tweeting his response.

Fidget spinners are used by opposition to pacify followers and distract them from real issues. Because that's what opposition usually does.

— Alexey Kovalyov (@Alexey__Kovalev) July 12, 2017

"God! Rossiya24 is running another segment about about the opposition zombifying people with spinners. Basically the Russian opposition is a massive job creator in the country," he added. "Look at how many bloggers, analysts and TV hosts are hired."