This column was written for the Unz review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/counter-propaganda-russian-style/
Listening to the western corporate media one would get the impression that the Kremlin controls all the Russian media with an iron grip and that not a word of criticism of Russia, nevermind Putin himself, is ever allowed. So bad is this situation that the AngloZionists are now funding new “information” efforts to counter-act the Russian propaganda machine and bring some much needed information to the Russian people who clearly do not realize that they are being lied to and deprived from any truthful or even alternative information.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
First, while some Directorates of the KGB have been renamed and reorganized, the Directorate in charge of dissidents, “other thinkers” and assorted ideological “enemies of the state” (the 5th Main Directorate) has been disbanded completely. So there is no “ideological police in Russia”. Some forms of speech are, indeed, banned – “extremist” speech (terrorism, violence, racism, hate speech, etc.) and some specific organizations, like the Ukrainian “Right Sector” or the Tatar “Mejlis”. Other than that, the only control over speech in Russia is based on criminal charges. So, really, Russia is not unique in that matter at all – she more or less does the exact same as European states.
Second, there is *a lot* of criticism of Putin and the government in general in a very active RuNet (Russian Internet), not only in Russia, but also worldwide (USA, Canada, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, etc.). Some of the criticism comes from a rather small pro-US minority, but most of it comes from the anti-US camp: nationalists, Communists and critics of the government economic policies all blame Putin for being too weak and unwilling to confront the West frontally. Unlike in the Ukraine, foreign media organizations are not banned, and neither are their broadcasts or newspapers.
Third, most of the Moscow-based “money elite” (I don’t want to call them “intelligentsia”) absolutely loathe Putin and his policies, and they are not shy about speaking their minds about him. If you want to test that hypothesis, just talk to wealthy Russian tourists and you will see that, as a rule, they don’t support Putin at all. And, as we know, “money talks” and a lot of Russian money is most definitely opposed to Putin.
But that does not mean that there is no Russian counter-propaganda at all. There is, and it is very effective. But what makes it unique is the way in which it operates.
I suspect that the fantastically incompetent ways in which the 5th Main Directorate of the KGB worked to try to deal with anti-Soviet feelings has left a deep mark on younger generation of state security officers who have learned from these mistakes and have taken a diametrically opposite course: instead of trying to silencw the western propaganda – they actually actively promote it!
Yup, that’s right. The Kremlin and the clearly pro-Putin journalists go out of their way to give as much air time to the most rabid anti-Kremlin critiques as possible, especially on Russian TV talkshows.
The most popular Russian TV talkshows (Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, Time will Show with Petr Tolstoi, Right to Know with Dmitrii Kulikov, Politics with Petr Tolstoi and Alexander Gordon, Special Correspondent with Evgenii Popov, News.doc with Olga Skabeeva, Duel with Vladimir Soloviev) all make sure that the following groups get as much airtime as possible:
- Russian liberals
- Russian-speaking American journalists
- Russian-speaking Polish officials and journalists
- Ukrainian nationalists
These four groups are literally the “bread and butter” of these talkshows were they provide a constant stream of very entertaining political debates. Why? Because they utter the exact same nonsense which they are used to proclaim in their own countries and if the western audience does not really know what to make of this propaganda, it sounds so outlandish to the Russian audience that these guests always get completely eviscerated (verbally, of course) by the Russian guests invited to the same talk show.
And just to make sure that every person in Russia ‘gets the message’, the main weekly news shows (News of the Week with Dmitri Kiselev, Postscriptum with Alexei Pushkov) always feature long excerpts from western propaganda reports and the most rabidly anti-Russian statements from western politicians.
For example, the BBC recently made a rather grotesque propaganda movie entitled “World War Three: Inside The War Room” featuring Putin ordering the invasion of a Baltic state and a nuclear strike on a US aircraft carrier. The Russian media when crazy over this, and long excerpts of the show, with special effects and all, were shown on Russian TV. The Russian public looked at this footage in awe and dismay at the stupidity of it all.
More recently, the US magazine posted a video about and upcoming issue on “Putin’s Russia” . Check out the video here:
And this is the cover of the magazine:
Needless to say, the Russians absolutely loved it. Not the image itself, of course, it was deeply offensive to them, but the fact that Foreign Affairs has so clearly shown its true face: hate-filled russophobia. Russia as a drunken, frustrated and wounded bear. They did wonder, however, why the westerners saw them as wounded; and wounded by what?
They also loved the “Making America Great Again” on top of the page which was obviously the propagandistic goal of this issue: to show Russia as wounded as a means to make “Merika” look “great again”.
Believe it or not, all this gives most Russians both a good healthy belly-laugh and an acute awareness of the hatred the West has for Russia. “They only love us when we are weak, wounded and drunk” is something which you can hear very often on Russian TV, and the blogosphere fully agrees.
Another regular feature on Russian TV which the general public cannot get enough of are Ukrainian nationalists. Not only do they systematically deny any problems in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine and continue to insist that the Russian military is operating in the Donbass, they even come “equipped” with the mandatory “chub” hairstyle and Ukie flag of the Ukronazi patriots. See for yourself:
It is quite an amazing experience to listen to the evening news with live reports and video footage of all the chaos and violence taking place in the Ukraine and then to listen to these Urkonazi clowns explain that 2+2=3, that black is white and that the water is dry. I cannot think of a more effective way to totally ridicule the regime in Kiev.
Then there are our former east-European “brothers”, especially the Poles. Their main source of pride is that they are now part of NATO and they openly say so. They actually admit that “we are afraid of Russia so we joined NATO” which makes them look both as idiots (nobody in Russia believe that Russia will invade anybody) and as cowards (from a Russian point of view, that kind of “hiding behind the bigger brother” elicits no respect at all). So if the Ukronazis come across as clowns, the Polish officials come across as cowards and prostitutes. And just to make sure that everybody gets it, the Russian media regularly reminds the Russian people that Poles are constantly making the ludicrous accusation that their government plane crash near Smolensk was somehow either shot down or bombed by Russia.
Then there are the American journalists, mainly Michael Bohm – right of the photo – (who speaks a pretty good Russian and Mark Knuckles – left on the photo – (whose Russian is hilariously horrible and who sounds like a bad movie’s caricature of a CIA station chief during the Cold War). Oh boy, these two provide for hours of excellent entertainment.
Michael Bohn is clearly the smarter of the two, but he is also by far the nastier. While he tries, hard, to avoid sounding like a typical US propagandists, he regularly “breaks down” and begins spewing some very obnoxious US imperialists nonsense. He also loves to try to deny any Russian success (all of which he dismisses as “propaganda”). Knuckles is plain stupid and arrogant in a uniquely US way. Frankly, I am amazed that nobody in the USA has found a way to pull him away form the Russian TV before he further damages the image of the USA in Russia. Whatever may be the case, these guys are truly hilarious to watch, especially when confronted with reasonable western journalists from France, Greece, Germany or even a fellow American (see a good example here).
Last but not least, there are the Russian liberals. You have to realize that by now the words “liberal” and “democrat” have become almost insults in Russia. Here is a typical Russian joke which illustrates the typical Russian view of liberals:
A new teacher comes into the class:
– My name is Abram Davidovich, I’m a liberal. And now all stand up and introduce yourself like I did …
– My name is Masha I liberal …
– My name is Petia, I’m a liberal …
– My Little Johnny, I’m a Stalinist.
– Little Johnny, why are you a Stalinist? !
– My mom is a Stalinist, my dad is a Stalinist, my friends are Stalinists and I too am a Stalinist.
– Little Johnny, and if your mother was a whore, your father – a drug addict, your friends – homos, what would you be then in that case? !
– Then I would be a liberal.
Notice that the new teacher has a typically Jewish name, which illustrates the Russian belief that Jews are the prime proponents of the kind of “liberalism” folks like Berezovsky or Khodorkovsky incarnated in the 1990s. This is not some kind of anti-Semitism – this is simply a typical case of blowback.
So when the poor Russian liberals get to present their view on Russian TV, they not only are called to task to defend or, at least, try to justify AngloZionist imperial policies, they are also regularly reminded of the horror which Russia was under their rule in the 1990s. Just standing in the company of Russia-hating Americans, Poles and Ukrainians they look discredited beyond any possible redemption.
There is really nothing as funny has watching Russian liberals, Americans, Poles and Ukrainians clamoring that there is no free speech in Russia on prime time Russian TV!
Keep in mind that the internal Russian media is very different from the English language Russia Today whose mission is to present an alternative point of view to a western audience and there are therefore very few rabid russophobes invited to speak on RT. But inside Russia the decision has clearly been made to expose the Russian general public to the exact same russophobic propaganda as what the western public is subjected to.
In way you could say that the Russian counter-propaganda technique is a form of intellectual inoculation: you give the body just enough exposure to the pathogen to trigger an immune response, but not so much as to infect and kill the body. As a result of this, the following associations have powerfully molded themselves into the Russian collective:
Russian liberals → the horror of the 1990s
American journalists → US imperial aggression
Polish officials and journalists → russophobia
Ukrainian nationalists → the horror of present day Banderastan
This is very, very effective. The best way to prove that is to remember that all these groups have the support of maybe 3-6% of the Russian population, max. A solid 95%+ is resolutely opposed to them and don’t want them to have any say or even influence in the future of Russia.
As an ex-Cold warrior myself, I remember well how ridiculous Soviet propaganda was and how nobody would take it seriously, not in the West and not in the East. Now the tables have turned and it is the western propaganda which is not taken seriously anywhere (well, except maybe in Poland and the Baltic states) and which ends up damaging the credibility of the West.
The Empire’s propaganda is simply counter-factual and totally illogical and is quite obvious to a Russian audience. This is why the very last thing the Kremlin would ever want to do is to prevent the Russian people from being exposed to it.