Another shot in the propaganda war

In recent weeks, fear of ‘Russian propaganda’, ‘disinformation’, and ‘information warfare’ has reached somewhat hysterical proportions, as seen most clearly in the case of alleged links between Russian hackers and US presidential candidate Donald Trump. Yesterday, British information warriors Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev joined in with a report published by the Center for European Policy Analysis entitled Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe.

The report is pretty much standard Lucas/Pomerantsev fare: Russia, they write, ‘regards the post-1989 settlement of Europe as both deplorable and temporary. It sees democracies and open societies as a threat, because they may “infect” Russia with their ideas. It aims to undermine a rules-based multilateral security order in Europe that it regards as unfair and unsustainable.’ To this end Russia is using disinformation against the West, ‘overtly – through foreign-language television … and covertly, using notionally independent journalists, experts and commentators’. Moscow’s aim, say Lucas and Pomerantsev, is ‘not to convince or persuade, but rather to undermine. Instead of agitating audiences into action, it seeks to keep them hooked and distracted, passive and paranoid.’

The authors make a number of policy recommendations designed to counter this ‘Russian propaganda’. I don’t have space to go through all of them, so I will focus here on three which struck me as particularly disturbing.

First, Lucas and Pomerantsev propose what looks rather like censorship. ‘A strong regulator is key to ensuring broadcasters maintain journalistic standards’, they write. The authors praise a three-month ban imposed by the Lithuanian government on the TV channel RTR Planeta, adding that, ‘a strong case exists to create an international commission under the auspices of the Council of Europe that would evaluate channels for hate speech, disinformation and other faults.’ What these ‘other faults’ are is not defined, but in the case of RTR Planeta they included offences such as encouraging ‘discord and a military climate’ and inciting tension ‘against the EU and NATO states.’

Second, Lucas and Pomarentsev suggest the creation of what they call a ‘working group on historical and psychological trauma’ designed to counter the Russian narrative about Nazi collaborators in the Second World War. They explain that many in Ukraine and the Baltic states do not regard those who fought alongside the Germans as ‘fascists’. Lucas and Pomerantsev speak positively of the efforts of the Ukrainian government to reframe commemorations of the war to reflect ‘these mixed memories’, saying that such efforts ‘show how to use historical themes for a positive effect, helping heal divisions and move on from past traumas’. In essence, they are suggesting that governments promote the idea of a moral equivalence between those who fought against the Nazis and those who fought alongside them. Lucas and Pomerantsev clearly feel that the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany provides Russia with a historical propaganda tool, and that we should deprive Russia of that tool by rewriting history. This is a mistaken approach. They would be far better off resisting the sort of historical revisionism they propose and instead pressuring the Ukrainian government to stop directly and indirectly promoting collaborationist symbols. Were that to happen, it would become that much harder for Russians to complain of a fascist revival in Eastern Europe.

A third proposal in this report is perhaps even more bizarre. Citing efforts to deradicalize Islamic militants, Lucas and Pomerantsev write that, ‘Similar initiatives should be undertaken with radicalized, pro-Kremlin supporters, those on the far left and the far right, and Russian speakers.’ Are they suggesting anti-brainwashing programs for people who watch RT or read Russia Insider? I really don’t know what to make of this.

There is, of course, much more in this report, but most of it isn’t any better than this. Lucas and Pomerantsev seem to share the misperception by many politicians that it isn’t their policies which are wrong, it is just the way that they are communicated to the public. Clamp down on your opponent’s propaganda and improve your own, and all will be well. This approach may be emotionally satisfying, but it ignores the deeper reasons why people choose to disbelieve you and believe somebody else. At one point, Lucas and Pomerantsev mention a Russian-language Estonian TV channel which ‘focuses on town-hall and talk-show type programming to help disenfranchised audiences feel understood’. Perhaps if the Russian-speakers weren’t disenfranchised in the first place, this wouldn’t be necessary.

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Another shot in the propaganda war”

  1. Glad to see that little has changed since the days of Pomerantsev’s Menace of Unreality.
    ‘Yesterday, British information warriors Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev joined in with a report published by the Center for European Policy Analysis entitled Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe. […] The authors make a number of policy recommendations designed to counter this ‘Russian propaganda’. I don’t have space to go through all of them, so I will focus here on three which struck me as particularly disturbing.
    First, Lucas and Pomerantsev propose what looks rather like censorship. ‘A strong regulator is key to ensuring broadcasters maintain journalistic standards’, they write.’

    But didn’t Lucas (along with Anne Applebaum) already launch a counter-disinformation initiative at CEPA in May? Its main goal is to monitor, collect, analyze, rebut and expose Russian disinformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Is this new report meant to further justify the initiative?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Are they suggesting anti-brainwashing programs for people who watch RT or read Russia Insider? I really don’t know what to make of this.”

    Nah, not anti-brainwashing programs, but probably straitjackets or something… It’s a common approach: if you disagree with us, you’re …ugh… unwell. You need professional, medical help. Start with medications, and, if that doesn’t help, proceed with physical constraints and isolation. Electroshock therapy… But thankfully these days medications perform miracles, so it probably isn’t going that far…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is always a line between people and animals. Question of Nazi collaborators is such a line for me. Both Lucas and Pomerantsev successfully crossed it and there is nothing in this world that would make them people with even a single human right again.

    Like

  4. Okay, fuck it – Lucas and Pomerantsev did it. These two propagandoms “radicalized” me. I’m with Alexey on this issue, whether to regard them as human beings. In fact, I’d go an extra mile suggesting what should be done to them and their ilk.

    Like

  5. There’s a simple reason why European states, especially those with significant Russian minorities, are concerned about the influence of Russian media. Citing Arkadiy Babchenko, Russian journalist, speaking about the war in Donbass:

    Это первая война в истории, развязанная исключительно геббельсовщиной, исключительно пропагандой. Если бы не российское телевидение, этой войны бы не было.

    And yes, Russian media – both inside and outside Russia – are intentionally making up stories that incite hatred and provoke agression. Remember the famous “crucified boy” or 13-yr Russian girl raped in Berlin?. This simple fake resulted in hundreds of Russians in Berlin going out to streets, protesting and threatening to lynch the imaginary rapists.

    So if you’re concerned about proposals to merely impose tighter controls over Russia Today having a regular channel on public TV in UK and other countries, maybe you should first ask yourself why there is literally zero channels on TV in Russia that are not government-controlled (not to even mention broadcasting Europan channels)?

    Like

    1. Someone made up a dramatic story, and the story was reported. What’s the problem here? Happens all the time.

      Now you tell me: did the Russians hack DNC emails? Do they threaten the Baltic states? Conduct expansionist increasingly aggressive foreign policy?

      Like

    2. 1) It took me some time to find who the hell he is. (Old)NTV-TV6-TVS (under Evgeny Kiselyov), “Novaya Gazeta”, “Ekho Moskvy” – oh my! Called for a riot during 2011-12 protest – but the “Bloody Regime” didn’t jail – or murder him.

      I understand that “a poet in Russia is more than just a poet”, but I won’t consider words (i.e. opinion) of a journalist to be something equal to holy truth.

      2) Not Russians but Germans (most of whom who were born in the former SU) took to the streets for a short time exercesing their right for free assembly. I can’t recall any damage from these rallies. What I do recall is a rising wave of violence in Germany by migrants.

      3) List of all these “lies” that Olgino/Kremlin/Mosfilm etc are spouting and which, allegedly, influenced the people to revolt about couped in camarilla in Kiev.

      4) Are you going to say that ethnic Russians in Baltic limitrof states are treated fairly and in accordance with the EU laws?

      Like

      1. As pretty well documented in the Дело Лизы Ф. article, the story about the “raped 13-years old Russian girl” was intentionally escalated beyond any imagination by the following parties:

        * Russian Germans association “Genosse” who started distributing the news over hundreds of Russian-language social network groups (the organisation also ocassionally marched for “Novorossiya” etc under bizarre banners such as “За объединение России и Германии под президентством Владимира Путина”)
        * Sergey Lavrov (!) who immediately jumped to a conclusion that “she obviously could not disappear voluntarily” (!) and accussed German authorities of covering up violence against Russians
        * Pervyi Kanal, who sent journalist Ivan Blagoy to Berlin to produce an incredibly biased report repeated by all major channels (e.g. NTV) where new fantastic details were added, like increasing number of rapists (up to eight), with titles such as this:

        Берлин: изнасилована несовершеннолетняя — полиция бездействует

        Now, after all these news started hitting the media, the expected result was the angry Russian Germans started going out to streets in various cities to protest against “their children being treated as sex slaves”. At least in one place (Berlin) this ended up in physical attacks against refugee centre.

        And all this was happening while German police – based on the Lisa’s mobile phone data and medical examination performed right after her reappearance – was continuously assuring the concerned parties that her story is most likely not true.

        Now, I would challenge Mr Robinson to make a step back and re-read the CEPA report with the Lisa’s story in mind.

        Like

      2. “Russian Germans”

        “You keep saying these words!”(c)

        0) PediWikia is not a source.

        1) “the organisation also ocassionally marched for “Novorossiya” etc…

        I guess, you are against that kind of behaviour? You want such things banned and people participating in such marches held accountable?

        Swell! Then you won’t bitch about Russian authorities grabbing by the butts all those, who call for separation of Crimea/Siberia/Chechnya/Kurils and for supporting NatzGuard actions in Donbass? The list of people who did that is a loooooong one.

        Also – I guess there is a reason why people in Germany want their country ruled over by Putin, while in Russia probably no one (except the standard number of 2-3% of freaks) want a foreigner to rule over them.

        2) “Sergey Lavrov (!) who immediately jumped to a conclusion that “she obviously could not disappear voluntarily” (!) and accussed German authorities of covering up violence against Russians”

        Exact quote, please. I want to read this wondrous quote where Lavrov says anything about Russians.

        3) “Pervyi Kanal, who sent journalist Ivan Blagoy to Berlin to produce an incredibly biased report repeated by all major channels (e.g. NTV)”

        That’s just pure emotions and claims. I can say that you are biased against Russia and be more right that that claim that you just did. We must believe *you* that these were incorrect reportages because, uhm, you say so?

        And as for press running baseless stories with sensationalist headlines – sure, the Blessed West NEVER does anything like that!

        [Googles “MH17” and “Putin killed my son”]

        [And as for more recent – DNC mail was TOTALLY hacked by Putin. This is “without a doubt” ™. No, we have no proof – which is a proof itself!]

        I also would like to see some real sources and statistical data. You insist that “angry Russian Germans” were staging protests. Okay – can you prove that it was only them and not only “racially pure Germans” in the mix? Besides – can you prove that it was “Russian Germans” who attacked the refugee centers in the aftermath? As it was proven time in again, a lot of those alleged “attacks” were actually refugees themselves setting their lodgings on fire due to carelessness.

        As for legit attacks against refugee centers – of course, “racially pure Germans” had no reasons to do that! Especially after New Year’s party in Cologne. Or now, after Munich and all the crap that keeps happening! It’s all Putin’s fault [nods].

        Like

      3. UPD: Free, Independent, Unbiased and Balanced journalism is the staple of the West!

        Now, where were all our pics of Obama with banana?..

        Like

      4. Sergey Lavrov, the minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation, publicly disclosing in Russian language the details of what happened to Lisa:

        * “our girl Lisa” (why “our”? didn’t realize Lavrov had German roots)
        * “the information about her disappearance was supressed for very long time”
        * “it is absolutely certain that the girl did not disappear voluntarily” (Lavrov using the phrase “абсолютно точно” has its weight here)

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s