Matthew Fisher reports in today’s National Post that:
Jerzy Pomianowski, head of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), was in Ottawa Thursday to ask Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion whether Canada would help fund a project designed to provide Balts, Moldovans, Belarussians and other eastern Europeans with Russian language television programming that is not produced in Moscow.
While the state-controlled Russia Today and other Russian media spread highly biased ideas about global events, this is a ‘secondary issue’ to the damage done by the Kremlin media machine in countries with significant ethnic Russian minorities and where locals often speak Russian well, Pomianowski said after meeting Dion.
What the former Polish deputy foreign minister was referring to is immediately obvious to travelers to places such as Latvia and Lithuania. Russians there say the only credible news sources come from Moscow. This is although the reports are often biased and sometimes incendiary.
Pomianowski says that the Russian government is capturing the ‘hearts and minds of native Russian speakers with high quality entertainment’ (the devils!), and using this to ‘keep them glued to the screen and then (they are) brainwashed through false debates and lies that are spread through the news programs.’ To counter this:
Seed money is now being sought from several countries, including Canada, to allow independent producers to create high-quality dramas or infotainment programming for Russian minorities and others who speak Russian and live in the Near Abroad. ‘The amount of funds being mobilized is not dramatically impressive,’ Pomianowski said. ‘What we are talking about 10 million or 15 million euros ($14.5 million to $22 million) a year.’
Let’s put aside for a moment the irony of Matthew Fisher producing a propagandistic article complaining about propaganda. Just for the purposes of deeper analysis, let us imagine that all Mr Pomianowski’s complaints are true, that Russian speakers in eastern Europe really are being ‘brainwashed’ by Russian TV (curse those Russkies for being so entertaining!), and that this really does pose some threat to the security of Europe. The question then arises of why the Canadian taxpayer is expected to stump up several million dollars to do something about it.
The combined GDP of the European Union is approximately $16 trillion. If Russian propaganda really is such a threat, surely the EU could find $14.5 to $22 million a year to deal with it by itself. More to the point, surely the European states most directly affected by the threat should be able to find that sort of money with relative ease. After all, it would be incredibly irresponsible to do nothing about such a grave danger given the tiny cost involved. Yet for some reason, Pomianowski feels a need to go cap in hand to Ottawa. Could it be that despite the hype, deep down in the bottommost recesses of their hearts, Europe’s leaders realize that this isn’t such a big problem after all?