Losing the propaganda war

The Western world, we are told, is subject to a steady stream of ‘Russian propaganda’. Perhaps this is true, but if so it is but a drop in the ocean of overall media content, the overwhelming majority of which is fiercely anti-Russian. Let us see what the English-language press had to say about Russia this week.

Atlantic magazine has just issued a new article entitled ‘Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy’. In this, author Larry Diamond explains how ‘Putin’s regime has been embarked for some years now on an opportunistic but sophisticated campaign to sabotage democracy’ and ‘We stand now at the most dangerous moment for liberal democracy since the end of World War II’.

‘CIA concludes Russia interfered to help Trump win election’, says The Guardian, citing the Washington Post and New York Times. Apparently, ‘A secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory’, and ‘intelligence officials had a “high confidence” that Russia was involved in hacking related to the election’.

Building on this last story, the Guardian claims also that ‘Russian involvement in US vote raises fears for European elections.’  This follows a statement this week by the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Alex Younger, in which he ‘said cyber-attacks, propaganda and subversion from hostile states pose a “fundamental threat” to European democracies, including the UK. … Younger did not specifically name Russia but left no doubt that this was the target of his remarks.’ The Guardian says that, ‘there will be speculation that Younger was basing his statements, in part, on suspicions of Russian meddling in Britain’s Brexit referendum campaign. …  Any evidence of direct or indirect Russian interference in the British referendum campaign would be politically explosive.’

The Daily Express picks up on the alleged Russian threat to European elections. ‘RUSSIA TO DESTROY MERKEL’, its headline today reads in capital letters, with a subtitle saying ‘US official discovers intelligence of takedown plot.’  The article proceeds to tell us that, ‘RUSSIA has launched a cyber campaign to take down Angela Merkel and promote far-right groups in the upcoming German elections. … A US official familiar with the investigation says that Vladimir Putin will continue to wreak havoc.’

On a separate subject,  a report issued this week by Richard Maclaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency says that, ‘More than 1,000 Russians – including Olympic medallists – benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015’. ‘It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy,’ claims McLaren.

As Syrian forces, with Russian help, recaptured most of Aleppo, Western politicians and the press lined up this week to accuse Russia and Syria of various atrocities. In a joint statement, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada demanded a ceasefire in Aleppo and said: ‘We condemn the actions of the Syrian regime and its foreign backers, especially Russia, for their obstruction of humanitarian aid.’ The statement added ‘that hospitals and schools appeared to have been targeted “in an attempt to wear people down”.’ Western media outlets repeated claims of the ‘president of Aleppo city council’ that ‘Today 150,000 people are threatened with extermination’, and parsing Tacitus, MI6 chief Alex Younger complained that, ‘In Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace.’

Bear in mind that this is just one week’s stories. The consumers of Western media are subjected to similar output week after week. The oft-stated claim that ‘Russia is winning the information war’ is rather naïve. It is losing it badly.

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11 thoughts on “Losing the propaganda war”

  1. Paul,

    You write:

    ‘Bear in mind that this is just one week’s stories. The consumers of Western media are subjected to similar output week after week. The oft-stated claim that “Russia is winning the information war’ is rather naïve. It is losing it badly.”’

    I think you are missing something quite fundamental.

    Two days ago, the ‘MailOnline’ site produced a report entitled: ‘MI6 boss blames Putin for raising terror threat: Spy chief ‘C’ says ISIS are using chaos caused by Russians in Syria to plot deadly UK attacks.’

    (See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4013320/Highly-organised-ISIS-cells-using-chaos-caused-Vladimir-Putin-Syria-plot-attacks-Britain-spy-chief-C-warns-speech-inside-MI6-headquarters.html .)

    The current ‘best rated’ comment – with 573 approvals to 14 disapprovals – reads:

    ‘The Assad government was democratically elected. The Western-backed rebellion created the confusion.’

    The second, with 480 approvals to 7 disapprovals ‘How about not inviting millions of them into Europe might help things.’

    The third, with 435 approvals to 7 disapprovals, ‘“C” blames Putin for Syria – such incompetent comment, when the country to blame is Saudi Arabia and its gulf minions. Sack Him.’

    The fourth, with 407 approvals to 8 disapprovals: ‘Putin is helping sort it out you great pillock.’

    We are living in what could turn into a revolutionary situation – particularly in the United States, but also in Europe. The fact that our élites cannot even begin to grasp that there might be some legitimate reasons why people do not like them, ironically, marks them out as if anything rather more stupid than those of France before 1789, or Russia before 1917.

    Blaming Putin is not working – and indeed, is quite patently liable to be acutely counter-productive.

    People do not like being told that, if they have reservations about the ‘invade the world, invite the world’, strategies pursued by Western élites since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is because they are ‘useful idiots’ of a cunning Russian propaganda campaign.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I would suggest that it is possible the west will in fact lose it to an extent, if only because the news is now so absurdly overboard with regards to the normalised-conspiracy theories and extreme self-righteousness that it doesnt require any opposition – they are undermining their own credibility.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Russian “propaganda war” belong to the same heap as “Russian hacks” and “elections involvement” – i.e. existing purely in the imagination of the easily excitied Western propagandons. So far Russia only won on its own field – no sane person really trusts the Western Media here any more.

    Neither you, Professor, nor I are privy to the plans of Kiselyov, Surkov and/or Putin, concerning “how to wage information warfare against the West”. As such we can’t really know whether the current strategy is successful or not. And this:

    “The oft-stated claim that ‘Russia is winning the information war’ is rather naïve. It is losing it badly.”

    sounds too baity for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul,

    “The oft-stated claim that “Russia is winning the information war’ is rather naïve. It is losing it badly.”

    You know, in 1940, the French fought hard, for six weeks. They took 110,000 KIA in 42 days, that’s like 2,500 KIA a day. The Fritzes lost ~27,000 KIA in that same time. The total volume of fire put out by the two sides was probably pretty similar, since they were comparably sized and comparably equipped.

    Its just that the French didn’t hit as much.

    Propaganda wars, like real ones, aren’t won by volume of fire, but by how much of it hits, and the West’s propaganda is so utterly… daft that they’re losing it as badly as the French did in 1940.

    Like

  5. “People do not like being told that, if they have reservations about the ‘invade the world, invite the world’, strategies pursued by Western élites since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is because they are ‘useful idiots’ of a cunning Russian propaganda campaign.”

    David,

    Having been on the receiving end of both the “Russian sympathizer” and “Soviet sympathizer” jibes since my mid-20s, I can say that the only feeling it ever provoked in me was not fear, but the most intense contempt for the speaker, an open confession that they had neither facts nor logic, knew it, and could only attack me personally because they had nothing else they could say.

    It generally got them buried even deeper.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree with David: western societies are in a severe crisis; crisis of legitimacy, degradation of public institutions, all that. The higher ups are unable (and panicking), and the lower orders are unwilling.

    I think maybe the cause of this crisis is the disintegration of the USSR ~25 years ago. The western elite had lost their Big Other, and therefore their raison d’etre, and any motivation to stay healthy.

    Like

  7. It’s almost funny, the way the corpo elites are trying to shift blame for their failings and retroactively reverse the outcome of the election by trying to convince people with this (unsubstantiated, unspecific) myth of Russian interference. I would also say that a propaganda war doesn’t even need to be fought – the western mass media has already done itself in, and they are now desperately trying to justify their existence.

    Like

  8. I hope the commenters here are right, but reading comments on recent “Russia hacking” programs on NPR’s Diane Rehm show is depressing. Her liberal audience seems dominated by people who buy the mainstream propaganda line about Russia.

    Like

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