05272020What's Hot:

A bunch of lies we can believe in

There was a recent media forum in Bonn, Germany, where the main topic was the way Russia has increased its influence in Europe through the media and the Internet. The Russian media working abroad have recently gained a lot of success in manipulating the public opinion, and not just in the former Soviet republics or the former Soviet satellites in East Europe, but also in the West. Fake news is now everywhere, and the difference from the yellow press sort of news that we all know and have learned to hate to love, it's now all being directed and focused with a purpose.

Russia is also trying to re-assert its influence in its former direct vassal states, including in places like Caucasus (more specifically, Georgia), where they're using the significant Russian population as a proxy. The thing is, the number of people who still speak Russian and sympathize with Russia in those countries has been diminishing as the day the Soviet Union collapsed keeps receding further back into history. Yet, Russia has still managed to get some ground by seeding a whole range of negative opinions in the public, like doubt in Europe, liberalism, democracy, racism, homophobia, etc. Memes like "Gayrope" have been wide-spread, i.e. the notion that everyone in the West is a gay paedophile.

Of course, it's hard to trace the origin of these concerted lies directly back to the Kremlin. It's all done too skillfully. Often, Moscow doesn't even have to spend government money for such propaganda, because, like I said, it has been picked up by local people with various bigoted political views, who are more than glad to carry the banner on their own. Which is why the anti-democratic, anti-Western ideas have become such a huge part of the mainstream discourse now.

So basically, the recipe of the Russian hybrid-war success has a few simple ingredients: skillfully crafted, sensationalist information with a high emotional charge that could easily relate to people's ground instincts and emotions. Plus readily available communication technology to disseminate the cancer. The topics are not too varied, they invariably contain some "core" conservative "value", going hand in hand with outright anti-Western sentiments. The main idea is to present the West as rotten, and Russia as the sole savior of humankind's decency. And it often works, especially with people with shortages in the critical-thought department.

Surprisingly, this sort of influence has found ground even in societies as traditionally hostile to Russia as Poland, which, unlike the Baltics, doesn't have a significant Russian minority that could be used. It's just that there are right-wing-orientated people everywhere, and Russian propaganda has specifically targeted that segment. Ironically, a plethora of nationalist movements across Europe have taken either direct funding or ideas (or both) from the Kremlin, having convinced themselves that they're defending the "traditional" national identity of their respective countries – while they've actually been playing into Putin's game all along.

But the biggest victim of this big heap of lies has been the Russian people themselves. It's amazing how well the Russian propaganda machine has perfected itself in using information and disinformation as a weapon – for instance with a flood of comments by the so called paid trolls under virtually any major publication on the Internet. The journalism guild has been overwhelmed in their inability to cope with this invasion, they've been unable to fact-check every single piece of information; and many journalists have conveniently found a way to make more money by jumping on the bandwagon as well.

Back to that forum in Germany. It didn't necessarily come up with a grand solution to the problem, but it did have some ideas about tackling the problem, which is at least some start. The most obvious conclusion was that in order to counter fake news, the media should strive to become more accessible, more interesting, and "better" in general, as in "more mindful and thoughtful". The best topics are to be found amidst all the chaff that's been assaulting people's minds lately. In other words, quality journalism should make some deep introspection, and re-invent itself in the modern digital world, rather than just allowing itself to float along with the current – otherwise it would be swept aside. Curiously, the media could even learn some from Hollywood about making a story be told in a compelling way, but in this case without substitutin reality with fiction for the sake of serving an agenda. In fewer words, journalism should rediscover its original purpose, namely to follow the truth wherever it takes us, no matter what. Otherwise it would forever be lost in the jungle of lies.

Source: Talk politics.

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic