Propaganda

The End of a Brand

On his blog The Vault of the Future, Silicon Valley startup entrepreneur Max Skibinsky takes an undeceived view of today’s Russia in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster, and explains some of the reasons for his reluctance to return there:

To understand Russia’s lightning fast descent into the abyss one has to understand a simple truth that many (myself included) suspected all along: Russia was and is a failed state. What is seen from the outside is just a facade imitating a functional country and government. High oil prices, residual infrastructure of USSR and internal mass propaganda machine maintained the illusion for more than a decade.

Not only is Russia a mafia state — it’s controlled by a vast propaganda machine that is even more all-devouring than the Soviet one:

Official TV propaganda lies professionally and constantly. There are no independent TV channels; everything is controlled by government stooges. The “news” teams employ special teams that do video editing and fabrications to present absolutely falsified accounts for TV transmission…

The best way to understand modern Russia is to imagine a steep pyramid. At the very top there is a clique of KGB-affiliated oligarchs, who manage a barely-competent class of middle-managers (who can and do steal a fraction of everything they touch) which in turn sits on top of a largely brainwashed and deranged mass population living on life-long government welfare.

As the author notes, “this is the most toxic environment imaginable to incubate a startup ecosystem.”

He concludes:

I think we came to the end of the line with regards to Russia as a name, culture, a global brand. For the time being the country future is destroyed, police state is well-entrenched and the narrative for the brainwashed locals would be xenophobic tale of struggle with the “West”.

Hat tip: Anders Östlund on Twitter: @andersostlund

 

Take Russia out of Europe

Dmitry Tymchuk, on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17:

I sincerely believe that some part of the responsibility for this tragedy lies with the European leaders. In the case of the Russian aggression against Ukraine they have been too busy counting their money, forgetting that the world is very crowded and fragile. They forgot how small Europe is. And it cannot be that one country is the victim of aggression and consumed by war, while this is apparently of no concern to all the others.

It’s also time, I believe, that those in Europe and the U.K. who are involved with Russia at a general cultural and educational level made their position clear. Time that Russian propaganda organizations like RT (Russia Today) and Voice of Russia were taken off the air and closed, time that Russian PR agencies like the Russkiy Mir Foundation and Academia Rossica were shut down and their offshoots and branches in Western universities removed.

The Interpreter vs. RT

The Interpreter‘s James Miller, on RT’s sudden interest in his magazine:

It is curious…that The Interpreter – a magazine which is barely a year old (RT was established in 2005), has an extremely small staff (RT has over 2,000 staffers), and runs on a tight budget… — should increasingly come under attack by some of the network’s staff members and television guests.

Neo-Nazism now a part of Russia Today

The Interpreter online current affairs magazine recently ran a feature on a neo-Nazi who represents Germany on the Kremlin’s propaganda TV channel Russia Today (RT). Now the Interpreter discusses another right-wing extremist who appears regularly on the same channel. It seems that the Moscow  authorities have no qualms about associating themselves with some of the most vicious racist and extremist movements in Europe and the United States. A few years ago, I would not have believed that this was possible – but now it’s plain for everyone to see.

The rise of antisemitism in Russia and the crisis in Ukraine

The Winnipeg Media Centre has published an analysis of the Putin regime’s campaign of disinformation and defamation against Ukraine, the basis of which is an attempt to incriminate the Ukrainian government and people with the charge of organized antisemitism. In fact, as the analysis shows, the rise of antisemitism is taking place not in Ukraine but in neighboring Russia, where officially sponsored fascist and neo-Nazi ideology is creating a situation not unlike the one that existed in Germany during the 1930s.

The analysis is divided into three sections:

The first section gives the view of the Ukrainian Jewish community and of organizations that monitor human rights. It is clear from these articles that Jews in Ukraine see neither the current Ukrainian government nor the groups that brought about the change of government as a danger.  On the contrary, they are unanimous in the view that the biggest threat to the safety and security of Jewish people in Ukraine comes from the militant separatists backed by the Russian state.

The second section presents articles by scholars who are following events in the Donbas area and in Russia. These researchers are among many who warn of an alarming rise in chauvinistic and xenophobic attitudes in Russia. They are particularly worried by the rise of fascist groups supported by the government, and by the development of a fascist ideology in circles close to Putin.

The third section presents articles that indicate what we can expect from governing circles in Moscow, and raises broader issues in connection with Putin’s propaganda campaign.

The “Russkiy Mir”

In his speech on March 18, Vladimir Putin made it clear that Russia will intervene to “protect” the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers around the globe, wherever they may live.

This policy is known as the “Russkiy Mir”, or Russian World, and it is the continuation of a project that was launched in 2007, with the establishment of the global Russkiy Mir Foundation:

a Russian soft power initiative created by decree by Vladimir Putin in 2007, as a government-funded organisation aimed at promoting the Russian language, and “forming the Russian World as a global project”, co-operating with the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting values that challenge the Western cultural tradition.

Understanding Ukraine

A group of researchers and specialists in the field of Ukrainian nationalism studies, headed by Andreas Umland, has posted a statement and petition addressed to journalists, commentators and analysts writing and broadcasting about the EuroMaidan protest movement.

In particular, the statement focuses on the role of far right groups in Ukraine’s protest movement, and a warning about the Russian imperialism-serving effects of some supposedly anti-fascist media reports from Kyiv.

The statement notes that

the movement as a whole merely reflects the entire Ukrainian population, young and old. The heavy focus on right-wing radicals in international media reports is, therefore, unwarranted and misleading. Such an over-representation may have more to do with the sensationalist potential of extremely ethnonationalistic slogans, symbols or uniforms than with the actual situation, on the ground.

We even suspect that, in some semi-journalistic reports, especially those in Kremlin-influenced mass media, the inordinate attention to far right elements in Ukraine’s protest movement has nothing to do with anti-fascism. Paradoxically, the production, biases and dissemination of such reports may themselves be driven by an imperial form of ultra-nationalism – in this case, its Russian permutation. By fundamentally discrediting one of the most impressive mass actions of civil disobedience in the history of Europe, such reports help to provide a pretext for Moscow’s political involvement, or, perhaps, even for a Russian military intervention into Ukraine, like in Georgia in 2008.

On his blog the researcher and editor Anton Shekhovtsov has provided a detailed analysis of the pro-Kremlin network behind the anti-Ukrainian defamation campaign now being conducted in various branches of media and online. Shekhovtsov writes that

There has been a huge tide of false, incorrect and bloated reports that exaggerate or over-emphasize the significance of the far right in the current Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. A Moscow-based journalist Alec Luhn writes in The Nation about “the Ukrainian nationalism at the heart of ‘Euromaidan’“, a leftist Seumas Milne argues in The Guardian that “in Ukraine, fascists, oligarchs and western expansion are at the heart of the crisis“, while a self-styled “independent geopolitical analyst” Eric Draitser, in his nauseatingly misleading piece for his own Stop Imperialism (later re-published by The Centre for Research on Globalization), even goes so far as to claim that “the violence on the streets of Ukraine […] is the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich”.

These and many other similar articles are all written according to the same pattern, and their aim is to discredit the Euromaidan protests as the manifestations of fascism, neo-Nazism or – at the very least – right-wing extremism.