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Russia and the menace of unreality
Material posted: Publication date: 12-09-2014

Speaking last week at the NATO summit in Wales, the commander of NATO forces in Europe General Philip Breedlove (Philip Breedlove) made a bold statement. Russia, he said, holds "a stunning blitzkrieg of information warfare, which we have not seen in history".

But it was something like underestimation. The new Russia is not simply petty disinformation, forgeries, lies, leaks and cyber sabotage, which are the conventional means of information war. It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translates into political action. Take Novorossiya. The name Vladimir Putin has given a huge territory in the South-East of Ukraine, which he plans to Annex, but maybe not. The name is taken from the Imperial history, but then, it represented a different geographical area. No one living today in this part of the world, a few months ago never even thought about the fact that he is a resident of new Russia, and he didn't feel any allegiance to this area. But now, Novorossia by force of imagination turned into fact. Russian media show its "geographical" map, and using the support of the Kremlin policy write its "history" in school textbooks. The new Russia has a flag and even a news Agency (in Russian and English), there are a few news feeds on Twitter. This is something like the fantasy of Borges — except for the very real losses in the war being waged in the name of Novorossiya.

The invention of Novorossiya is a sign of globalization of the domestic system of information manipulation. Today's image of Russia is formed by the spin doctors — viziers of the system who, like modern wizards, your magic show with the creation of puppet political parties and the simulacra of civic movements to distract the people while the Putin clique consolidates his power. In the system views of these political technologists, information precedes essence. "I remember creating the idea of "Putin's majority", and even had no time to recover, as it appeared in real life — told me recently, political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky, who worked at campaign headquarters for Putin, but then left the Kremlin. Or the idea that "the alternative to Putin not exist." This is our invention. And suddenly the alternatives don't really go up."

"If previous authoritarian regimes for three-quarters consisted of violence and one quarter of the propaganda, says journalism Professor Moscow state Institute of international relations Igor Yakovenko, this is comprised almost entirely of propaganda and a very small amount of violence. Putin enough to make a few arrests — and then amplify the signal through the TV, which is under its total control".

The same dynamics we saw in action on the international scene in the last days of August, when the Russian military incursion into Ukrainian territory, which was very small, inflated to monstrous proportions, and did something extremely dangerous and terrible. Putin spoke about the need to hold negotiations about the statehood of southeastern Ukraine (in tones that seemed deliberately ambiguous), stunning NATO and Kiev intimidated to such an extent that he agreed to a ceasefire. The term "new Russia" reappeared in the statements of Putin, creating the sense that large areas are ready to secede from Ukraine, though separatists hold only a tiny strip of land. (There is another, earlier example of these geopolitical tricks. Let's remember the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev from 2008 to 2012, when the fictitious Russian leader warned the Americans faith in the possibility that Russia will turn to face the West, and gave the Kremlin enough time to consolidate power inside the country and their positions abroad.)


The belief in the absolute power of propaganda rooted in the Soviet mentality. Philosopher Jacques Ellul (Jacques Ellul) in his classic study on this subject, written in 1965, declared: "the Communists do not believe in human nature, and who believes only in the human condition, believe that propaganda is Almighty, legitimate (when they use it) and a useful tool to create a new type of man".

But there is one great difference between Soviet propaganda and the latest Russian version. For Tips to find an idea of the truth — even when they lied. Soviet propaganda went to great lengths for "proof" that the Kremlin theory and information are true. When the U.S. government accused the Soviets of spreading misinformation (such as invented the story that the CIA invented AIDS as a weapon), a high-ranking Russian figures, including General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, burst into cries of outrage.

But in today's Russia the idea of truth is irrelevant. In the Russian programmes "news" the line between fact and fiction has completely worn off. There's obvious the actors are refugees from Eastern Ukraine, crying for the camera and prophetic imaginary threats from imagined fascist gangs. In one newscast the woman told about how Ukrainian nationalists had crucified a child in Slavyansk. When the Russian Deputy Minister of communications and mass media Alexei Volin showed evidence that the story of the crucifixion was fabricated, he did not hesitate and stated that the most important thing is ratings. "The public likes how our leading TV channels present material, like the tone of our broadcasts, he said. — The number of viewers for news programs on Russian television over the past two months has doubled". Well the Kremlin tells its stories, because he has mastered the mixture of authoritarianism and entertainment culture. The concept of "journalism" as the transmission of facts and truth has completely disappeared. Speaking last year to the students of the faculty of journalism of the Moscow state University with lecture, Volin stated that students should forget about their aspirations to change the world for the better. "We should give students a clear understanding: they will work on a Person, and People tell them what to write, what to write and how to write this or that thing,' he said. People have the right to do so because he pays them".

The meaning and purpose of this new propaganda is not to persuade, but to keep the viewer hooked and to distract him in order to destroy the facts by the Western media, without creating a counter-statement of these facts. This is the perfect genre for conspiracy, which flooded the Russian TV numerous conspiracy theories. When the Kremlin and its associated media spew out of themselves outlandish stories about downed in July, the Malaysian airlines aircraft MH17 in the sky over Eastern Ukraine in which all things — and the attack of the Ukrainian fighters at the behest of the U.S. and NATO attempt to shoot down the plane Putin — they didn't even try to convince viewers of the veracity of this or that version of events. For them it was more important to confuse, to lull them paranoia and passivity, the audience lived in Kremlin-controlled virtual reality that can no longer be disputed and challenged by appeals to the truth.

Today Russia is exporting this model transformed reality, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in overseas broadcasting, which is one of the multilingual news channel RT (Russia Today). Domestically RT helps to convince the Russians that their power is strong enough and able to compete with CNN different there. RT in the US do not take seriously (if the channel manages to sow some seeds of doubt among Americans, and that's good, according to Moscow). But in Europe, Russian propaganda effect is stronger, because it runs parallel to the Kremlin, which has an impact on local media, and provides economic and energy pressure.

Just tense the situation in the Baltic countries where numerous Russian population watches Russian TV channels, such as the Latvian PBK (First Baltic channel) that receives Kremlin programs at very low prices. "A huge part of our population lives in a separate reality created by Russian media. Because of this, conduct a coordinated policy consensus in the country is impossible," says the expert on propaganda in Estonia Raul Rebane (Raul Rebane). In this country every fourth inhabitant is Russian. Grozev Christo (Christo Grozev) from a Bulgarian company Risk Management Lab, found that most Newspapers in the country followed by the Russian, not the Ukrainian version of such events as the Downing of flight MH17. "It's not just in sympathy or language, says Grozev. — Russian media simply offer more stories of better quality, and all this is reprinted". Organizations such as the Ukrainian actively expose disinformation in Russian and foreign media. But on every exposed them "fake" Kremlin-controlled media give a thousand new ones. These news organizations are not afraid that they're caught in a lie. They only think about the number of visitors and its attractiveness.

Like Russian TV channels for internal audiences, RT also pays great attention to the conspiracy theories — from fighters for the truth about 11 September to a mystery linking the Zionists to the civil war in Syria. Western critics often make fun of these narratives, however, such programmes are highly responsive audience. In a recent report, "the conspiratorial mindset in a transitional era", which examines conspiracy theories in France, Hungary and Slovakia, a group of researchers from leading European think-tanks reported that supporters of far-right parties generally believe in conspiracies than those who support other parties. And today-right nationalist parties, which often have ideological and financial ties with the Kremlin, are on the rise. In the Hungarian party "Jobbik" ("For a better Hungary") came in second place. In France the national front, marine Le Pen (Marine Le Pen) recently received 25 % of votes in the elections to the European Parliament.

"Interest in conspiracy theories is aggravated by the growth of extreme right-wing parties, or that far-right parties are strengthened due to the fact that conspiratorial thinking is injected into the information space?" — slyly asks Gleb Pavlovsky.

Meanwhile, the United States can't deal with the signals that they serve to the outside world. America is in a state of "information war and we are losing this war", — said in 2011 in Congress, Hillary Clinton (Hillary Clinton), pointing to the success of the Russian and Chinese media.

In conditions, when the Kremlin is intensifying its campaign of international propaganda in the West gets its own crisis of faith in the idea of "truth". It was long overdue. In 1962 Daniel Burstyn (Daniel Boorstin), which later had become the Director of the library of Congress, wrote about how because of the success of advertising and television replaced the question "is it True?", which loses its significance, comes another question: "whether it Deserves coverage in the media?". "We are faced with new and special American menace ... the menace of unreality". By the beginning of the 21st century this idea has moved from the sphere of Commerce in the area of high policy, and it is imprinted in his now legendary statement of the unnamed aide to George W. Bush (George W. Bush) in the New York Times: "We now Empire and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you studying that reality, study diligently, we are again and again creating other new realities, which you also learn. The way it works. We are history actors ... and you, all you can do is study what we do."

The pressure on the reality side of capitalism and Capitol hill coincides with protests against the establishment in the USA, which likewise claims that all truth is relative. In his review of the book Glenn Greenwald (Glenn Greenwald) "Nowhere to hide" (No Place to Hide), published in Prospect magazine, George packer (George Packer) writes: "Grinwald not need the norms of journalism. He rejects objectivity, as a reality and as an ideal". (Similarly, RT Director once told me that "such thing as objective reporting does not exist.") Exploring the book of Grinwald such sins as omissions, biased opinions and half-truths, packer comes to the following conclusion: "They expose a mind that is freed from fundamental claims to fairness and justice. And when the norms of journalism cast aside, many of the restrictions and parcels just disappear." The ties that bind Greenwald and the Kremlin, are not only common desire to ensure the safety of Snowden (Edward Snowden). Authoritarian Lufteufel gay Putin and left-libertarian gay Greenwald meet in a dark forest ideological and agree. And because the pursuit is based on the reality of politics is destroyed, this space Matures. This trend is hoped to benefit the Kremlin.

In the end, many people in Russia and around the world understand that Russian political parties are phony, and that the Russian media concocting fantasies. But insisting on the lie, the Kremlin intimidates others by showing that he is able to fully shape and define "reality". That's why Moscow is so important to deal with the truth. If all true, all things are possible. And we are left with a feeling that does not know how Putin will do next — he's unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. The Kremlin employed the absurdity and unreality that overwhelms us, leads us into confusion and manipulating us.

Peter Pomerantsev (Peter Pomerantsev)

Original publishing: Russia and the Menace of Unreality


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