Those who have followed my work on RT and similar Russian propaganda organs know that while I respect and appreciate the analysis of people like Peter Pomerantsev, I simply cannot take Russia’s propaganda machine as seriously as he does. Pomerantsev is, as near as I can tell, a fairly centrist Western liberal. Nobody holding such views should see RT as a threat, but as a mild annoyance instead.
Luckily I’m not alone it seems. Mark Adomanis has written an article casting doubt on the efficacy of Russian propaganda. Recently I was made aware of this article by Daniel Kennedy, who does a more thorough analysis and gets into the technical details of RT’s alleged success. I particularly like his likening of RT’s audience to “balkanized echo chambers.” Indeed, RT appeals to many diverse groups, a great number of which hold contradictory ideologies. Hardcore right-wingers and neo-Nazis watch RT because they think that Russia is the last bastion of “traditional values,” while very confused leftists believe that Russia is somehow holding back the neo-liberal “hegemony.” Now one could argue that this doesn’t matter, because both sides put pressure on their government to varying degrees. I have to object to that, however, because such contradictions among the audience make it impossible to form any coherent movement which might actually exert pressure on their government. Perhaps more importantly, RT sells that cheap, conspiracy theory propaganda which is anything but conducive to the formation of revolutionary political movements. It’s more suited for people whose activism takes place mostly on Facebook.
Anyway, I highly recommend the reader check out Kennedy’s article. RT is a clown, a laughing stock, anything but a menace. Voice of Russia is even more ridiculous. Everything below that is basically Stormfront. Does Russia’s media offensive need to be challenged? Sure. People like me have a very good reason to stand up to the Kremlin’s bullshit. When it comes to Western nations, however, I feel the panic of people like Lucas, Pomerantsev, Snyder, etc. is really just their horror at the way Russia has learned to use their beloved system against them. It has learned that when you impose arbitrary narratives on society, it doesn’t necessarily matter how believable or accurate they are.