Enough incompetence to go around

Well it look like those of us out there talking about countering Russia propaganda aren’t alone. For quite some time now, various governments and organizations have been engaged in the fight against radical jihadist propaganda, and as is the case when it comes to Russia, it looks like the conventional or dominant view is dead wrong, as the rise of the Islamic State suggests.

I’m sharing this article from Foreign Affairs on the topic because there are some very interesting parallels between this fight and the so-called “information war” with Russia. If I were to summarize its strong points and parallels, I would list them as the following:

-The current “soft power” message being promoted in Muslim countries is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the perceptions of the audience.

-There is a Cold War mentality that runs beneath these efforts, and it is flawed because the conflict is radically different from the Cold War.

-The “ham-handed” tactics of jihadist propaganda can be utilized as a far more effective weapon against the radicals.

I’m highlighting these points because each one has a direct parallel when it comes to countering Russian propaganda.

First, most of the methods suggested so far fail to take into account the perceptions of the audience. You’re not going to create some European or American Russian-language channel that will be accepted by Russian speakers in Russia or the diaspora in former Soviet republics, particularly the older generation. Most Russians who lean towards their own media already believe that they are locked in an information war with the West. They have no concept of private enterprise, meaning that they believe that private corporations such as CNN, The New York TimesThe Guardian, etc. are basically government propaganda organs. Remember, these are people who act as if McDonald’s is an American state-owned enterprise, comparable to Russia’s Gazprom. What that means is that when you have an actual state-funded media outlet, it will be impossible to avoid the perception that this is nothing but Western government propaganda. At best, Russian viewers will say, “They both lie,” while still generally leaning toward the Kremlin side.

Second there’s the Cold War comparison. In the case of Russia this incorrect notion is far more forgivable compared to when it is applied to the fight against global radical jihadists, yet it is still wrong. Russia has no ideology; it’s leaders believe in nothing but self-preservation and living in luxury with total authority over their subjects. The Kremlin’s propagandists may believe that the lack of a guiding ideology is an advantage, letting them play both sides outside their borders, but in reality it’s a recipe for disaster.

Lastly, and perhaps most interesting to me, is the point about using ham-handed propaganda against its makers. I’ve said again and again that this is a major weakness of Russian propaganda that to date hasn’t been fully exploited. All you need to do is catalog and then condense all the Russian-made “alternative” versions of a particular story and then compare that to the more consistent, real-world narrative of the same, and it gets pretty hard for people to openly tout the Kremlin line while maintaining dignity and respectability. One story, saying MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian Su-25, might gain traction in isolation. But when you compile all the “alternative” theories, which can be summarized as: “It was a Buk. It was a plane. It was a Buk or a plane. It was a plane. No it was a Buk. No it’s a plane again,”- it’s pretty difficult to maintain a straight face while endorsing this narrative.

Another interesting point in the article was about pointing out the hypocrisy and crimes of jihadists against innocent Muslims. This is another area where Russia is extremely vulnerable. We constantly hear about dissatisfied Europeans, often Italian or Greek, who think Russia is an alternative to their economic woes. Often times these people’s views are skewed because they might be or have contact with expats who live in the best cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg. They need to become more acquainted with life for ordinary Russians, especially those outside of MKAD. A country with so much wealth but which fails to take care of its own people cannot be expected to care for Greece, Italy, or any other foreign country. Indeed, in spite of all the posturing that’s been taking place at the diplomatic level, Greeks, Cypriots, Hungarians, Moldavians, etc. are going to get a rude awakening if they think Russia will help them with leverage against Germany and the EU.

There’s more hypocrisy to be highlighted, whether it’s “traditional values,” gravely mistaken left-wing ideas about “socialism” and resistance to austerity, or respect for national sovereignty. Russia has been totally two-faced on all of those points, in some cases for years. Foreign bases and interfering in internal affairs of other nations? Russia was doing that as far back as 1992. Russia’s open sense of entitlement to dictate the foreign policy of nearby nations is every bit as arrogant as the US’ intervention in the conflict in Kosovo back in the 90’s, if not more so. Austerity? The Russian government quietly began that year ago, and it’s only become more open as of late. Traditional values? Ha ha! No.

If money is going to be spent on this so-called “information war,” it ought to be spent correctly. As it stands now, many of the proposals I’ve seen seem to amount to getting down on the Kremlin’s level and trying to wage a war of attrition. What is more, it’s important to keep in mind that the best propaganda against the Kremlin is in practice, i.e. providing a better standard of living for citizens in other nations, including Russian immigrants or ethnic Russian communities. The Kremlin survives by taking advantage of the base instincts of capitalism and the cynical world that perpetuates. As long as people look at Russia and can’t clearly see a difference between that and their home, the Kremlin wins by default.

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19 thoughts on “Enough incompetence to go around

  1. Estragon

    Re: “A country with so much wealth but which fails to take care of its own people cannot be expected to care for Greece, Italy, or any other foreign country”

    Hey, what about geopolitics? There are plenty of examples of countries neglecting pressing problems at home in order to subsidize foreign countries. The folks in Europe who expect Putin to rescue them may actually have a point.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      They think they do, but in a couple years they’ll learn when it turns out that none of these nations that are “turning to Russia” actually get anything out of it.

      Reply
      1. Shalcker

        Objectively countries choosing Russia are growing faster then the ones choosing West.

        Best example is probably Georgia vs Armenia.

  2. Strykr9

    I would also add that the Russians are winning the propaganda war in many developing Asian and Latin American countries. Countries like India and China see Russia as a source of reliable and quality military hardware(although China has been steadily becoming independent of Russia in that regard) as well as a political front against the West. Therefore whenever they run afoul of the US or Europe for any reason, they have a reliable ally on the UNSC ready to back them up if only to spite the West. There’s also this theme of the Russians being the “good kind” of whites. Now I realise that sounds incredibly racist and offensive and I in no way endorse that belief but the basis of that statement is that the Russians will always provide support for any country looking for leverage against the west.

    Reply
  3. Siddharta

    Russia is digging his own grave and countries who join the losing Russian side will simply vanish like Russia. The far away people live from Russia and the less they know about Russia the easier they can be brainwashed by Kremlin propaganda. When i watched in the past movies about Russia ruled by a dictator who turns crazy and invades other countries I always thought this is racist stereotypical BS but now I see that the reality is not so far away from this bad movies and pc games.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      He’s not particularly convincing. At best he raises doubt that Bellingcat’s allegation is 100% proved.

      Despite this, the Russian government has continually switched back and forth between numerous, contradictory narratives of what shot MH17 down, sometimes changing the story within as little as a day.

      What is more, Ukraine had no reason to fire on a slow-moving plane coming out of the West, as the rebels had no aviation. Then add to that the fact that the rebels had shot down several aircraft shortly before then, and the rebels bragged about shooting down an AN-26 shortly before. And yes, that account and post was genuine- it was cited by numerous Russian media outlets and some of those stories based on that are still up today.

      Russian rebels shot down MH17, period.

      Reply
      1. BSRussia

        The same goes for you – don’s embarrass yourself so cheaply by displaying your abject ignorance and unmitigated stupidity in public. The several aircraft shot down before were downed by portable RZK Igla and Strela with a max range of 5km. Evidence is mounting against the Kiev neo-Nazi regime and their puppet masters from abroad know this – hence the effort to delay holding a swift and transparent investigation and release their own evidence. Their deafening silence speaks volumes.
        “Russian rebels shot down MH17, period.” Say God. So this is western, kangaroo justice. The world heard this about Iraq WMDs and saw the test tube with white power in the UN. Then we saw a million dead, war criminals turned heroes, ISIL, countries in flames and dismembered. Period should be put to brainwashed apes like you.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        “Evidence is mounting against the Kiev neo-Nazi regime”

        There’s no neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.

        “hence the effort to delay holding a swift and transparent investigation and release their own evidence. ”

        They are holing a swift and transparent investigation, and Russia is ignoring the results while throwing out theory after contradictory theory.

  4. BSRussia

    To the russophobic seppo who is running this depraved blog, presumably being sponsored by fellow russophobes from seppoland. You were off to a bad start when you called this cesspit of low grade and easily refutable anti-Russian propaganda “Russia Without BS” because you are full of BS as are your laughable diatribes consisting of badly regurgitated tripe from the pliant, monolithic neocon media. The FAQs proclaim that your blog’s aim is to bridge the Russian reality and its western perception as a result of distortions in reporting. As is expected from the long standing and inglorious tradition of Russia haters posing as her well wishers, your slogans, straplines and headers are a pathetically thin veil for hackneyed propaganda, base ad hominem and primitive vitriol. Just like yours, “western” propaganda in general is not working anywhere in the world, except their home states where they hold unchallenged monopoly on brainwashing and indoctrination as they perform the daily metamorphosis of turning lies into truth. The reasons why western propaganda will never succeed is that it is pathetically superficial and fails at the slightest examination or test by logic or fact. It is also risibly puerile, based entirely on hate preaching by surviving cold war dinosaurs and their modern day mutants who with no moral compunction routinely resort to “superlatives” like calling Putin Hitler, repeating the meme of alleged and unproved Russian aggression, occupation- everything that they are in fact themselves. Most of the world population is increasingly immune to this barrage of lies, as it spectacularly collides with reality, which is world dominated by western pseudo-democracies = endless illegal wars, countless deaths, war crimes, arming of freedom fighters come terrorists, spread of radical islam, extra-judicial assassinations, drone wars, mass human suffering, dismemberment of sovereign states, sewing unerest, regime changes, economic blackmail, endless interference in countries’ internal political process, more military bases across the globe, nuclear weapons in Europe, blanket global surveillance, engineered economic crises. So do tell us without BS about all this if you have a scrap of moral courage and a semblance of intelligence, instead of surving the same old ubiquotous BS under a different sauce.

    Reply
  5. Jim Kovpak Post author

    Oh look, he’s mad.

    “To the russophobic seppo who is running this depraved blog, presumably being sponsored by fellow russophobes from seppoland.”

    What the fuck are “seppo” and “seppoland?”

    “You were off to a bad start when you called this cesspit of low grade and easily refutable anti-Russian propaganda “Russia Without BS” because you are full of BS as are your laughable diatribes consisting of badly regurgitated tripe from the pliant, monolithic neocon media.”

    If you’re trying to do an impression of a run-of-the-mill “geopolitical analyst,” you’ve hit every beat. I really like the “monolithic neocon media” bit at the end.

    “The FAQs proclaim that your blog’s aim is to bridge the Russian reality and its western perception as a result of distortions in reporting.”

    Yup.

    “As is expected from the long standing and inglorious tradition of Russia haters posing as her well wishers, your slogans, straplines and headers are a pathetically thin veil for hackneyed propaganda, base ad hominem and primitive vitriol. ”

    Not really seeing any coherent arguments being made here. It’s easy to call things propaganda and say they are “easily refutable,” yet if it’s so easy why don’t you do it?

    As for who’s a well-wisher of Russia, I’m not the one saying that Russians are stupid cattle who must live under the authoritarian thumb of ONE leader otherwise they’ll destroy their own society and devolve into chaos- an idea routinely promoted by Russia’s “patriots.”

    “Just like yours, “western” propaganda in general is not working anywhere in the world, except their home states where they hold unchallenged monopoly on brainwashing and indoctrination as they perform the daily metamorphosis of turning lies into truth.”

    Really? Then how do you explain Maidan or all the other conspiracy theories people like you attribute to Western propaganda if it’s supposedly not working?

    “The reasons why western propaganda will never succeed is that it is pathetically superficial and fails at the slightest examination or test by logic or fact.”

    Oh you mean like the time Western propaganda told that story about the crucified boy in Sloviansk? Or how Ukrainian soldiers were promised parcels of land and two slaves? Or maybe the time Western propaganda showed a fake satellite photo of a Mig-29 shooting down MH17, sent to them from a non-existent MIT engineer? Or the time they photoshopped gay porn onto the wall of a child’s bedroom in an advertisement?

    Oh hang on…That wasn’t the “Western,” “monolithic neocon media!” That was all Russian media.

    “It is also risibly puerile, based entirely on hate preaching by surviving cold war dinosaurs and their modern day mutants who with no moral compunction routinely resort to “superlatives” like calling Putin Hitler, repeating the meme of alleged and unproved Russian aggression, occupation- everything that they are in fact themselves.”

    I like how hard you struggle to insert so many adjectives into each sentence. Your aunt’s Word-a-Day calendar is certainly being put to good use!

    Also could you do me a favor and show me where I called Putin Hitler? In fact I’m pretty certain when I first started this blog I distinctly pointed out how that’s a bad comparison, except in certain EXTREMELY limited cases.

    Also Russian aggression in Ukraine is not a matter for dispute. The evidence is overwhelming.

    ” Most of the world population is increasingly immune to this barrage of lies, as it spectacularly collides with reality, which is world dominated by western pseudo-democracies = endless illegal wars, countless deaths, war crimes, arming of freedom fighters come terrorists, spread of radical islam, extra-judicial assassinations, drone wars, mass human suffering, dismemberment of sovereign states, sewing unerest, regime changes, economic blackmail, endless interference in countries’ internal political process, more military bases across the globe, nuclear weapons in Europe, blanket global surveillance, engineered economic crises.”

    I like how you think that writing endless streams of these horrible things, many of which are highly questionable or which are also carried out routinely by Russia, proves a point. It’s a shotgun approach.

    Even if we take actual problems in these democracies, it’s clear that the solution to those problems doesn’t lie in supporting a belligerent, kleptocracy.

    Also I think you forgot to include chemtrails and fluoride poisoning in your list of things that only the West is responsible for.

    ” So do tell us without BS about all this if you have a scrap of moral courage and a semblance of intelligence, instead of surving the same old ubiquotous BS under a different sauce.”

    Could you please try to form a coherent argument next time? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. BSRussia

      Poor show Jimmy. Look up seppo and seppoland. Just like the rest of your brainwashed burger brain compatriots are an ignorant intellectual pigmy who can be ridiculed with ease. You have no arguments, knowledge or facts – pathetic cliches and easily refutable propaganda. If only I bothered and did not value my time.

      To cover Ukraine it would surffice to say this:
      “Really? Then how do you explain Maidan or all the other conspiracy theories people like you attribute to Western propaganda if it’s supposedly not working? ” You must have had some of Vicky Nuland’s cookies. What a choker!

      Reply
      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Speaking of poor shows, maybe you can explain why, if you are an Australian, you have a UK email address with a Russian name: akostiaev@aol.co.uk ?

        Don’t you miss your wonderful motherland, Russia, where you’ll never have to worry about those extrajudicial killings and Islamic radicalism?

        Sounds like you’re the Russophobe.

  6. BSRussia

    So Jim Kovpak, you are the Soros sponsored wolf in sheeps clothing behind this bucket of russophobic scum. A piece of advice for you: you like using the word “credibility”. Look up its meaning before you use it again.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Oh look how upset he is. Yup, everyone who pricks your little fantasy bubble is funded by Soros, the Illuminati, and the NWO.

      You’re not insane- EVERYONE ELSE is insane!

      Reply
  7. Jim Kovpak Post author

    Official investigation theory: MH17 was shot down by a Buk in rebel territory.

    Russian alternative theories: It was a Buk! No a plane! No it was a Buk again! IT’S A PLANE! No it was TWO planes! Now it is a Buk again! No it’s a plane again! It’s a Buk now!

    That’s basically what it amounts to if you actually follow both investigations.

    Reply

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