How does Russian propaganda work, and what makes it so effective?
The basic principle is universal and focuses on dissonances and discrepancies in the power structure of target countries, combined with the positive representation of one’s own ambitions.
The most important technique to achieve these goals is not “fake news” or “disinformation” – which can be refuted – but a skillful choice of topics, aspects and interview partners. As one doesn’t promise neutral journalism, the audience doesn’t expect it, either.
This approach is most effective when an incoherence or incompleteness of Western reporting can be proven and as a result confidence in the Western media system as a whole can be shaken – consider slogans and formats such as “Question More” or “The Missing Part”.
While seemingly progressive, the overarching strategic goal is to provide media support for Russian foreign policy – in peacetime as well as in wartime. This can be observed particularly well in volatile diplomatic relations, for example with countries such as France, Israel, Turkey or the US.
One should also keep in mind that Russian foreign state media outlets are financed by a government whose income largely depends on the international export of oil, gas, and arms.
For Western critics from a wide variety of political backgrounds, such a programme may nevertheless be quite attractive. Western media, on the other hand, find themselves in a serious dilemma: should they accept, ignore, or combat Russian-sponsored criticism?
The alleged Russian social media and hacking operations to influence foreign elections, however, remain unproven. Moreover, in 2018 a consulting firm tasked by US Congress with investigating these operations was itself caught faking a “Russian botnet” in order to manipulate a US senate election.
Actual disinformation is employed by the Russian side mainly when the facts are difficult to verify. More often than not, affiliated third parties are used to disseminate such questionable stories.
Western projects on Russian propaganda:
Published: November 2018