Friday, August 22, 2014


The Power Vertical

The Pros And Cons Of Propaganda

Propaganda works. But only for awhile.
Propaganda works. But only for awhile.
Propaganda works. Or at least it's working for the time being.

In concluding his speech to a joint session of parliament this week, Vladimir Putin claimed that 92 percent of Russians favored the annexation of Crimea.

The number was inflated, but not by much, according to Lev Gudkov, director of the independent Levada Center, Russia's most respected pollster. In a recent interview with Gazeta.ru, Gudkov said his data show that nearly 80 percent of Russians consider Crimea to be part of Russia.

In recent weeks, Westerners have looked on with derision at the over-the-top and clearly inaccurate way the Russian state-controlled media have depicted events in Ukraine: a coup by neo-Nazis that has unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism and reprisals against Russian-speakers, sparking a humanitarian crisis and a surge of refugees escaping the chaos.

Who would believe this stuff, right? I mean, the facts on the ground so obviously run counter to the distorted and outright false picture Kremlin spin masters have so carefully painted.

Well, apparently somebody does.

According to Gudkov, between November 2013, when mass demonstrations in Kyiv started, until late February, when President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed, a clear majority of Russians thought what was happening in Ukraine was an internal affair and Russia should not interfere.

Now, in addition to the 79 percent who view Crimea as part of Russia, some 58 percent favor the deployment of Russian troops

"The campaign that began in the last week of February -- which was unusual in its intensity and aggressive tone -- has drastically changed the public mood," Gudkov said. "The propaganda has stunned people. The public is now in an agitated state with all of their imperial complexes awakened."

So game over, right? Putin's got his mojo back and he's got his people behind him. It's 2007 all over again.

Well, not so fast. The propaganda may be working wonders for the Kremlin now. But according to Gudkov, it will likely prove ephemeral -- and eventually cause a backlash. "After a while, the effect will wear off and a pensive state will set in," he said.

And after the pensiveness, comes the backlash. And the reason for this, Gudkov said, can be found in the very nature of propaganda itself. "Propaganda's effectiveness is directly linked to the subject. It is very difficult to convince people that the authorities consist of competent and decent people.  But it is easy to convince them that Americans torture adopted Russian children because this cannot be verified," he said. 

"Basically, propaganda destroys alternative understanding. It may not quite convince people, but it imposes on them the cynical view that everyone is a bastard, politics is a squabble between interest groups, and nobody should be believed."

And it is here, he added, that the Kremlin may end up being a victim of its own success.

"The Kremlin spin doctors and manipulators do not understand that after a while this will turn against the Russian authorities themselves because imposing such a view of social processes in a country dominated by a paternalist state mind-set cannot but lead to increasingly negative attitudes toward the authorities themselves" he said. 

"This should end with clear analogies or the association of the current Russian authorities with the Yanukovych regime."

Gudkov is not alone in predicting that what looks like a stunning victory for Team Putin will soon turn into an albatross.

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center says Putin has changed the game both in his relations with the elite and with society -- and dangers loom on both fronts.

"The president has to know that even in the ruling class many people are 'perplexed' by his Crimean action, and this is contributing to irritation with the leader," Malashenko writes.

He'll still be president for a very long time. But he’ll no longer have a iron-clad rear. As an ex-security service officer, he surely has to sense this. And keeping nationalist intensity at its height for any length of time is very difficult. People will soon be distracted by things like inflation and other issues from which their attention has been temporarily averted."

And how will Putin react when this happens?

In a recent interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," political analyst Nikolai Petrov had a chilling prognosis. "There will follow a surge in Putin’s popularity and a consolidation of the legitimacy of the regime. But this surge will be very brief," Petrov said.

"When the price is clarified, we will see that people are not prepared to pay it. Not prepared to take part in a war, not prepared to live under the stiff sanctions of the West, and so forth. And Putin’s task will be in this short time to organize repressive mechanisms. In order, when the public enthusiasm subsides, to preserve the system of control of the country.”

With the ongoing crackdown on independent media -- most recently the television channel Dozhd, which has already been pulled off cable networks, lost its lease -- those repressive mechanisms appear to be already moving into place.

-- Brian Whitmore

NOTE TO READERS: Be sure to listen to the "Power Vertical Podcast" on March 21 when I will discuss the issues raised in this post with co-hosts Sean Guillory and Nina Khrushcheva.

Tags: propaganda,Vladimir Putin,Lev Gudkov

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Danny from: Portland, OR
March 20, 2014 17:15
A Pentagon funded propaganda channel accusing another propaganda channel. That's rich.
In Response

by: Ukrainian, Sasha-K from: Terre Haute, IN
March 23, 2014 15:54
Such cynical view is very fashionable in USA lately, however there is no parallel. Your sloppy post will likely remain on this "Propaganda" channel, while in Russia they disappear people who dare. I suspect this is because Americans are not familiar with the meaning of real propaganda, and you are used to say what is on your mind without fear of repercussions. Russian is propaganda, Radio Liberty offers some very needed informational leverage. If you listen to the programs, there is no apparent American/or Western agenda. On RFERL I never hear praises to Obama, or any American leader or institutions. Views discussed vary from author to author, and specific to the country. Being born in USSR in Kiev, Ukraine, I am grateful for this historically important space for Russian and Ukrainian dissent. Thank you Brian Whitmore, I amazed that you dedicate your time to this often hopeless issues, when you could be enjoying burgers, beer, and football here in America.
In Response

by: Danny from: Portland, OR
March 24, 2014 19:48
Dear Sasha, it seems to me that you fail to recognize the stark similarities between Russia and the US. Both RT and RFE/RL are equally important in exposing corruption but are also equally guilty of exploiting political discontent to their own benefit. Have you not yet figured it out? The global superpowers are playing Risk, and we are their game pieces. For you to take sides is to contribute to the mess, not the truth. I follow RFE/RL and RT for the same reasons, as well as Press TV, i24, NHK, and other international propaganda channels. In the end...that's all any of this really is, and if you fail to understand this then any attempt to reveal the big picture is futile.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 20, 2014 18:03
Russian propaganda controls even USA!
At least few "Public Channels", like KCET doing it directly.
All they invite are Russian proxies or spies that defy common
sense and truth, impudently repeating and justifying crimes
of Russia.
___________________________________________
For instance, today the former ambassador to Russia,
Jack Matlock, and leading and supplementing by lies TV
people almost claimed as legitimate Russia and its deeds.
_____________________________________________
Matlock implied that Russia was always Great Power for
few centuries and all neighbor countries belonged to
Russia anywhere.
IT IS BLUNT LIE!
RUSSIA AS GREAT POWER WAS CREATED BY INITIATIVE
OF GEORGIAN KING AND HIS NEPHEW PETER THE FIRST
AND MANY NEIGHBOR NATIONS, STARTING WITH GEORGIA, LATVIA, HOLLAND, UKRAINE AND SO ON.
NUMBER OF WRITTEN AND ORAL PLEGES WERE MADE
BY RUSSIA NOT ONLY RESPECT NATIONAL INTEGRITY
OF NEIGHBOR NATIONS, BUT HELP RESTORE SUCH
INTEGRITY TO NATIONS INVADED, OR DEVIDED, OR
TO BE COMPOSED FROM RELATIVE NATIONALITIES,
ALSO TO SHEAR WHAT WAS BUILT IN RUSSIA BY HELPING BUILT SUCH INDUSTRIES TOO.
RUSSIA BETRAYED US ALL AFTER POISONING PETER.
RUSSIA BETRAYED US ALL AFTER POISONING STALIN.
READ 1936 CONSTITUTION AND PREABMLE, MATLOCK. ________________________________________________
He implied that Ukraine was put from patches of Russia and half of it genuine Russia.
IT IS A BLUNT LIE!
UKRAINIAN PEOPLE AS SKIFFS AND SARMATS WITH THEIR ANCESTRY IN CARPATS AND CAUCASUS KNOWN
FOR MILLENNIUMS.
RUSSIA BETRAYED UKRAINE AND FOR THREE CENTURIES ENSLAVED, SENT TO DEATH CAMPS AND
REPOPULATED PATCHES OF UKRAINE BY RUSSIANS.
STILL, BEFORE WW2 UKRAINIANS WERE TOTAL MAJORITY, TILL LENINS POGROMS ON LABOURS
AND "NATIONALISTS", 1932 HOLODOMOR BY ETHIC RUSSIAN ARMED KILLERS AND EXODUS OF MILLIONS
OF UKRAINIANS TO THE EAST ALONG WITH THEIR
INDUSTRIES, BEST IN USSR, TO FIGHT WAR AND TO
BUILD ARMS.
AFTER 1947, STALIN ANDER NOUSE ARREST, RUSSIA
REFUSED RETURN UKRAINIANS AND THEIR INDUSTRIES REPLACING THEM BY MILLIONS OF RUSSIANS, CONTINUING REPOPULATE AND PLUNDER UKRAINE.
RETURN UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS, SCREAMING "KNEEL UKRAINIANS", BACK HOME,
MATLOCK-PUTIN!
(will continue)

by: Nodir from: Denver, CO
March 21, 2014 04:15
It's quite ironic that it is only the Russian media work is called propaganda, while the Western one is simply an objective information dissemination. As someone living in the United States who watches both Russian and US media outlets, I must admit that the Russian coverage of the events in Urkaine are more measured, balanced, and informative. The Western coverage on the other hand is filled with hysteria, bias, and emotions. I'd say the latter is the real propaganda.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 22, 2014 04:59
Nodir, you playing the old "nature is empirical" trick,
USA and Russia are part of human nature, military brass
and cloak and dagger on both side are about the same.
__________________________________________
USA is also sin, however, adjusting it to Constitution,
UN Charter and law of God, but being manipulated
by lobbies and human greed, used even by Russia,
like making Sadam invade neighbor as precident,
for Russia to invade CIS - when it fail, they used
lobby in USA to kill 200,000 in two days and turn
on USA "Holly War" - USA admitted the truth...
_______________________________________
Russia overturned 1936 Constitution and expand,
and invade neighbor lands and houses - to breed,
using also lobby, to corrupt the greed of the West,
make it bombastic - be hated by rest of the World.

They invading and repopulating our land and lying
about "threat from the West" that helped them pay
WW2 debt, get rich on oil and gas - rearm Russia.
While Russia get rich, while West get pure to help
Russia and CIS, Russia grab our lands in Georgia,
Moldova, Ukraine, Central Asia. Next East Europe.
Is Next Afghanistan, Turkey, Western Europe?
Is next USA and the rest of the World?
In Response

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
March 22, 2014 05:12
So are you in the pay of Putin as well? You mustn't know what "Propaganda" is? Well I'll tell you what it is. It is what Putin does so well, like "Lie, Lie, Lie...Control, Control, Control".

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 21, 2014 04:25
Putin is as much illiterate as are you.
He was in school when Russia already burn history books.
NEW HISTORY BOOK LIES ABOUIT MOST EVIL PEOPLE:

Lie, Attila was hated by Romans and subsequently Germanic imperial leaders for leading Huns (Medians mixed with Hans returning to Caucasus), Caucasians from northern Georgian border and Ukrainian Skiffs and Sarmatians to liberate Ukraine from Invaded Roman bloodsuckers, as they did. (Cousins Emperors propaganda.)

Lie, at the time when Viking-Varaga bloodsuckers unleashed genocide against Russians and Volga tribes, reaching white Tatars, and when Mongols were starving in deserts and mercilessly taxed by China, Tatar king married Genghis Khan with his daughter and trained him and his army.
It saved East from total genocide by Russian Varaga, as Franks, also white Tatars, saved Europe's West from total genocide by Normans. (Russian propaganda)

Overstated, Mao Zedong at first contributed to liberate China, when Stalin offered to China people to pick-up arms of million capitulating Japanese in the east.
It was complicated by ethnic Russians and British starting to play imperialist game to control and partition China, specially after Spring of 1947, when Stalin was put under house arrest, turning into bloody war and crimes on both sides.
Aging Mao was locked by isolation from East and West, because imperial resurrection needed to lie about Stalin and non-Russian nations and was oblivion to see predictable mistakes of surrounding him elite. (Imperial resurrect propaganda.)

Lie, Vlad The Impaler was freedom fighter for liberation of Romania and parts of Hungary and Ukraine. He didn't like any of it - he retaliated of Turks brutalities.
If Turks would take a Romanian town and impale or behead thousands of people, Vlad would take a town populated by Turks and did the same to same numbers of Turks.
It was brutal time, it wasn't Geneva convention then. Austrians were dividing that parts of Europe with Turkey, so they made a deal to kill Vlad and later spread lies about him be a "bloodsucker", with help of offered by
Bulgarians their own believes. (Propaganda of Austrians and Cousins Emperors.)

True, almost.
Hitler was evil, but very much a toy in hands of British Crone Prince and Russian Nicolos Romanov the Third, "Cousins" and Russian enemies of non -Russian people.
They brought Hitler to power, they said to him:
"Enemy of our Germanic Imperial race is Caucasian race and Human Civilization with Caucasian noses and intelligent eyes, Jew-sized by Jews."
They insured his evil path, coordinating pogroms in USSR, giving to him Messershmidt, disarming USSR armies and promising Hitler easy victory.

Evil lie about one of few best men in known history.
What they did with Hitler was only part of Russian evil they pin on Stalin.
Lenin murdered 40 millions, confess of his madness and went to mental clinic.
Stalin since childhood was suffering to liberate the world from the evil, including Nazi Germany conquests.
He was offered position of advisory in Socialist party as only educated and intelligent man.
He agreed only on condition that non-Russian nations are independent part of CIS, free democratic election, abolishment of death penalty and purges and so on...
Russians retaliated by ploting with British and Hitler and starting purges against non-Russians, Jews, Polls, Georgians, Ukrainians and so on...
Only during the War he was a President with limited powers, because Western Allies wouldn't believe lying Russians.
In 1947 Russia put him under house arrest, reversed CIS, murdered him and started to invade non-Russian nations.
LIES ABOUT STALIN IS MUST MENEU BY RUSSIA, BRITAIN, GERMANY AND AUSTRIA - TO RESURRECT COLONIAL EMPIRES AND SLAVERY, PINNING ON STALIN THEIR OWN CRIMES.

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
March 21, 2014 14:08
Nice article, but I suspect that you might be underestimating the impact of sustained propaganda. From my perspective, the Kremlin’s campaign to demonize the west (particularly the US) has been going on for the past 3-4 years and has only begun now to bear its rotten fruit. Today, many Russians sincerely believe that the US/west is determined to weaken Russia, and this narrative has served as the backdrop to the protests in Ukraine. I see no signs of this propaganda or the wide acceptance within Russian society slacking off. Indeed, the rhetoric and belief appear to be growing ever stronger. As the economic situation grows worse in Russia, the Kremlin will blame the US/west for this suffering, which will further deepen this dark belief. Given the sophistication of the Kremlin’s PR machine, this anger could very well be channeled ultimately into violence.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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