Kremlin’s media formula: ‘Western-style entertainment TV minus democracy’

Kremplin military parade

Kremlin military parade 

2015/02/10 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Kremlin-controlled television channels have proved effective and extremely difficult for Western media outlets to counter because they provide both entertainment and an imagery that promotes the suspension of critical thinking and the acceptance of the idea that the leader will solve everything, according to Peter Pomerantsev.

In an interview given to Delfi.lt’s Monica Garbaciuaskaite-Budrene, Pomerantsev, the author of “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible,” argues that by offering entertainment alongside propaganda people are “emotionally prepared” to accept that Putin “will put everything in order.”

And it is this very different task that the Kremlin has set for the media that simultaneously makes it effective – it appeals to people’s emotions rather than reason – and make it difficult to counter by those, such as Western news outlets, who believe they can succeed by countering the falsehoods alone, something that won’t work, the analyst says.

Propaganda “played an important role in the Soviet Union,” Pomerantsev ponts out, and it has been “very important for Vladimir Putin.” It has deep roots and was far more extensive than anyone in the West can imagine and used less television than now but more circuses, youth groups and the like.

“Just as the founders of a cult constantly remind individuals of their negative experiences, so too the political technologists of the Kremlin force Russians to experience again their sense of denigration of the 1990s and of Stalin’s time,” not rationally but in order to render Russia “a country of incurable traumas.”

Putin began to focus on the way in which television could be used in 1996 when he “saw how corrupted contemporary television transformed Boris Yeltsin and saved his presidency” and then even more in 1999 when “television created Putin” and Putin, having become president, made it his first task to “take control over it.”

The Kremlin’s propaganda effort now is different from that of Soviet times, Pomerantsev says. Not only is there less overt censorship, although it exists, but “now the Kremlin is acting at a much deeper level” in ways that in some respects “recall the principles of the establishment of a religious cult” rather than a news operation.

What is striking, he says, is that “Russian television offers an unbelievable number of entertainment shows of the Western type. But the content of Western television was “democracy plus films about James Bond and the Santa Barbara serials.” In Russia, it was recognized that “it is possible to create entertainment television … but without a democratic component.”

Entertainment brings in a larger audience, but it also does something else: it promotes the notion that news is not important but that emotional responses are. And to that end, it talks about conspiracies and mystifications of various kinds to “distract attention from real information and politics.”

“Just as the founders of a cult constantly remind individuals of their negative experiences, so too the political technologists of the Kremlin force Russians to experience again their sense of denigration of the 1990s and of Stalin’s time,” not rationally but in order to render Russia “a country of incurable traumas.”

Unlike Hitler and the Nazis, the Russian leadership of today “does not want people to go into the streets” or to demand that they be sent to Ukraine. Rather it wants “passive aggression,” anger without action.

According to Pomerantsev, this system came into being not as the result of the genius of any one individual or group but as a result of the gradual recognition of the possibilities that entertainment television could open for the ruling elite and especially for the ways in which it promotes simultaneously anger and passivity.

Unlike Hitler and the Nazis, the Russian leadership of today “does not want people to go into the streets” or to demand that they be sent to Ukraine. Rather it wants “passive aggression,” anger without action.

Unfortunately, he continues, the West does “not even understand” that this is what is occurring. It did not understand hybrid war, and it does not view Russian media operations as “an active measure” in that war, something a KGB department would supervise in order to spread these values among Russians and among “useful idiots” abroad.

According to Pomerantsev, the West faces serious obstacles in struggling against the Kremlin’s efforts. It first must recognize the centrality of this new form of propaganda for Putin and then it must work to counter specific lies and then to overcome the “aggressive passivity” that Russian entertainment television “without democracy” is promoting.

Moreover, he continues, because the Kremlin “uses information for masking disinformation,” the West needs to create some institution that will keep track of that. During the Cold War, there was “an enormous analytic department” at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Unfortunately, that has been closed, and nothing has been put in its place.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Czech Friend

    Ban RT and all Putinist propaganda outlets outside of Russia.

    This is war and they are being used as weapons!

    • StumpedNoMore2

      I just watched Yuri Bezmenov: Deception Was My Job on YouTube and it is very eye opening. On 3:15 is where he stated how the USSR employed propaganda at home.

      • Czech Friend

        Thanks, just watching it. Very interesting and I am sure it works the same way under Putin. Especially the part where he says how West keeps funding its Soviet enemy through the network of sympathisers. Again something we are seeing today full well.

        Russia is a fascist mafia state.

        • StumpedNoMore2

          Very true. Who is running Russia today? Former KGB agent—-> Putin. The sad part is that they have a lot of Russian transplants in the West and they are buying the propaganda from Putin. For once, they need to take off their “rose colored glasses” off. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were coming from FSB agents in the West.

          • Czech Friend

            I think that letting us be dragged into this debate with Russian agressors is insulting at this point.

            Putin’s troops are killing in Ukraine, period!
            He is denying and blackmailing at the same time, there is tons of evidence and Putin is a certified liar.

            What do we DO about it as a free world? Because nothing else matters.

            As to FSB agents in the West, I think they are simply victims of their ideology who as Yuri Bezmenov put it will deny Russian wrongdoing even when faced with true facts. Or shortly they hate America and its “imperialism” more than they love Russia but in Putin and his propaganda they find a counterweight something to ground their negation and chances are after Putin falls it will be China for them the next challenger of US hegemony.

            But yes it comes down to lack of moral integrity that can be clearly spotted in many Putin’s supporters and apologists.

          • StumpedNoMore2

            ” There should have been arms in Ukraine long time ago together with
            freshly trained military officers if West really cared about saving
            Ukraine from Putin’s bloodbath.”

            + 1 Million on this statement. The West played their hand to late and Putin saw it as mere bluff. This set a bad precedent for future treaties as no one would honor them any longer. It just set a bad example that if you invade another country, you’ll get just a slap on the wrist. This will encourage the dragon in the East (China) to be more active in seizing more territories from its neighbors.

            In the world, there must be rules and laws governing international crisis, if there are none then we are back to the “Wild West.”

          • Milton Devonair

            I agree, but the problems are:
            1. The USA is lead by a liberal/progressive, lying a$$hole, so he agrees that the US needs to be destroyed and is to blame for everything bad. If it doesn’t hurt the USA, he’s not interested in it, so he ignores Ukraine.
            and
            2. Europe only cares about itself, each country. Most don’t even contribute the minimum amount to nato, yet demand nato protections and US cash. Europe only wants money to prop their social programmes up, not defend itself, not defend nato, and certainly not defend any non-nato country.
            They only want russian gas, russian money. I don’t know what the want from Ukraine, but they definitely don’t want to pay any costs to help out Ukraine.

            Because of those two, Ukraine is on its own.

  • disqus60

    If only the media enablers in the rest of the world could read and understand this.. sigh.

  • Hungry Ghost

    The News

    Russia has invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation that today is fighting for its existence. Russian spetsnaz and regular troops are bombing and killing civilans and Ukrainian soldiers in a brutal war against an independent nation in the heart of Europe.

    For some reason the news have not jet reached the west, eventhough we live in the information age in the XXI centuary.

    The western media is reporting about a conflict where pro-russian separatists are fighting for their independence from Kiev. In other words – the western media is reporting Kremlin propaganda. There is something hypnotic about the propaganda that comes from Kremlin.