The reach and effect of the Russian propaganda machine is not fully understood. It is a well-established fact that Russia Today is the Kremlin’s propaganda bullhorn in the West. At the same time, its domestic impact cannot be overlooked. For the domestic audience, Russia Today is trying to portray the West as a decadent and decaying society while claiming Russia’s moral and ethical superiority.
This “moral superiority” is expressed in a brutal homophobic campaign, initiated by a law making it illegal to distribute homosexual “propaganda” to minors, which includes staging gay pride events and advocating for gay rights, signed by Putin on June 30, 2013. Following the adoption of this law, hostility towards the LGBT community has risen, with calls coming from officials to establish a morality police to fine people who violate “traditional values.”
As an alternative to Europe’s views, Russia portrays itself as a defender of traditional values while arguing that the EU is a perverted society. Russia Today is an active and major player in this massive campaign of disinformation and propaganda, and its influence on the Russian public cannot be overlooked or underestimated.
Separate agents are crucial in propelling this picture of western society to ordinary Russians. Particularly well known is Irina Bergset. Ms. Bergset is an endless source of fantasies about the decadent West. Their absolutely ludicrous nature is legitimized somewhat thanks to her stay in Norway. Yulia Latynina, an analyst on Ekho Moskvy, argues that Ms. Bergset suffers from psychosis. Nevertheless, nowadays in Russia she heads an organization called “Russian Mothers,” which is actively campaigning to prevent Russian children from being adopted by foreigners, motivating such an initiative by protection against adoption by gay couples. With Russian orphans, many of them disabled, facing a grim future in Russia’s state orphanages, the moral outcome of this law is more than questionable.
Irina Bergset is often seen proclaiming absurd stories about the West at rallies and events. She has been filmed in this video during one of the state-sponsored anti-Maidan protests depicting an utterly absurd picture of Western society. The absurdity of her claims and convictions often find repercussions in Russia Today’s propaganda efforts in brainwashing their own citizens. Here she tells that Germany officially recognized a “pedophile party”; that due to the shortages of females, German men are actively raping dogs; and that the EU legalized “71 types of homosexuality.” Moreover, she is convinced that the EU legalized a so called “Queer-sexualism” movement, which includes homosexuals, pedophiles, zoophiles, and even cannibals. Russian state-controlled television tries hard to show that all of this represents western “liberalism” and therefore must be avoided. This serves a threefold purpose: diminish the West, create an illusion of Russia’s moral superiority, and portray the Russian liberal opposition as advocates of European values.
To Western readers, this might sound like satire. It’s real; moreover, it’s even more serious than the laughs we got out of this video. Russia Today is a major piece of the puzzle in Putin’s informational campaign against the West, and is being used today as an instrument of war in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.