Lenin said that Marxism was powerful because it was true; his successors in the Kremlin have been as successful with their propaganda as they have been because they carefully tailor their messages and techniques to whatever audiences they hope to influence.
One of the most damning indications of this was the discovery by historian and diplomat Romuald Misiunas in the library of KGB materials the Russians left behind when Lithuania became independent of training pamphlets bearing titles as specific as “How to Recruit Americans of Jewish Background” to work for the USSR.
The five, according to Kirillova, are:
- “The American common man really is inclined to display naiveté on foreign policy issues.” Those things which don’t concern him in the most direct and personal way, he doesn’t pay much attention to. The conflict in Ukraine is one that doesn’t, and the Kremlin’s propagandists count on this naiveté to cause Americans to accept, albeit not with much conviction, whatever they say about it.
- “Russian propaganda skillfully plays on the critical stance Americans have toward they own government.” They aren’t inclined to trust it or often the mainstream media, and they thus view reports from the scene, as the Kremlin intends, as providing a more reliable source of information about what is going on, especially if it differs from what Washington is saying.
- The media in the US unwittingly help the Kremlin propagandists to spread their messages because many American outlets routinely confuse “balance with objectivity” and thus report, often without much comment, whatever Moscow or pro-Moscow spokesmen say however distorted or fraudulent, in order to demonstrate how “objective” they are.
- Americans tend to defer to those they think know the most about an issue, including those who come from wherever the news originates and who speak about it with conviction – even if these people are in fact being employed to put out a narrative completely at odds with the facts on the ground.
- “The Kremlin uses quite a bit American political correctness,” including the tendency of Americans not to challenge a different point of view openly if the person offering it seems convinced of its truth even if his audience knows that it is false. That has the effect of creating facts on the ground that later few are willing to go back to and declare untrue.
“Unfortunately,” Kirillova concludes, “Kremlin political technologists know these enumerated weaknesses of the West quite well and skillfully make use of them.” And at the same time, the US despite all its expressed concern about Russian “’active measures,’” hasn’t come up with a way of opposing such “attacks” without violating fundamental democratic principles.
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- Lackluster journalism on Russo-Ukrainian war from PBS and Pulitzer Center
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- A guide to Russian propaganda. Part 1: Propaganda prepares Russia for war
- How Russia’s worst propaganda myths about Ukraine seep into media language
- Seven strategies of domestic Russian propaganda (Infographic)
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