Digital photo manipulation by Sarolta Ban (Image: polyvore.com)
Vladimir Putin’s propaganda is intended to destroy “all the rules of rational thought” just as those who support pseudo-science do, Pavel Shekhtman argues on the Kasparov portal today; but it does so in exactly the opposite way that the supporters of religious fundamentalism attack rationality.
Religious fundamentalists reject doubt and insist that they are in position of “the Absolute Truth;” Putinism, however, “denies the very idea of objective truth and puts in its place the post-modernist idea that there is nothing true or false but only ‘opinions’ any one of which is equal to another,” the Moscow historian says.
In Putin’s world, anyone including your Uncle Vasya has the right to an opinion on any question regardless of whether he has any facts to back it up, and everyone must treat what he says as one hypothesis among others, somehow deserving equal treatment along with the studies of serious scholars.
Many otherwise intelligent people go along with this lest they appear to be suppressing the search for truth, and consequently, because they are not prepared to defend the principles of rationality and research, they themselves serve as repeating stations for the kind of nonsense that Putin’s propaganda machine puts out.
This “paradigm,” Shekhtman continues, has been very much in evidence in discussions of the downing of the Malaysian jetliner. Moscow set as its task not to attack the true version of events but rather to muddy the waters by offering so many “’hypotheses,’” no matter how internally inconsistent, that people would throw up their hands rather than recognize reality.
Such people, just as Putin intended, have in many cases decided that “there is nothing true or false, but that each can choose the true or the false as he likes.”
Some analysts, impressed by Putin’s success, have suggested that this was his innovation, but in fact, the Moscow historian says, this approach has its roots, at least in Russian practice, in the way Moscow has long tried to confuse the issue over the Soviet execution of Polish officers at Katyn.”
Putin thus only had to take that method out of the Soviet toolbox, and that in turn suggests something else, Shekhtman says. “The problem lies not in propaganda” but rather in the rejection of rational thought a s such, an action by Putin and his regime that carries with it consequences far larger than propaganda alone.
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