The Kremlin doesn’t only adapt news shows for disseminating its propaganda via Russian state-funded TV channels. Different television genres are involved in strengthening the impact of pro-Kremlin narratives on TV audiences. One of the genres stands out: the talk show.
As EU vs Disinfo highlighted,
As a rule, a small number of “dissidents”, e.g. an opposition activist, a Ukrainian or even a “token American” will be invited into the studio, but these will always be massively outnumbered and yelled at by the majority of talk show participants, who hold pro-Kremlin views, and who are traditionally backed both by the studio audience and, crucially, the host.
The Russian talk shows use the dissenting voice as a scapegoat or even as an instrument in legitimizing mobbing, EU vs Disinfo stressed. The host and the studio audience, in fact, act a model of a society where dissenters and foreigners are to be treated with hostility.
The new article by EU vs Disinfo shows an example of how the Russian talk shows work.
“You Always Place Me Between Two Foreigners”
What just happened? Did Russian state media decide to drop disinformation and replace it with a democratic debate? Since when has the criticism of the authorities been allowed on prime-time Kremlin TV?
Click to watch the video below and see how the talk show host and other discussants giggle towards the end of the video when Leonid Gozman, a well-known opposition politician, openly criticizes the Kremlin and its media.
Judging from the reactions in the studio, Mr. Gozman could just as well have told a dirty joke or reminded the others of an embarrassing secret.
— Mikhail Khodorkovsky (@khodorkovsky_en) December 3, 2018
Mr. Gozman can, in fact, be said to have reminded the audience of a secret: like the little boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, he breaks the spell of disinformation, points at the “emperor” – state propaganda – and reminds his fellow Russians that it is in fact “naked,” i.e. just an illusion:
“Once this show ends, everyone in the audience who has been ordered to clap, will come up to me and say, ‘actually, you’re right, we support what you say.’”
The aim is to show dissenters as disloyal citizens
But why this sudden deviation from the norm on state TV talk shows?
Leonid Gozman himself points out in the clip that the role of talk show propaganda is not necessarily to try to prove people wrong if they disagree with the official, Kremlin-approved line. Instead, the overarching aim is to discredit dissenters as disloyal citizens:
“Whenever I’m on your show, you always place me between two foreigners, to ‘show’ that I stand against Russia.”
Worth noting is also that not all dissenters are as lucky as Mr. Gozman when the only consequence he faces is smirking and giggling. Click here to watch examples of how e.g. foreign guests on Russian state TV talk shows have been interrupted, shouted at and even physically attacked live on air.
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