War in Ukraine intensified zombification of Russian TV viewers: longer programs, higher hysteria, no more opponents

Russian state TV propagandists working among Russian troops in Ukraine wear "Press" signs in English, not in Russian or Ukrainian, to make them look more "independent." Mar-2022 (Photo: Rossiya1 TV program screenshot by Newizv.ru)

Russian state TV propagandists working among Russian troops in Ukraine wear "Press" signs in English, not in Russian or Ukrainian, to make them look more "independent." Mar-2022 (Photo: Rossiya1 TV program screenshot by Newizv.ru) 

Opinion, Russia

Edited by: A. N.

Russian television which remains the main mobilizing force in that country nonetheless has changed fundamentally since Vladimir Putin began his broader invasion of Ukraine: programs are longer, hysterical commentaries more frequent and opponents of Kremlin policy no longer to be seen, Sergey Mitrofanov says.

The Moscow commentator says that television has become even more zombifying in its effect and that watching it doesn’t so much convince anyone not already convinced as affect those who aren’t with a powerful feeling that they should run into the forests to escape.

Related: Russian propaganda TV threatens to invade West, carry out nuclear strike

Over and over again, Moscow TV shows the Russian forces distributing bread to “impoverished, starving and unwashed people” who welcome them even as this force is “opposed by completely brutalized nationalists who have nothing to lose because the Russian authorities have promised them severe punishment.”

Russian TV propagandists use a 19th century's French political cartoon showing the victorious Russian Bear celebrating the defeat of the Polish people in their effort to liberate themselves from the clutches of the Russian Empire to draw parallels with the current events. Mar-2022 (Photo: Rossiya1 TV program screenshot by Newizv.ru)

Russian TV propagandists use a 19th century’s French political cartoon showing the victorious Russian Bear celebrating the defeat of the Polish people in their effort to liberate themselves from the clutches of the Russian Empire to draw parallels with the current events. Mar-2022 (Photo: Rossiya1 TV program screenshot by Newizv.ru)

That explains, of course, “why the resistance increases rather than decreases,” although that doesn’t seem to be the intention of the television producers. Another problem of Russian television is its repetitiveness. Not only are the same themes but even the same pictures of the same places and same battles repeated again and again.

“As a result,” Mitrofanov says, “the same settlement is taken several times; and then the next day it is taken again. The same thing holds with the texts read and the expert opinions expressed,” a pattern that is only “compensated for” by the increasing hysteria with which these things are presented. And now there are no opponents of these views as foils.

Moreover, all programs seem to be getting longer. There are several hours of 60 Minutes in the morning and several hours more of the same program in the evening. And the news gets longer compared to everything else. But even as the programs get longer, they contain less and less information and more and more emotion.

Related: Russians view war in Ukraine as defensive ‘holy struggle’ of ‘us against the world’ and back Putin, Russian sociologist says

Vladimir Putin makes frequent appearances, regularly and repeatedly expressing regret that Western sanctions on Russia are hurting people in the West who now have to pay more for longer flights so as to go around Russia and invariably saying that everything is going according to plan.

The information programs are reinforced by films, obviously made earlier, that deliver the same messages, suggesting that everything used to be fine centuries ago but then the West went off track while Russia stayed on and that all problems now are the result of what the West rather than what Russia has done.

Such films were made “before the Special Operation,” a provenance that suggests to anyone reflecting on them that exactly the reverse is true, Mitrofanov suggests. But reflection is not something the average Russian television viewer is given to; and the Kremlin clearly is counting on that.

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Edited by: A. N.
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