Author Topic: Oh Dearism.  (Read 2692 times)

Cain

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Re: Oh Dearism.
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2015, 09:43:28 am »
Also, see this piece from the Moscow Times on Russia Today:

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These media investments ostensibly reflect the Kremlin's ambition to win sympathies abroad. Upon closer inspection, however, Russia's large and growing investment in international media is not about winning hearts through "unbiased coverage of events in Russia," as President Vladimir Putin has claimed.

Instead, the Kremlin is focused on poisoning minds through an insidious mix of information designed to muddy the media waters and disorient international audiences. Seen in this context, Russia's surging international media investment makes more sense.

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Outside Russia, where Kremlin censorship cannot eliminate alternative views, the aim of Russia's media is different. In settings with media pluralism, Russia's goal is not to persuade audiences of the virtues of Kremlin policy but to create confusion and raise doubts about the facts of a given issue.

By muddling thinking about the Russian annexation of Crimea and use of military force to establish a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin seeks to prevent a coordinated and resolute response from the West.

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As media analyst Peter Pomerantsev observed, debunking false information is time-consuming and expensive; the Kremlin's fabrication of information is easy and relatively cheap. While the Kremlin tightens restrictions on the Internet at home, state media takes advantage of opportunities to make deeper inroads online beyond Russia's borders. RT's YouTube channel has garnered more than 1.3 billion views. Even accounting for clicks from phony accounts, this is a staggering number.

Cain

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Re: Oh Dearism.
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2015, 12:15:52 pm »
The aforementioned Peter Pomerantsev, in Politico:

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At one end of the table sat one of the country’s most famous political TV presenters. He was small and spoke fast, with a smoky voice: “We all know there will be no real politics,” he said. “But we still have to give our viewers the sense something is happening. They need to be kept entertained.”

“So what should we play with?” he asked. “Shall we attack oligarchs? Who’s the enemy this week? Politics has got to feel like a movie!”

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The 21st century Kremlin might be controlling the media just as it did in the Soviet era, but there’s one mistake today’s Russian will never repeat: It will never let television become dull. In fact, the goal is to synthesize Soviet control with Western entertainment—and for that it needs the help of Western producers who, Russians believe, know the alchemical secret of great television formats.

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Then there was the television, which I never worked on, with a more sinister mission: political-psychological control. The approach could be deeply counterintuitive. NTV, for example, one of the country’s biggest networks, doesn’t try to pretend Russia is a rosy place like Soviet channels used to do—which is also how they lost credibility with viewers. Quite the opposite: It shows non-stop horror stories about how dangerous the country is, encouraging the viewer to look to the “strong hand” of the Kremlin for protection.

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As the decade came to an end and as the Kremlin became ever more aggressive and paranoid, I began to notice how Ostankino TV was increasingly starting to reflect, however haphazardly, the underlying principles of a Lifespring training. It’s programs confused viewers with bizarre conspiracy theories and itched at unresolved traumas about Stalin, the collapse of the USSR and the destitution of the 1990s—all before lifting the viewer up with stories of Putin-era triumph. Meanwhile current affairs TV presenters would pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for 20 minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly. It was a powerful technique.

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“There is no such thing as objective reporting,” the managing editor of RT, Alexey Nikolov, told me when I interviewed him in 2013. By then, I was based in London again, working in think tanks, and Nikolov met me in his bright, large office at RT’s Moscow HQ. A veteran international reporter, he spoke near perfect English and sat at the top of a very long desk wearing a knowing smile. In the corner was a Kalashnikov, a collector’s item from one of his reporting adventures. “Does it scare you?” he half-joked, when he caught me looking at it.

“But what is a Russian point of view? What does Russia Today stand for?” I asked.

“Oh, there is always a Russian point of view,” he answered. “Take a banana. For someone it’s food. For someone else it’s a weapon. For a racist it’s something to tease a black person with.”

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Some of these tricks smack of an updated model of Active Measures, the Soviet era KGB-run disinformation and psychological warfare department designed to confuse and disorganize the West. Active Measures employed an estimated 15,000 agents at the height of the Cold War, part of whose brief was to place forgeries in international media. Stories ranged from “President Carter’s Secret Plan to Put Black Africans and Black Americans at Odds,” to those that claimed AIDS was a weapon created by the CIA or blamed the United States for the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. But if Soviet measures went to great lengths to make their forgeries look convincing, now the Kremlin doesn’t seem to care if it is caught: The aim is to confuse rather than convince, to trash the information space so the audience gives up looking for any truth amid the chaos.

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Having seen how Russian TV works from the inside I wonder whether the West has the institutional or analytical tools necessary to deal with this new challenge. At a recent conference in Washington, U.S. officials told me they were surprised by how sophisticated Russian TV was. Up until this year they had been utterly unaware of the unique mix of authoritarianism, spin and entertainment the Kremlin has perfected.

My belief is that while the west certainly emulates the Russian approach in some ways, it is far more haphazard, circumstansial and unintnetional than it is in Russia, as a whole.  FOX News certainly seems to fall into the Russian mould quite easily, for example.  But the west's approach has been via a fractured polity, downsized news organisations and similar.  Russia deliberately went about building the system by contrast.

Cain

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Re: Oh Dearism.
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2015, 05:14:53 pm »
Another thing to consider is a game-theoretic/strategic approach behind all this.

In game theory, if you're aiming for a status-quo outcome or a draw, then a deception strategy, marked by obscurity and obsfucation, is a potentially optimal approach.  It allows for you to run up the costs of opposition while testing your opponents resolve and exploiting their weaknesses.

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Re: Oh Dearism.
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2015, 08:27:59 pm »
Huh.  And one of the supposed points of conservatism is to maintain the status quo....




Thanks, Cain.  You've given me something to think about.  You're good at that.


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Re: Oh Dearism.
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2015, 09:50:50 am »
These were great reads, thanks Cain.

All this reminds me of a few years ago, when we were discussing the importance of teaching media literacy in schools. If people were able to identify the sources and biases in news more easily, that might help to counter the organized disinformation campaigns.

The trouble is, there's so much of it and it is so time consuming to do your own research and find the truth - and that delaying factor is part of the goal anyway. Its a very sophisticated approach to mass media.

It also encourages people to latch on to the media outlets they find comforting and form their own echo chambers - which is what we've been saying we've seen in the internet for ages. It is very easy to construct your own self-reinforcing hub of news, and since it moves so quickly by the time the story has been proven false, attention is already directed elsewhere.
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