Staunton, February 15 – “The chief distinction of Russia from the USSR is that today Moscow is not advancing ‘its own position’” via its international propaganda efforts, Pavel Kazarin says, but instead working to “destroy the positions of ‘others,’” a distinction that the latter must understand if they are to counter what Moscow is doing successfully.
What this means, the Ukrainian commentator says, is that Russia is no longer engaged in “positional information battles” but rather has shifted to “media diversions,” having decided that such an approach is not only cheaper than the other one but more effective in undermining its opponents” (nv.ua/opinion/kazarin/kak-rossija-rabotaet-s-chuzhimi-2452069.html).
“The post-war Soviet Union conducted positional wars in the style of World War II,” he says. “When the outlines of positions were more or less clear, the lines of division were as well, and everything reduced not so much to the conquest of ‘the other’ as the support of ‘one’s own.’ Direct battles as a result were conducted only on the periphery of the oikumene.”
But present-day Russia, Kazarin continues, has changed its approach, shifting “from position-based information battles to media diversions. It has created media which work [exclusively] ‘for export.’ It uses social networks to invade the agendas of foreigners. It works not so much with its own audience as with that of its opponents.”
This means that this branch of Russian media “does not try to convince that it is on the side of the good” as the Soviet brand did. “On the contrary, it seeks to convince people that good and evil do not in fact exist, that the world is 50 shades of gray, that there are no criteria to decide between truth and lies, and that everyone deceives everyone else.”
In this new reality, “the battle is not about reality but about its description, and the media becomes the front on which the battle is joined. The irony is that the European countries want to dig new foxholes at the very time when Moscow is destroying the ground into which this form of defense could be built.
“We are accustomed to believe in the media market,” Kazarin says, in “supply and demand.” But that works only until a player – in this case, Moscow – comes on the scene “for whom the balance between the two does not have any significance and for whom the spread of information is not a business but a means of resolving its own political tasks.”
“The contemporary media marketplace is full of strikebreakers,” he continues, “free newspapers, free television channels, and free websites. In such conditions, there is no reason to hope that the market will work” against a Russia which is quite ready to “subordinate its media business to the interests of politics.”
According to Kazarin, “the fate of Crimea and the Donbass is confirmation of this.” And now this approach is being applied to Europe more generally, a place where people have “buried memories about the cold war” but continue to assume that somehow the rules from that time continue to apply in the media environment.
They don’t, and those who don’t recognize this have already lost the battle if not yet the war.