Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kremlin Propaganda Effective Because It Isn’t Ideological or Consistent, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 2 – Kremlin propaganda today is “much more effective than its Soviet predecessor,” Kseniya Kirillova says, because “unlike Communist propaganda, today’s Kremlin ‘information operations’ to not need to adhere to a specific ideology” or “maintain logical consistency.”

            To achieve its goals, the US-based Russian journalist argues on The Integrity Initiative portal, the Kremlin’s propaganda effort relies on the promotion of “images and the feelings created by images which are so provocative that they affect people much more than rational arguments” (integrityinitiative.net/articles/fear-and-hatred-how-propaganda-persuades-emotion in English; tverezo.info/post/71907 in Russian).

            Thus, Kirillova says, “Russian propaganda does not create a system of views but appeals directly to emotions, instincts, reflexes and passions, the intertwining of which leads to the desired result for the Kremlin,” because “in combating this disinformation … it is almost impossible to argue with emotions.”

            As the West’s experience in countering communist ideology, she continues, “a coherent system of views can be refuted [and] ideological errors can easily be debunked by comparing them with the truth. But emotions are another matter,” and Moscow today promotes four of these and then mixes them together.

            The first of these emotions is fear. Through various media, people are “artifically plunged into an illusory hell” from which they can escape only by “consolidating around a national leader,” in the case of Russia, Vladimir Putin.  At one level, such fears are “natural defensive reactions;” but in this case, they are used to anything but natural ends.

            The second of these emotions is hatred.  “Scaring people [in turn] is impossible without creating an image of the enemy, the source of the very threat that gives rise to a sense of fear.” In the Russian case, this includes Ukrainians, Americans, and minorities of various kinds that many Russians already find distasteful.

            “Hatred is especially dangerous,” Kirillova says, “because it removes moral prohibitions in those who are consumed by it. It justifies the most primitive and base human instincts: the desire to take part in collective persecution, to rummage in someone's dirty laundry, to invade someone's privacy, to turn someone's life into a public spectacle.”

            The third emotion Kremlin propaganda seeks to promote is cynicism, “an inevitable consequence of hatred and fear.”  Not only does this lead to the dehumanization of the other and the devaluation of facts and reason, but it justifies relaxing moral constraints in order to combat the threats Moscow propaganda has highlighted.

            And fourth, the propaganda emanating from the Kremlin promotes elitism, either of a collective kind like a nation, or of an individual one. In both cases, it posits that the group the Kremlin is appealing to has special rights and missions and thus is justified in taking extreme measures against those who it had identified as enemies.

            But what makes Kremlin propaganda especially powerful, Kirillova says, is that “all four types are very often intertwined in a person’s mind and it’s difficult to untangle them. [It} creates a full range of emotions … and all of these states are easily interchangeable depending on how a person is feeling at any given moment and how they justify and rationalize each of [them].”

            As a result, the Kremlin’s propaganda effort and the efforts of those who have copied it have “proven that playing to images and feelings is more effective than any ideology and that controlling emotions is much more effective than controlling thinking.” Indeed, this effort has “also shown how surprisingly easy it is to persuade many people to drop their moral standards.”

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