Friday, October 4, 2019

Russian Propaganda Effective Precisely Because It Isn’t Tied to Specific Ideology, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 1 – “Russian propaganda remains an extremely effective weapon of information warfare,” Kseniya Kirillova says, “much more effective than its Soviet predecessor” precisely because it isn’t tied to a specific ideology, can tailor its approach to specific groups much more readily, and relies heavily “information noise” to undermine truth as such. 

            In a major article for Tvezero, the US-based Russian journalist says that Russian propaganda now is especially effective because unlike Soviet communism, it “does not include any complex logical constructions” and can present ideas to various groups that are contradict one another (

            Present-day Russian propaganda, Kirillov continues, “creates not a system of views but a sense directed at feelings, instincts, reflexes and passions, whose combination leads to the result the Kremlin needs.” And it is being used both within the Russian Federation and around the world. 

            It is based on “lies, slander, distortion of facts, the creation of conspiracy theories and many versions of reality which contradict one another which are designed to call the concept of truth as such into question and also on the use of the smallest contradictions which exist in western societies for weakening and dividing these societies.”

            At the same time and as part of this effort, Moscow has been creating and using “special mini-ideologies, distinct worldview systems directed at specific social groups, most frequently of all those who are attached to the most radical views,” Kirillova says. She devotes most of her article to describing them.

            Among the most prominent, she suggests, are those directed at extreme right groups and using racialist, religious and ultra-traditionalist messages, others at the descendants of White Russian emigres in the United States, the far left there and in Europe, and even secessionist groups again in Europe and the US.

            Inevitably these appeals contradict one another, but “they are all based on one and the same basic principle: they create a definite picture of the world which to the maximum extent possible impresses a specific social group and in which representatives of this group really want to believe.”

            Because that is the case, “unmasking specific examples of disinformation often are ineffective because the disinformation in question is so firmly rooted in the picture of the world of its consumers that people simply have no stimulus to accept alternative information.” In fact, they may view attacks on what they do believe as confirmation of its truth.

            If the Kremlin’s information war is to be countered, Kirillova argues, its opponents must recognize three aspects of it: First, they must accept that for its intended audiences, the Kremlin’s message is both attractive and acceptable. It isn’t and can’t be effectively presented as alien.

            Second, the Kremlin is succeeding by creating images of the enemy and fears; and third, the Kremlin links them directly or indirectly to support for Russian policies.  That is the weakest point in this algorithm but attacks on it must take the other two factors into account or they will reinforce all three.

            At the same time although it is too often ignored, “far from all Russian propaganda and disinformation takes the form of some well-formed ideology.” More often, it is involved in promoting “’information noise,’ which is called to finally confuse the consumer of information” and lead him to conclude that all messages are self-interested and false.

             Kirillova concludes that “the weak point in ‘ideology for export’ is in the first instance logical chains and the connecting links between the image of the enemy.” That is where the defense against the Kremlin’s information war can be most effective.

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