Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Putin's Propaganda Works to Convince Unhappy Russians They’re the Exceptions, Kokh Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 19 – “The chief secret of Russian propaganda” is its “main task,” Alfred Kokh says, and that is to convince Russians that they are as happy as it is possible to be under the circumstances, that they are beholden to the state for this well-being, and that if anyone is unhappy, he or she is an isolated anomaly.

            According to the former Russian deputy prime minister and current commentator, “the task of totalitarian propaganda consists in convincing the individual in the correctness of the authorities and in the lack of alternatives.” Anyone processed in this way is thus “convinced that he is happy (

            Anyone who despite that feels unhappy begins to convince himself that he is “an anomaly,” that his “personal misfortune” is a personal failing rather than part of the system as a whole.  “In other words,” Kokh says, “the totalitarian individual if he feels himself unhappy clearly understands that his unhappiness is an exception” and that almost everyone else is happy.

            And that conclusion leads such “unhappy” people even when they have good reason to be unhappy with the system to seek to join the majority and to pursue the resolution of their problems via the system rather than protesting against it.  If only the tsar knew about the mistake in their cases, all would be corrected; and they too would be happy.

            That attitude, the Russian commentator suggests, has the additional consequence of keeping them from organizing with others of like mind and experience and thus reducing the chance that those suffering from any particular ill will act in ways that will force the authorities to change course.

            Kokh argues that “an individual in a free society represents the complete opposite.” “He is happy but is convinced that his happiness is the exception not the rule, that the people suffer and that the authorities are defective and ill-intentioned.” And because of the nature of the media in free societies, he does not recognize that the happy individual is the norm.

            In such societies, he suggests, “the media focus on exposing precisely the negative and collecting and disseminating even the most minor mistakes of the authorities.”  That is why, unlike in a totalitarian society, the ratings of leaders are never so high in a free society.

            Indeed, Kokh argues in conclusion, this distinction is “the most important indicator of slavery or freedom.” And consequently, he notes with regret, “in Russia there are ever fewer people who feel their happiness is an exception, and ever more who consider their unhappiness precisely that.”

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