Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Almost Half of Russians Say They Can’t Distinguish Truth from Lies in Moscow Media

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 15 – Almost half of Russians – 46 percent – say that they often cannot distinguish “false information from truth” in media reports, while a similar percentage – 46 percent say that they can, numbers that are relatively constant across groups of different ages and social classes, according to Aleksey Levinson of the Levada Center.

            Given that significant majorities watch central state television channels, the sociologist continues in a Vedomosti article, this reflects their evaluation of their ability to judge what they are told in the first instance on those channels rather than by other media outlets (

            Many people say that homemakers “believe ‘the box’ more than others,” but data show that in fact, Russian homemakers today are the most skeptical about their ability to distinguish truth from falsehood on Russian television with 51 percent saying that they can’t always. Only a slightly smaller share of workers say the same thing.

            Moreover, Levinson continues, “among those who have a university diploma, 41 percent cannot always distinguish between television truth and television lies.  And even among the bosses, he says, the figure with similar with four in ten saying that “we don’t know whether they are deceiving us or not.”

            There are three reasons, Levinson suggests, why there is no general and full trust in the Russian media.  First of all, viewers have their own experiences which allow them to compare what is said with what is true. “But this isn’t the main reason,” the sociologist continues, and he points to two additional ones.

            The second reason is rooted in the experience of Russians at the end of Soviet times when people began to understand that “freedom begins with independence from official propaganda and with the absence of unqualified faith in everything that this broadcast from above.” That attitude has been extended to the Moscow media since they are obviously state-controlled. 

            And third – and this, Levinson says, is the “main” reason – Russian media today and those who direct it “don’t need unqualified faith from their viewers, listeners or readers.” Instead, what they require is that people suspend critical judgment and remain uncertain as to what is true and what is not.

            That is sufficient and keeps Russians from coming down on the side of truth, an important value in Russian culture, and thus putting them on the road to conflict with the powers that be.

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