“Truth” and “propaganda” as weapons

Accusatory thrust of claimants for exceptional and rock-solid “truth” of radically different nature as compared to foes’ “propaganda” has become a brand identity of almost every influential media on both sides of the frontline after the humanity “invented” information war yet again. However, inside the competing systems, newsmakers and experts prone to respecting their opponents’ position are pushed out to the periphery of media scene. The world outlook approach which asserts that practically every question worth discussing has more than one correct answer is inoperative in modern international sphere. The prevailing tendency is negation of everything that is “not from our flock”.

Real or made-up diversities and “seedy deeds” serve for demonization of rivals. There are particularities of the regime, individual traits of leaders, historic biased opinions and commonplace myths about alien cultures among them. As a result, slogans and labels start to substitute for weighted analysis of the messages of the opposing party. But to make matters worse, they start to shadow critical re-evaluation of the very nature of ideological struggle and substitute analytical tools with propagandist ones and make it impossible to judiciously apply informational mechanisms. When decision-makers fail to distinguish goals of information policy from means of achieving them, start seeing the world only in black and white shades (reserving the light shades for themselves), that ends in Crusades against dissidents and wide-scale witch hunt.

I warrant that an average American or European on one side and a Russian, Chinese, Persian or Turk on the other side believe that such problems are illustrative of other nations, but not theirs. They would be indignant at such comparison but when you tell them about similar reaction of that very “other nation”, they are going to regard it as the result of “totalitarian” or “pseudo liberal” propaganda. However, there is a significant difference between attitude to political “truth” in the West and the East yet still.

Citizens of states not belonging to “democratic society” do not have an absolute feeling of their own rightness in everything at any time. However, it’s not weakness, but power. Numerous revolutions and shifts of political and cultural paradigms have taught them that pretensions to being the ultimate truth are vicious as a rule. They are aware that every country has interests and values, as well as a mechanism for advancing them, which is more or less effective. This is why they deliberately pick a side in a propaganda warfare and back the information policy of the government. They do it not because they got misguided and not because governments only tell the truth. They do it as they know what political advertisements are for and how they work.

Everything is quite different for Americans and Europeans who believe their version of modern global civilization to be an ultimate achievement of the human race in political, economic and moral spheres. In their eyes, it is not only the fact of coexistence of many evenly valid approximations during the entire path of the humankind to higher-order verities that is open to question, but also the fact that present-day “Russian propaganda” is nothing else but the faint reflection of everlasting and annoying self-display of the West.

It is indicative that in uncritical acceptance of historically formed and unavoidably aging “liberal values” a good many people in the USA and Europe show greater fanaticism than representatives of traditional societies who conserve behavioral norms and manners of the Stone Age. Inability to understand the regulations of domestic propaganda machine keeps most citizens of Western democracies out of being responsible participants of information wars and turns them into convenient objects of manipulation for any internal and external force.

To overcome the existing gap in approaches and create at least hypothetic prerequisites for a dialogue, it is necessary either to confirm correctness of the Western thesis on absence of propaganda in democratic society, permanence and universalism of the values it defends, or to display that these accusations are not consistent with the reality.

For at least one century and a half, countless public politicians along with journalists, experts of all stripes, writers, filmmakers and other opinion shapers have been working on the first of the two mentioned things despite frequent controversies. They belong to united meta-party elite of Western society and ensure the maintaining of such politico-social system that allows them to remain elite.

Defense reaction of Western political class tends to associate exposures of the democratic myth with various marginal institutions, ideologies and persons. It is easy to do considering that discontent with neo-liberal worldview is widely spread. Its nearly absurd effects, as well as numerous conspiracy theorists exploiting it for their own purposes, do not let people of critical thinking encourage their own doubts for fear of conforming unto fringes of society.

However, there is a large and honorable category of citizens whose professional functions and corporate culture oblige them to be doubtful of final status of notions and institutions produced by Western society, as well as of liberal democracy’s not being subject to historic rules that determined functioning of all other types of society, also of absence in Western world of universal mechanisms for picking and promoting preferable world outlook models and other PR cliches. They are scientists.

Of course, timeserving political studies may supply anyone who feels like it with any set of pseudo-scientific arguments on a by-order basis. But then again, sincere loyalty of many people of science to institutions and ideology of representative democracy makes them consider Western society to be open to the maximum, free and progressive as compared to all other societies. But not a single true scientist would accept with a safe conscience a thesis on dying away of social and political evolution, everlasting and eternal status of some ideas or public modes, existence of one particular non-alternative path of development, as well as uncanny ability of the West to dispense with universal collaborative tools of society and the state.

Besides, after all necessary checking and double-checking, a conscientious scientist will be forced to admit conspicuous facts, even though they are undesirable.

The first of them concerns the current situation solely. Which of Russia’s real deeds or some actions attributed to Russia or some other state was not committed by leading Western nations for decades in regard to foes, allies or some third country?

May we speak about interference in electoral system? Or can it be destruction of foundations of the constitutional system?

War in Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing of Libya, stirring up the conflict inside Russia, “color” revolutions all over Eurasia, the Arab spring, army takeovers in countries of Latin America and Turkey, etc. Did all that really not happen?

While we are immersing in history one may easily get lost in the wilderness of examples, so let us confine ourselves to 2011-2012 election campaign in Russia. If we take into account only generally admitted details and leave behind conspiracy speculations provided by Russian TV shows, all those endless lines of opposition activists waiting to enter the US embassy, a legion of American and international NGOs funding the protest movement, public support of oppositionists by Western leaders and media – there will be enough content for hundreds of Trump dossiers! And there would be no need to be gathering bits of information during a year. Unprecedented in terms of aggression and the scope interference into affairs of a sovereign state on behalf of one of domestic political forces is avowed not only in Washington but also in European capitals. However, if speaking their language, it is called not propaganda and interference in the work of political institutions of a sovereign state, but “promotion of democracy basics”.

What else can be considered as Russian know-how? Fake news? Well, the entire system of representations of an average American or European about Russia, China and many other cultures consists of fakes replicated by the media and movie industry. It starts with the egregious lie that the FSB itself was involved in apartment bombings in Moscow and goes up to the popular myth about Russia allegedly preparing invasion of member states of NATO as part of the West 2017 military exercises. To begin with, some rabid news outlet or person plants this information in the media scene without any proof. Then a good number of news sources take it up citing it as “leaked information”. Finally, leading news agencies and TV channels present it as something widely known.

This is what has been happening for decades. As compared with the capacities and supplies employed, the notorious St. Petersburg “troll factory” (which in its turn is largely a media product of the West) rather deserves the name of a “little people”. All most fattest and impudent trolls have long been consolidated into a democratic community for protection against aggression of food that opposes being eaten.

What else? Russian “propaganda speakers” like RT, Sputnik and the like? How come this may bother people who have started dozens of media projects since the time of the Soviet Union for very selective in point of subjects broadcasting on the territory of Russia? Are Radio Liberty and all its numerous clones no longer speaking in defense of “Russian dissidents” being scouted for far and wide? Have they switched to confrontation between the police and African Americans in the USA, executions of witches in Saudi Arabia or problems of migrants in the EU? What’s it all about?

Also, speaking of wiretapping, hacking mail services and other hacker attacks; who happens to be the source of accusations? They come from persons who repeatedly get involved in wiretapping scandals and illegal gathering of information! Recall the news of all the years without exception that have passed since new technologies entered our life. Now Americans wiretapped European leaders and everybody acknowledged it. Now Germans wiretapped Americans, which also actually proved true. As for the NSA’s activities and cooperation with it or the CIA of world’s leading software developers who sell their products worldwide; if somebody is going to dig into it, that will be an investigation in many volumes.

Next thing is approval of separatism. Russia’s sympathies to movements for independence of Texas, California, Scotland and Catalonia arouse indignation of people who first contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union in every possible way and later were harboring leaders of Chechen separatists for years, invested billions in “development of national self-identity” of the population even in such Russia’s regions where people never ever called themselves anything else but Russians. Breakup of former Yugoslavia, violent separation of Kosovo from Serbia, Xinjiang and Tibet in China, the problem of the Kurd territories; all that also had support from the USA and NATO. As Russians would say, tit for tat.

The USA and its allies have been waging a hybrid warfare against Russia and China for decades, and against dozens other countries of the world in less obvious way, including some NATO members. The only reason why regular Americans never took notice of this war is that its victims and destructions were far away. The same with Islamic terrorism – the USA was arming Taliban, al-Qaeda and suchlike organizations in order to achieve its own goals in various parts of the world. Americans happened to get to know about jihadists only after they turned the weapon on their former employers. 9/11 was not the first crime committed by bin Laden. However, regular Americans did not care who he used to kill before them, and the authorities were paying for it.

Like a boomerang, media warfare is returning to the States right now. The Kremlin and other players have added American technologies to their arsenal and started to employ them to their own good. However, the main threat to the US society comes not from Russia the way the mainstream media tries to put it, but from veterans of hybrid wars outside the US like Soros Fund that got absorbed in playing history maker and started to use the same techniques against Americans themselves, the techniques that once proved their effectiveness against foreign states.

As already stated, there is nothing new in it except greater proportions. All the same that bodies of government would do to their foreign rivals or own civil society at all times with due consideration of historic conditions and technologies.

However, political manipulations can be treated in different ways. One may accept uncritically the slogans handed down from the Cabinet, or try to assess them at least by comparing with slogans of the opposing side.

One of widespread ideological clichés which refers to the countries that do not belong to the Western society ascribes their population as totally affected by the propaganda of local authorities. Meanwhile, development of modern network and satellite-assisted technologies offers an opportunity to every more or less advanced Internet user to become familiar with the position of the West at first hand even in the countries where authorities try to bring access to electronic information resources under regulation. In Russia, where teaching one or two foreign languages is a part of compulsory school curriculum and the number of Internet users is rather large as compared with the rest of the world, the population is consistently receiving information not only from homeland resources including oppositional ones but also from those abroad. And the very fact that the Russians for the most part do not want to truck with “the truth” of leading American and European media is not an achievement of the Kremlin’s “propaganda”, but a consequence of fundamental non-admission of the image of Russia, Russians and the rest of the world that is being created in the West.

Unlike the Russians, people in Western countries are most often not familiar with alternative mainstream points of view on international and domestic issues. They have been once and for all taught that everything what comes from Russia, China or, Lord forbid, Iran is total “propaganda” and is no match to the only possible democratic “truth”, so they only have to rejoice over conscience of their non-competitive rightness and have no worries.

Here emerges an inverse relation in self-presentation of the “veracious” Western view of the rest of the world as maximally open and honest and its extreme selectivity. In an age of global media war with heavily twisted frontlines, pretensions to being exceedingly “truthful” and “non-biased” can easily be transformed into printing machinery for mass production of propaganda. Principles of “complexity” and “complementarity” carry much greater educative and humanistic value. Indeed, it is them that most viable societies go by in their domestic development cultivating freedom of speech in scientific, political and many other spheres.

Unfortunately, in international relations an opposite trend prevails, which implies that there are only two possible speculations on every matter – our “truth” and the enemy’s “propaganda”. The only thing to hope for is that someday the rule «contraria non contradictoria, sed complementa sunt» (opposites are not contradictory but complimentary) written by Niels Bohr on the wall at the Faculty of theoretical physics of Moscow State University in 1961 will be followed not only by theory scientists but also by public opinion creators. Perhaps, it will help to protect diversity of ways and approaches to determine the future of human civilization from the threat of fitting the bed of Procrustes of someone’s one-and-only indisputable “truth”.

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5 years ago

The author’s attempt to draw an objective picture of the information confrontation between the West and Russia is certainly visible. Recently, mutual accusations and reproaches have reached their peak. And it certainly does not benefit anyone. In my opinion, this problem can be solved only if the residents of Western countries have access to alternative sources of information that will cover the events in Russia as objectively as possible without flying the so-called propaganda. In the meantime, as you know, any Russian media broadcasting to Western audiences, are perceived solely as a mouthpiece of propaganda. Whether this trend is reversed will largely depend on the Russian authorities.

kennet olson
5 years ago

Oh my! That’s so long and so toxic.

5 years ago

It is not the problem that the West sees propaganda in Russian media materials. It would be strange not to notice what is obvious! It is much worse when they recon propaganda methods as some sort of Russian know-how and refuse to acknowledge that the same methods are present in their own informational content. That kills the very demand for correcting the dominant point of view owing to contrary opinions. As a result, here comes something very distant from officially declared ideological pluralism.

fay fitz
5 years ago

Elon Musk Says He’s Creating New Site Pravda to Rate Media “Credibility”: https://www.inverse.com/article/45177-elon-musk-rate-media-credibility-pravda

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