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Anatomy of American Propaganda – all it takes is a name

The American public is so well insulated from receiving effective and honest news about anything Russia that they believe whatever the media wants them to believe

It used to be "We report. You decide." But not so with regard to Russia these days.

Please do not misunderstand. My personal regard for Fox News is actually the highest among American mainstream media outlets. To their great credit, they have been very fair to candidate and now President Donald Trump, and they usually demonstrate a good level of proficiency in outlining the news from a conservative point of view, as long as it is regarding domestic policy.

But when it comes to reporting on the rest of the world, it’s a crapshoot. And, further, if they report on Russia, or President Vladimir Putin in particular, this venerable network either caves to, or actually believes, a very incorrect set of rhetoric, and the American people easily buy into it, all through the use of a very simple tool. Before I explain more, let’s have a read at this piece about the upcoming Russian Presidential Election to take place Sunday, March 18th. This is obviously about candidate / President Putin, and for brevity’s sake I have removed what I considered to be not strictly needed to make my own point. However, please feel free to follow this link to read the whole piece. It will help check my own angle for inappropriate bias:

The upcoming Russian presidential elections are critical to President Vladimir Putin. It seems odd to say that when their outcome is not in question (spoiler alert: Putin will win).  But even so, they matter a lot—and thus should matter a lot to us too. 

The scale of his victory, the number and demographics of Russians who vote, and how rigged the results are perceived to be, are all vital to Putin’s continued stability and power. For one thing, Putin needs broad electoral support either to change the rules so he can remain in power indefinitely or secure another way to exist safely at the end of his term. He will not be able to run for president again in 2024 under the current constitution of the Russian Federation..

Of course, Russians have no real choice in this election anyway, as the Kremlin has prevented viable opposition candidates from participating. But just winning isn’t enough for Putin. He must obtain the same level of popular support he had in the last election, if not more. A diminished margin in his inevitable victory or the perception that he has had to cheat badly to put up a good front could undermine his control.

By “viable candidates” the author of this piece is referring to Alexey Navalny. Mr. Navalny was ruled ineligible to run for President because of felony convictions he has. This is a cause that he disputes, but it should also be noted that this activist and lawyer ran for the office of Mayor of Moscow as well, and lost, getting 27% of the vote to Sergey Sobyanin’s 51%. It should further be noted that Mr. Sobyanin, while a Putin pick, is that way for a reason – he is an incredible administrator. Moscow has been undergoing modernization and revitalization in amazing ways, and it is extremely obvious that effective leadership is in action here. (I live in Moscow, so I see everything that happens here.)

But back to our piece:

Another issue is the mass psychology of his strongman rule. Most Russians think most Russians support Putin. His own apparatus supports him in part because it believes that the Russian population broadly supports him. Putin cannot allow that belief to be undermined. 

Surprisingly, Putin also cares about the perceived legitimacy of the elections. Democracy remains central to Putin’s stated political self-definition, and core to his ideology despite the ongoing propaganda campaign against the failures of Western democracies. 

The irony is that most Russians would likely choose Putin anyway, despite recognizing the regime’s policy failures and limitations on their civil liberties. 

Many perceive Putin as a guarantor of Russia’s economic stability and national pride. The majority of Russians remember the horrific 1990s—a period of brutal poverty, weak government, social degradation, and political uncertainty.

There are no expressed limitations on civil liberties that I have ever specifically heard detailed while here in Russia. Freedom of speech is a very valued right here, and I hear plenty of cynicism but no talk of “he’s oppressing us!!” whatsoever.

Historically, Russians have often been willing to surrender civil liberties if doing so ensures that they will not return to instability. This phenomenon is common in many post-dictatorial states when failing economic policies push their populations back toward authoritarian regimes.

This is a pure piece of propaganda that succeeds with Americans who only remember the Soviet Union’s shadow of oppression under Communism. Most American people have no idea what the country is like now, and they would be surprised to learn that there is no issue with anything our writer has said just above.

Putin also intensifies and then fills the need for the assertion of Russian national identity. His propaganda machine plays up Russia’s humiliations of the 1990s and its historical greatness. Putin provides a source of national pride, especially to older generations, through military adventures that “eradicate terrorism” in Syria and Ukraine, fight “Western hypocrisy,” and strengthen Russian military forces.

This is, in my estimation, a mixture of truth and falsehood. What is certainly true is the assertion of Russian national identity is very strong. In contrast to the “America is guilty” rhetoric of the Obama years, and in comparison to the time of great national pride in the US that existed through the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, national pride is a unifying and galvanizing force in Russia, and it is quite an honest phenomenon. To see this country rebuilding itself with such quiet determination and success is really amazing. As for the matters regarding Syria, Russia is following international law, right or wrong, Syria called for their aid. The Americans are there illegally. The Syrians never wanted them, and the American alliance with al-Qaeda affiliated groups is one of the most amazing examples of hypocrisy in American history. Anyone who lived through 9/11 would be outraged to know this.

Many Russians view Ukraine, for example, as chaotic and sliding back into 1990s-era poverty for no clear benefit. Nearly two decades of propaganda narratives about U.S. failures of democracy in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan also feed this perception.

Ukraine HAS slid back into poverty. The country’s money is almost worthless. Even the BBC notes the severity of the situation. And although this report dates from 2014, recent personal reports about life there do not show much progress… unless you are a politician where you are corrupt and go on lavish trips or build palaces for yourself (both sides played equally badly in this one, and it has not stopped.)

Many young people in Russia do not remember the 1990s and are not sold on Putin’s “stability and pride” pitch. The overall economic situation, while not as dire as the ‘90s, is on a negative trajectory.

Totally and completely incorrect. Sorry, this is not my opinion. It is the assessment of the World Bank. The Russian economy is growing and it is quite stable. Inflation has been brought to only about 4.5%, to begin with…

Moreover, international sanctions, hiked again after Russian meddling in U.S. elections, target Putin’s innermost circle of supporters and are having negative economic effects on foreign investment. Consequently, a significant number of Russians question whether the high economic and human toll of Putin’s foreign adventures is justified.

And again the tiresome election meddling story. This Florida lady says the best response I have seen to that old story:

So there is the bulk of the piece. So, what sells so many Americans on the veracity of this writer’s opinion?

Her name.

Nataliya Bugayova. Good Slavic name, therefore she is an expert on Russia. This is not very rational, though, considering the rest of the data about her, given by Fox News:

Nataliya Bugayova is Development Director at the Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, where she studies Russia’s global impact. She was previously Chief Executive Officer of the Kyiv Post and served in the government of Ukraine following the democratic revolution of 2014.

So, our writer is associated with Washington DC, and served on a Kyivan newspaper in Ukraine, AS WELL as the government of Ukraine following the EuroMaidan. She has a bias.

Now, there is nothing wrong with her writing a piece where she can express what she wishes. And to Fox News’ credit, it IS termed an “opinion” piece. But there is certainly no evident piece in support of Mr. Putin, or that gives a view of Russia that is from inside the country, and is supported by multiple discussions about life with many people who are citizens.

An ideally intellectually honest American media outlet ought to have such a side taken. Fox News used to have a great moniker: “We report. You decide.”

But here, the network does not live up to that, and it is a shame.

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