In part I of this series we looked at the advent of “fake news” as a distinctly understood entity. In particular we looked at how the fake news narrative went largely unchallenged in America about all things – both inside the country and outside – for decades, despite the advent of conservative talk radio and internet news sites like our own.
In 2016 with the candidacy and election of President Donald Trump, the media spin machine went into overdrive, to coin a phrase, “maximum overdrive“, in which the media machine was now infused with a life of its own, turning against the truth openly, deliberately and with a purpose – to block, impede, prevent and destroy the new president’s career. First it was in the election campaign with the usual political surprises (always, always reveal something sexually shocking in October before an election to throw the trust of people off, so therefore, the locker room talk recording – but wait, that didn’t work) and then the advent of the now over two-year long narrative that somehow, Donald Trump “colluded” with Russian agencies to interfere with and “steal” the election from Hillary Clinton, the anointed president-to-be.
Collusion is not even a crime, but in this regard the idea is to paint a picture of the President as some sort of KGB / FSB informant and therefore not “really” American, but acting according to the will of the puppet master, Vladimir Putin. This is a most sinister insinuation, of course, and even though there has not yet been so much as one single fact that confirms it is true (and a whole LOT of facts that show it is not), the American puppet masters know that the way to scare people or make them uncertain is to instill fear. In this case, fear of Big Bad Russia, which most Americans do not know anything about.
This is an extraordinarily successful campaign. Think about it: the mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC and others are stuffed with hosts that speak very confidently about this matter as though it were true. Rush Limbaugh and others have often commented that it even appears that these anti-Trumpers actually believe what they are saying. In this, the great tactic of Joseph Goebbels has come to act on the news media itself, where the media seems to be personally hypnotized by its own creation. And there is no telling them that this is wrong; not at all.
The false narrative largely stopped President Trump’s agenda for about six or seven months, as even GOP congressional leaders did not want him to be President and were hoping for a way that he would not be. Only when it became evident that Trump was trumping the opposition and that he was not going away did they slowly begin to cooperate.
Debate will doubtlessly rage about this, but fake news comes from the Russian side as well. We reported not long ago about how the state-run news agency Vesti News took a very aggressive stance about an incident where a professional choir sang a song in St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg about attacking Washington, DC with 100 megaton nukes. The actual story did get picked up by The New York Times, Fox News and other papers and website publications.
It is really nothing short of a miracle that this event did not set off an utter firestorm in the United States, but that week was also overshadowed by other media attempts to besmirch President Trump and smear the Russians, most notably the (also) Vesti report that fantasized about how the Russian forces could deploy the new Zircon hypersonic missile to take out command and control centers in the US. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also provided unwitting shade by dragging the media to cover her amazing speculation that maybe people should not have children because of climate change.
So in this litany of largely non-news and fantasy, a potential blockbuster fake news story got passed over and dismissed by the American people. But the narrative about Russia also was strengthened a bit by anyone who cared to read the choir piece, and we have observed this directly – rank-and-file Americans are vaguely afraid of Russia, and they are afraid of President Putin. That is the mark of a successful disinformation campaign.
It does not matter what the reality is, either. It is extremely difficult to go against the narrative, and truth is all too easily pushed aside for passion.
The disinformation campaign has been answered on many levels.
It is important here to consider the nature of the information society we have now. In earlier times, “news” was what was broadcast by the major television and radio networks, and the major papers. Tabloids didn’t count, and rumor books didn’t count either. But now, social media packs in views far greater in amount than any newspaper, and if a person can make video presentations the right way, their material will be seen – AND accepted all over the world. In such an environment with no verification, anything can be reported AND accepted as truth. It is very important to consider this fact when looking at how fake news operates.
A Russian effort at fake news is shown here in this video clip.
This clip is brilliantly done and staged, and almost everything that its narrator says about the US is incorrect, sometimes catastrophically so.
But examine the number of views it generated since its posting on February 12 of this year. One month ago, and this eleven minute homegrown effort has almost 300,000 views! We read some of the reactions that people wrote, and they say things that in English, translate like this:
“What can I say?? The country of the mentally ill. Moral freaks”
“The US is an empire of evil and absurdity. Manage this empire of non-humans. Reagan called the wrong country the evil empire.”
“You cannot ask for salt?! [Expletives], America!”
“Horrors! Alex, run from there? why else are you there?” (Alex is the name of the presenter in the video.)
“Here is a fig from me for their democracy. Yes, God forbid that I would live in such a country.”
There are also some comments that point to Russia having enough of its own problems and that comparing Russia’s problems to America’s problems is admittedly useless. However, there was not one comment seen that disputed what the narrator offers as “Ten things that are forbidden in the USA” – most of which are absolutely wrong (unless you go to very specialized places or conditions.)
While the report for many will only be “amusing propaganda from the other side,” the results here matter – just the same as with the American fake news media.
In both cases the objective is to arouse passion, usually negative and either fearful or angry, about the “other side.” In both situations, this effort of using clever props and misinformation is enormously successful. In Alexey’s case, note his setting – he is sitting in a motor home – type vehicle, wearing a bolo tie and a cowboy-styled Western shirt. He is trying to look here like a “real American” – almost like a cowboy. Were he dressed as many Russian men dress in Moscow, the effect would not be convincing enough. The background music is “Auld Lang Syne”, which is not in itself particularly American, but the country-music style in which it is played, is.
The situation regarding American and Russian relations is an absolute tragedy. It is arguable that this gentleman’s channel is one man’s reaction to his own frustration about all the lies American media tell about Russia. That the American media does lie about Russia is one of the reasons why The Duran exists – to counter that narrative with reality. But Alexey Brezhnev does not correct the problem with his own reporting – he exacerbates it. And to his credit, he is a big success – he carries his own channel on YouTube with many millions of views, from which he probably earns his living. He is a master in what he does.
But when it comes to information, his information appears to be very twisted, indeed. If this video we posted is representative of all of his work, then we can begin to see one of the causes of a growing sense of resentment in Russia towards the United States.
When this crisis started in 2014 and in the years immediately after, the Russian people’s reaction to America was a mixture of sadness and bewilderment.
Now, it appears to be drifting into resentment and anger.
The responsibility lies with anyone who spreads information to be truthful, especially to audiences that are not likely to know the difference between truth and falsehood about any given topic.
Between our two countries there is presently an expanding gulf of very poor understanding, the blame for which lies on each side.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.