What You Need To Know:
✓ EU needs to help existing alternative Russian-language media outlets before creating a new outlet
✓ Russian state media trashes the information space, making reality-based discourse impossible, which makes the information space easier to manipulate
✓ China is novel in their approach to censorship, only cracking down on organizing individuals, not anti-government discourse
✓ “This isn’t just about Russia; authoritarian regimes all across the world are using information aggressively.”
Peter Pomerantsev, Author and Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute, spoke with Nataliya Gumenyuk regarding the European Union’s efforts to counter the Russian propaganda media machine.
“One of the things discussed was the potential for this European Russian Channel. The overall consensus was that Russian involvement in it would be a negative thing.”
“We need a centralized content factory, which could support alternative media that already exists. If a few years down the line we can fold all these support networks into its own channel, then great! Start with the content gaps, there is no decent Russian language news agency. Only Kremlin toys.”
Governments have listened to reports made by groups such as those that Pomerantsev works for, and now the discussion of disinformation campaigns, and propaganda and information wars have entered into discussion at the highest levels in European capitals. A step that, in Pomerantsev’s view, goes a long way from listening to proposals, to implementation of policy.
“This isn’t just about Russia; authoritarian regimes all across the world are using information aggressively,” Pomerantsev explains. “Russia is the maligned avant-garde. I mean, they have troll factories, which is quite original.”
“...War on information. You trash the information space, make reality based discourse impossible, and you can manipulate that space. We know the Russians are doing it but it is happening all over the world.”
Russian disinformation campaigns peaked early during the Obama presidential campaign. These prompted organizations to form in order to ‘myth-bust’ the right wing press about Obama. This ripple effect then saw right wing news trying to mythbust what those on the left wing news agencies were saying – and it only grew from there.
“The thing about Russian propaganda is about making Russia seem bigger than it is. You look and say ‘Oh my God! They have so much propaganda! They must be so powerful!’ That’s the point of it. So we end up reinforcing what they want. That they are big and strong.”
Pomerantsev also compared China’s methods of censorship, where they allow for anti-government discourse to stay up, let people let off steam and gauge how the society is feeling about the regime. It is only when people try to organize, for any group (including pro-government ones) then authorities crack down on accounts, block access and erase messages.
// Video by Nataliya Gumenyuk, Bohdan Kutiepov. Filmed in May, 2015.