Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"If nothing is true, then anything is possible"

When I started reading this article by Peter Pomerantsev,  I thought it would be an interesting explanation of how Putin uses propaganda in Russia. But as I continued to read, I could feel my blood pressure rising as way too much of it began to hit home in terms of our own media. Here are the sections that started to make my hair stand on end.
The new Russia...reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action...

In the philosophy of these political technologists, information precedes essence. “I remember creating the idea of the ‘Putin majority’ and hey, presto, it appeared in real life,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a political technologist who worked on Putin's election campaigns but has since left the Kremlin, told me recently. “Or the idea that ‘there is no alternative to Putin.’ We invented that. And suddenly there really was no alternative.”...

The Kremlin tells its stories well, having mastered the mixture of authoritarianism and entertainment culture. The notion of ‘journalism,’ in the sense of reporting ‘facts’ or ‘truth,’ has been wiped out...

The point of this new propaganda is not to persuade anyone, but to keep the viewer hooked and leave them confused, paranoid, and passive—living in a Kremlin-controlled virtual reality that can no longer be mediated or debated by any appeal to ‘truth.’

‘‘Huge parts of our population live in a separate reality created by Russian media,” says Raul Rebane, an expert on propaganda in Estonia, where a quarter of the population is ethnic Russian. “This makes consensual politics impossible.”...

“Is there more interest in conspiracy theories because far-right parties are growing, or are far-right parties growing because more conspiracy thinking is being pumped into the information space?” asks Gleb Pavlovsky, a little wickedly.
Long before Pomerantsev mentioned it in this piece, I thought of what Karl Rove (we all know it was him, right?) said to Ron Suskind back in 2004.
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
But of course, its not just the former Bush administration that bears some resemblance to this kind of propaganda. It is spewed every day by Fox News as well as right wing radio and web sites. A short trip to Media Matters or Right Wing Watch will disabuse anyone's doubts about that. What's interesting is that just before I read this article, I saw that someone on my Facebook page had linked to this unbelievable nonsense. It reminds me that there are significant numbers of people who are buying the bullshit!

But then Pomerantsev has the wisdom to recognize that its not just right wing ideologues who peddle propaganda in this country.
In a Prospect magazine review of Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide, for instance, George Packer writes, “Greenwald has no use for the norms of journalism. He rejects objectivity, as a reality and an ideal.” (Similarly, RT’s managing director once told me that “there is no such thing as objective reporting.”)...The ties that bind Greenwald and the Kremlin consist of more than a shared desire to ensure Edward Snowden’s safety. In some dark, ideological wood, Putin the authoritarian gay-basher and Greenwald the gay, leftist-libertarian meet and agree. And as the consensus for reality-based politics fractures, that space becomes ripe for exploitation.
With all the noise that exists in our media environment today, it can be difficult to find much objectivity and truth. But we've got to keep at it because...


  1. Now *this* is the reason to be glad young people have abandoned newspapers and television news. This is also the reason why net neutrality is so important. Nice piece.

  2. “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
    ― Joseph Goebbels

    The Third Reich always practiced their belief that the bigger the lie, the more people believe it.

  3. Thank you for this, Nancy.

    @Tien: That's a good point Tien, but for me, it raises other concerns. The Internet is filled with Right and Left wing sites that post conspiracy theories or outright lies. Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Snowden use the web to peddle their nonsense. If young people are turning more to the 'net to to get their daily news, they need to discern the difference between sites that offer solid news _and_ analysis (such as The Daily Banter and The Peoples' View and this one) and those that are nothing more than repositories for utter garbage (such as Brietbart and The Intercept).

    Just my 2-cents...