Propaganda definition: ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc. (Merriam -Webster Dictionary)
In the recent weeks and especially days opening the Facebook timeline makes me sad. I see that many of my friends from Russia, Ukraine and other countries have absolutely polar views on the current political situation in Ukraine.
I am stunned to see that – most of my 500 friends on FB are extremely well educated, smart and thinking people. How can their opinion on the same events differ so much? And why does that remind me so much of the time of Cold War? What is going on?
What is going on is called Propaganda. Propaganda machines are working at full speed both in Russia and in the West. One of my Russian friends wrote that he hates when people say – “the truth is somewhere in between”. His point was that there is only one truth; all the rest is just a manipulation of facts.
One of my American friends said: “if we live in a system where propaganda is EVERYWHERE and permeates so many facets of our lives, how will we know much better? Our discussion really made me think not only about Russia, but also about other countries and societies – communist (at the time) or not – and how their systems work to get people on board with specific ideologies”
All my consumer research studies show that the majority of people believe that advertising does not influence their buying choices. The same thing happens with propaganda – if you ask, people usually acknowledge that propaganda is a powerful force and it does impact other’s opinions. But it does not influence opinions of that particular person.
That is what is most scary. Well-planned propaganda is a communication, intended to shape perceptions, manipulate cognition, and direct behavior. But it does so in a subtle way, leaving the impression that you think on your own and form independent opinions.
How is that done? Look at these 50 types of propaganda techniques. Have you seen any of that in the news lately? The key to successful propaganda manipulations is that a news piece is never 100% false, on the contrary – it usually contains 50 or more percent of truth or real facts. But any facts could be manipulated, especially in the modern world.
Watch this short video – it is an excerpt from the film Wag the Dog:
I do not know the answer to that question. From one point of view – the main media – Russian TV is state-controlled. From the other point of view – in the USSR while all media was state-controlled and foreign media were banned – a lot of people were able to read “between the lines” and form their own opinion.
Now everybody who wants to read opposing opinions can find those either in the Internet or in foreign media, but our opinions still seem to differ so much.
If we use the above definition of Propaganda – yes. Manipulating facts is never a good thing. However, every country and especially democratic countries need to create some kind of positive PR in order to form and transmit the main philosophy that can unite the nation. “American Dream” is an example of such PR, but that is a positive idea, which teaches the “can do” attitude to people.
Sochi Olympics PR efforts were also a good thing since they have shown the other, better face of Russia and have portrayed Russians as friendly people, who can joke, play sports and welcome visitors. It is too bad that all that massive effort and budgets that went into the event were canceled out by the recent events that again show the country as an Evil State.
One of my friends wrote the following on FB:
“I have no idea what to expect or how the political situation will evolve. And in the midst of this uncertainty, I would like to say this.
The recent actions of the Russian government have nothing to do with the majority of the Russian people. Like any other nation in the world, we value peace above all, and none needs or wants this craziness. Certainly not me, or my friends and family.
I can’t do anything about what’s going on or going to happen. But I can at least say it here.”
I believe that the statement above is true.
In the end of the 90s, I was on a trip to Bryansk – Russian city, in 6-hour train ride from Moscow. Bryansk used to be a prosperous little city in the Soviet times; most citizens were employed at one of the three large defense plants. After the disarmament, everybody lost their jobs and had to find other ways to feed their families.
I went to Bryansk with a Canadian radio journalist, Karen, whose mission was to make a program about people’s life in that city. It was a crazy 14-hour day. We had 11 meetings with people, living in Bryansk – from a former director of a weapon plant to a retired couple to young businessmen, who have air-conditioning, computer and other businesses to students.
When we were sitting at the train station late at night, completely exhausted and waiting for our train, Karen said: “They gave me a title for the program already – “Russia – the Winter of Tears”. When I come home I will speak about changing that title. What I have seen here is more about people being optimistic about their future and trying to adapt to the new realities.” I was shocked to know that Karen had the title of the story even before she went to Russia. That was an example of Propaganda. In the same time, I liked that she had formed her own opinion of what she had seen and had a courage to talk to her editors about that.
First of all we all should understand that Propaganda does influence any of us, whether we live in Russia, in Ukraine, in the US or in any other country.
It is not possible to be physically present at all the world events. But it is possible to assemble the vision of the world, by learning facts, listening to opposing opinions and thinking. The final view will never be 100% free of Propaganda ideas, but will be much closer to the truth.
And in order to recognize propaganda, we all need to study Propaganda techniques.
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.