An insight into the Russian Propaganda Model

HUMAN VOICE: Abdul Aziz Ajini‎

    Since its 2008 incursion into Georgia (if not before), there has been a remarkable evolution in Russia’s approach to propaganda. The country has effectively employed new dissemination channels and messages in support of its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, its ongoing involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and its antagonism of NATO allies. Like a “firehose of falsehood,” the Russian propaganda model is high-volume and multichannel, and it disseminates messages without regard for the truth. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency. These techniques would seem to run counter to the received wisdom for successful information campaigns, but research in psychology supports many of the most successful aspects of the model. Furthermore, the very factors that make the firehose of falsehood effective and make it difficult to counter. Traditional counterpropaganda approaches will likely be inadequate in this context.

     The contemporary Russian model for propaganda is much of a “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”  It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.  Russia seems to have enjoyed some success under its contemporary propaganda model, either through more direct persuasion and influence or by engaging in obfuscation, confusion, and the disruption or diminution of truthful reporting and messaging.

     This propaganda includes text, video, audio, and still imagery propagated via the Internet, social media, satellite television, and traditional radio and television broadcasting. The producers and disseminators include a substantial force of paid Internet “trolls” who also often attack or undermine views or information that runs counter to Russian themes, doing so through online chat rooms, discussion forums, and comments sections on news and other websites. There are thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Live Journal maintained by Russian propagandists. According to a former paid Russian Internet troll, the trolls are on duty 24 hours a day, in 12-hour shifts, and each has a daily quota of 135 posted comments of at least 200 characters.

     RT (formerly Russia Today) is one of Russia’s primary multimedia news providers. With a budget of more than $300 million per year, it broadcasts in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and several Eastern European languages. The channel is particularly popular online, where it claims more than a billion page views. If true, that would make it the most-watched news source on the Internet.

     Contemporary Russian propaganda is continuous and very responsive to events. Due to their lack of commitment to objective reality. Russian propagandists do not need to wait to check facts or verify claims; they just disseminate an interpretation of emergent events that appears to best favor their themes and objectives. This allows them to be remarkably responsive and nimble, often broadcasting the first “news” of events.

     Sometimes, Russian propaganda is picked up and rebroadcast by legitimate news outlets; more frequently, social media repeats the themes, messages, or falsehoods introduced by one of Russia’s many dissemination channels. For example, German news sources rebroadcast Russian disinformation about atrocities in Ukraine in early 2014, and Russian disinformation about EU plans to deny visas to young Ukrainian men was repeated with such frequency in Ukrainian media that the Ukrainian general staff felt compelled to post a rebuttal.

     Contemporary Russian propaganda makes little or no commitment to the truth. This is not to say that all of it is false. Quite the contrary: It often contains a significant fraction of the truth. Sometimes, however, events reported in Russian propaganda are wholly manufactured, like the 2014 social media campaign to create panic about an explosion and chemical plume in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana, that never happened. Russian propaganda has relied on manufactured evidence—often photographic. Some of these images are easily exposed as fake due to poor photo editing, such as discrepancies of scale, or the availability of the original (pre-altered) image. Russian propagandists have been caught hiring actors to portray victims of manufactured atrocities or crimes for news reports.

     If the Russian approach to propaganda is effective, then what can be done about it? We conclude with a few thoughts about how NATO, the United States, or other opponents of the firehose of falsehood might better compete. The first step is to recognize that this is a nontrivial challenge. Indeed, the very factors that make the firehose of falsehood effective also make it quite difficult to counter: For example, the high volume and multitude of channels for Russian propaganda offer proportionately limited yield if one channel is taken off the air (or offline) or if a single misleading voice is discredited. The persuasive benefits that Russian propagandists gain from presenting the first version of events.

When people resist persuasion or influence, that act reinforces their preexisting beliefs. It may be more productive to highlight the ways in which Russian propagandists attempt to manipulate audiences, rather than fighting the specific manipulations.

     The goal may be a change in attitudes, behaviors, or both. Identify those desired effects and then work to counter the effects that run contrary to your goals. For example, suppose the goal of a set of Russian propaganda products is to undermine the willingness of citizens in NATO countries to respond to Russian aggression. Rather than trying to block, refute, or undermine the propaganda, focus instead on countering its objective. This could be accomplished through efforts to, for example, boost support for a response to Russian aggression, promote solidarity and identity with threatened NATO partners, or reaffirm international commitments.

     Finally, it can be said that unless some serious and deliberate efforts are made, the Russian Propaganda will continue to dominate the public opinion worldwide and undermine counter efforts to convey the truth to an audience that is easy to be taken away by suspense rather than truth


منذ توغل 2008 في جورجيا (إن لم يكن من قبل)، كان هناك تطور ملحوظ في نهج روسيا في الدعاية. وقد وظفت في البلاد على نحو فعال قنوات نشر جديدة ورسائل لدعم ضمها عام 2014 في شبه جزيرة القرم، المشاركة المستمرة في الصراعات في أوكرانيا وسوريا، والعداء لحلفاء حلف شمال الاطلسي.

ومن شأن هذه التقنيات يبدو أن تتعارض مع الحكمة وردت عن الحملات الإعلامية الناجحة، ولكن الأبحاث في علم النفس يدعم العديد من الجوانب الأكثر نجاحا في النموذج. وعلاوة على ذلك، فإن العوامل ذاتها التي تجعل خرطوم أو إنبوب الاطفاء من الباطل فعالة وتجعل من الصعب مواجهة. سوف نهج الدعاية المضادة التقليدية من المرجح أن تكون كافية في هذا السياق.

النموذج الروسي المعاصر للدعاية والكثير من “خرطوم أو إنبوب الاطفاء من الباطل” لاثنين من السمات المميزة لها: أعداد كبيرة من القنوات والرسائل والاستعداد وقح لنشر الحقائق الجزئية أو الحيل صريح. يسلي الدعاية الروسية، يخلط وتسيطر على الجمهور “. كما أنه سريع ومستمر، والتكرار، وأنها تفتقر إلى الالتزام الاتساق.

يبدو أن روسيا تتمتع بعض النجاح في ظل نموذجها الدعاية المعاصرة، سواء من خلال مزيد من الإقناع المباشر والتأثير أو من خلال الانخراط في التشويش والارتباك، وتعطيل أو انتقاص من التقارير صادقين والرسائل.

وتشمل هذه الدعاية النصوص والفيديو والصوت والصور لا تزال تنتشر عبر شبكة الإنترنت ووسائل الإعلام الاجتماعية، والقنوات الفضائية، والراديو التقليدي والبث التلفزيوني. يتضمن المنتجين وناشري قوة كبيرة من “المتصيدون” الإنترنت المدفوعة الذين غالبا ما تهاجم أو تقويض جهات نظر أو المعلومات التي تتعارض مع الموضوعات الروسية، والقيام بذلك من خلال غرف الدردشة على شبكة الإنترنت، ومنتديات المناقشة، وتعليق أقسام على الأخبار وغيرها من المواقع.

RT (سابقا روسيا اليوم) هي واحدة من مقدمي الأخبار الوسائط المتعددة الابتدائية روسيا. بميزانية تبلغ أكثر من 300 مليون $ في السنة، فإنه يرسل باللغات الإنجليزية والفرنسية والألمانية والإسبانية والروسية والعربية وعدة لغات أوروبا الشرقية. القناة بشكل خاص على الانترنت شعبية، حيث تضم أكثر من مليار صفحة. إذا كان هذا صحيحا، فإن ذلك يجعلها مصدر الأخبار الأكثر مشاهدة على شبكة الإنترنت.

وأخيرا، يمكن القول أنه ما لم يتم إجراء بعض جهود جادة ومدروسة، وسوف تستمر الدعاية الروسية للسيطرة على الرأي العام في جميع أنحاء العالم ويقوض جهود مكافحة لنقل الحقيقة للجمهور من السهل أن تتخذ بعيدا من التشويق بدلا من الحقيقة.

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