Russian state media as weapon of
war: FAZ columnist Friedrich
Schmidt writes that 'a genuine
attempt to ascertain the truth' is
not the goal.
The Kremlin Media War: All-Channel Propaganda (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany)
are using their nearly total media control to create a parallel universe in
which Russia is under attack by the West. More than 90 percent of Russian residents
obtain their information from television. Even outside, Kremlin channels reach Russian-speaking
populations in Ukraine, the Baltic States and Germany. RT,
which specifically targets foreign-speaking viewers, is having its budget increased
by 41 percent. The goal is to disseminate the supposedly-suppressed 'Russian
point of view.' This has nothing to do with journalism, i.e.: a genuine attempt
to ascertain the truth. These media are part of Russia's arsenal."
leaders attach great importance to not being "participants" in the "inter-Ukrainian
conflict." Officially there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. Moscow has
recognized and has proclaimed that it respects the new leadership in Ukraine. Russia
still hasn't recognized the "Peopleís Republics" of Donetsk and Lubansk, nor has it formally recognized elections in the
region earlier this month. A very different picture emerges when one follows Russian
state media. There the "Peopleís Republics" have long been such.
There, local elections took place "in compliance with European standards,"
according to reports by Rossija 24. There, the separatists have long
been "masters of the region," as President Vladimir Putin referred to
them in mid-April.
The authorities are using their nearly total media control to
create a parallel universe in which Russia is under attack by the West. More
than 90 percent of Russian residents obtain their information from television. Even
outside, Kremlin channel broadcasts reach Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine,
the Baltic States and Germany. RT, which specifically
targets foreign-speaking viewers, is having its budget increased by 41 percent in
2015, to over Ä265 million. There are plans for the channel to broadcast in
French and German, with its first German-language broadcast having already been
aired. The goal is to disseminate the supposedly-suppressed "Russian point
of view." This has nothing to do with journalism, i.e.: a genuine attempt
to ascertain the truth. These media are part of Russia's arsenal.
A look at Ukraine shows how effectively the Kremlin employs
media. With the beginning of the Maidan protests in
Kiev, it began a campaign to portray events there as "mass unrest"
and a Western conspiracy with the aim of discrediting a movement against corruption
and in favor of democracy. It was particularly adept at taking recourse to the
language and images of their WWII enemy, with "fascists" and a "junta"
allegedly taking power in Kiev after the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych. In
this worldview, any dissent is presented as treason. Such media-fueled
primordial fear of fascism facilitated the conquest of Crimea. Then followed the alleged "genocide" in southeastern
Ukraine - a reality for Kremlin media even before anyone had died. In
this image of the world, extraordinary measures to rescue Russian-speaking
Ukrainians are legitimate and necessary.
The Kremlin media don't confine themselves to exaggerating
the role of genuine extremists on the Ukrainian side. Examples of
disinformation are legion. In mid-March, RT edited an
interview with a rabbi in the Crimean capital of Simferopol to make it look as
if he was leaving Crimea due to a wave of anti-Semitism [video, right]. In fact,
the man condemned Russia's actions and cited them as the reason for his
departure. In mid-May, Rossija 1 showed the corpse of a man it alleged
was no insurgent - killed by Ukrainian National Guard troops near Slaviansk. In fact, those images were shown a year and a
half earlier during a report on an operation by Russian Special Forces. After
the Ukrainian presidential election, the channel Perwiy reported that the leader
of the "Right Sector"
had won with 37.13 percent of the vote. In actuality, he received 0.7 percent.
At the end of June, several channels reported on mass
killings by the National Guard in the village of Saurovka
in the Donetz region. A separatist said people had
been sawed to pieces and women raped. A journalist from the newspaper NowajaGaseta refuted
the allegation on the spot, but the audience for corrections like these is
limited, just as it is for projects such as the Ukrainian Web site
www.stopfake.org, which refutes horror stories disseminated by Kremlin channels
in Russian and English [see below]. According to Perwiy, a particular "coup" succeeded in mid July: A woman in a
refugee camp in Russia told the channel that Ukrainian fighters in Slaviansk had crucified a three year-old boy. The fact that
Russian journalists not loyal to the Kremlin soon refuted the story didn't prevent
it from being disseminated.
Russian state media: Is it taking its viewers
for a ride?
This isn't just about active myth-making. Kremlin media's
dissemination of the "Russian view" is often a reaction to events that
run counter to the way Russia's leadership would like. In late summer when
reports were accumulating of Russian troops having fallen in the Ukraine,
Kremlin channels picked up on the story - but there the men who had joined the
fight did so voluntarily or during vacations. After flight MH17 crashed in east
Ukraine on July 17th, channels like RT disseminated a
slew of theories as to the cause, from the plane being shot down from the
ground or the air by Ukrainian troops to the possibility that the passengers
were already dead before the crash. Although these versions contradict one another,
what they have in common is that they exclude potential responsibility on the
part of the separatists.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
It wasn't until Friday last week - just in time for Putinís
appearance at the G-20 summit to be a topic of discussion Ė that Perwiy aired a
supposedly "sensational" photo allegedly showing a fighter plane
shooting down the Malaysian Airlines Boeing [Reuters video, right]. Journalists debunked the photo as
a forgery using maps and images from the Internet. The aim of such reports is
to sow confusion and suspicion. At the very least, the aim is to suggest that
finding the truth is impossible.
Is everything for
sale? Is everything propaganda?
In Russia the propaganda works on multiple levels. Those who
donít believe, for example, that there is impending bloodshed in Crimea, might
believe in one of the geopolitically-inspired and therefore more socially-acceptable
conspiracy theories, such as that NATO wants to take Russiaís naval base in
Sevastopol - therefore forcing Putin to intervene on the peninsula. "The
others lie, too," is often the resigned tone of such discussions in
Russia: everything is for sale, everything is propaganda.
This is also the goal of Russia's propaganda offensive in
the West. Those who donít believe Putin, should at least not believe Western media sources, either. Which in turn will lead them to question the need for sanctions. In their media, Kremlin leaders use Western freedoms that they circumscribe
in Russia, where critical media are cautioned again and again.
Recently, radio station EkhoMoskvy was chastised for a live
interview with a Los Angeles Times journalist
in Donetsk. In a letter, the media regulator stated that the program "contained
information justifying war crimes." It was clear that the "crimes"
in question were committed by the Ukrainian side. Never has this authority
cautioned a member of the Kremlin media for wrongly accusing Kiev.
*Friedrich Schmidt was
born in 1980 in Kiel. He studied law in Passau and Berlin, and in Paris he
studied at the InstitutdíEtudesPolitiques and at the Sorbonne. He was also trained
at the German School of Journalism in Munich. In June 2008, he joined this
newspaper as political editor. Since January 2014, he has been a Moscow-based political
correspondent for Russia, Belarus, the Caucasus and Central Asia.