In a report titled "The Russian 'Firehose
of Falsehood' Propaganda Model," authors Christopher Paul and Miriam
Matthews present their case:
"Since its 2008 incursion into Georgia (if not before), there has been a remarkable evolution in Russia's approach to propaganda. This new approach was in full display during the country's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. It continues to be demonstrated in support of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and in pursuit of nefarious and long term goals in Russia's 'near abroad' and against NATO allies."
The report published by the Rand Corporation offers detailed criticism of today's Russian propaganda and likens it to the techniques of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The authors cite that the contemporary Russian propaganda "entrains, confuses, and overwhelms the audience." They say that Russia has enjoyed some success with this by "engaging in obfuscation, confusion, and the disruption or diminution of truthful reporting and messaging."
--Russian Propaganda is High-Volume and Multichannel
--Russian Propaganda is Rapid, Continuous, and Repetitive
--Russian Propaganda Makes No Commitment to Objective Reality
--Russian Propaganda is Not Committed to Consistency
The authors consider that all this constitutes "a nontrivial challenge." They suggest it is a threat that Americans should not let Russia get away with. Indeed, the report poses the question, "What can be done to counter the firehose of falsehood?"
I find the Rand Report to be incredibly interesting. It is ironic that a report that criticizes propaganda, relies itself upon propaganda techniques to make its own points.
"This report absolutely fails to justify its main point, i.e. that Russian propaganda is actually effective enough to pose a serious problem" observes Sergey Panasenko. I regard him as one of Russia's most astute media observers. He's been editor-in-chief of a major national business publication and a key executive of a Moscow advertising agency. So he's able to look at things from multiple angles.
Panasenko says the Rand Report "contains lots of technically correct remarks and observations," but that they are of no practical use. They are "worth talking about only in a purely academic sense" he observes.
I agree with him completely. This is out of Propaganda 101. The authors assert a nonexistent problem to readers as though it were a real threat. No support is offered for the assertion; it is treated as a given.
The report uses the term "propaganda" in a very pejorative way. The presumption seems to be that if Russia uses propaganda, it must be bad. No hint is given to the fact that it is hard to find a country that does not engage in propaganda of some sort.
It is also hard to find any evidence that international propaganda has much impact. Panasenko asks, "Where is the proof of its efficacy?" He muses, "The Rand authors seem to believe -- or want me to believe -- that the West is weak due to the unmatched effectiveness of Russian propaganda. But I don't see where whatever stories the Kremlin sends abroad much matter."
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