Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, August 4, 2017

Does Propaganda Still Work? Donald Trump and Russiagate

Image above, from the Washington Post, 17 July 2017. Donald Trump seems to have been basically unaffected by the Russiagate campaign, even with those who disapprove him. Is it a sign that propaganda doesn't work anymore as it used to in the past?

It has been said that the best trick of the devil is to convince you that he doesn't exist. The same holds for propaganda, which draws most of its power from being able to convince people that it doesn't exist. Yet, it exists and its impact on people's lives has been gigantic. The more we try to ignore it, the more it affects us, especially those of us who claim to be immune from it.

Yet, it would seem that propaganda can work only when it can eliminate or marginalize the opposing voices in environments. Maybe the concept of "free press" is a little optimistic today in the Western World. Still, with the availability of the Internet, everyone can verify the media statements and there is no lack of opposing voices in the galaxy of the social media and the various independent media sites. That had led someone to prophesize "The end of Spin".

Can it be that propaganda has been weakened by the Web? Difficult to say, but some examples indicate that something has changed. A good example is the attack on Russia. It was done literally by the book, applying all the recipes that are known to work and have worked beautifully well in the past. In particular, it was based on demonizing the bad guy of the moment, Vladimir ("Vlad") Putin, accused to be a bloodthirsty dictator and compared to, well, you guess whom! The real objective, however, soon became to use the already done demonizing work to bring down the hated Donald Trump, accused over and over of connivance with the evil Russians,

Did it work? In short, no. At least for what it was its main purpose, that of bringing down Donald Trump, it was an abject failure. Despite the daily hammering of all sort of accusations about Trump being Putin's straw man, the idea just didn't stick. Even with those who disapprove Trump as president, the idea that he is somehow connected to, or working for, Russia and Putin ranks very low among the criticism list.

But that doesn't mean that the anti-Russian propaganda didn't work. Here are some recent Gallup poll results:

The barrage of anti-Russian news on the mainstream media has clearly had some effect, bringing 70% of Americans to have an unfavorable opinion of Russia. So, propaganda still works, it seems.

Yes, but only within some limits. If we compare these data with those for Iraq, we find that in 2003, 93% of Americans (!!) declared to have an unfavorable opinion of Iraq. That was a true triumph of modern propaganda that could obtain this result on the basis of a complete fabrication: that of the "weapons of mass destruction" allegedly deployed in Iraq. Such an extreme view of Russia seems unlikely to be attainable today.

So, could it be true that propaganda doesn't work anymore so well and so smoothly as it did in the past? Or is it Trump the maverick who is disrupting everything? The only thing we can say is that propaganda may have weakened a little, but it is still the formidable weapon it has been from the time when it was developed in its modern form by people such as George Creel and Edward Bernays.

Yet, in the long run, even the most wondrous contraptions are subjected to the Seneca Collapse. And one of the reasons why empires collapse is because of the mountains of lies that the elites tell to their subjects. It has happened in the past, it may happen again. It probably will.


  1. Perhaps we have advanced into an age of more than one level of propaganda? The major mass media deals with establishing the background propaganda and other levels work with sub-populations and even individuals in particular categories?

  2. Philippe GauthierAugust 4, 2017 at 9:57 AM

    Another possibility is that we've been served so many lies that we don't even care to ponder if something is true or false any more. We simply don't believe anything, be it propaganda, fact finding or scientific discoveries. Public confidence is close to nil and the persuasiveness of communications is rapidly decling.

  3. I have a problem with your premise. Russian hackers and propagandists made extraordinary efforts to intervene in the 2016 US election in a (successful!) effort to tip the balance away from a capable leader towards a buffoon indebted to Russian oligarchs. Investigating and reporting on these events is news, not propaganda.

    There may be some cases of people over-reaching on the current evidence to assume active collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russian intel operation, but the intel operation was/is real and has significantly damaged the reputation of the US. Only a backlash by congress has prevented Russia from getting significant direct benefit from their actio. Rex Tillerson, recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship, deeply involved in Russia's most profitable industry and who previously violated US sanctions on Russia ... has become SecState?! If not for that congressional backlash, Russian oil interests would be skyrocketing in value.

    1. There is no good evidence for this! At least not that they were connected to the Russian govt. And we were saying that the value of propaganda may be decreasing, not with gullible people like you it isn't. The evidence STILL points to a DNC leak, Seth Rich or not.

    2. The "evidence" that it is a DNC leak comes exclusively from wikileaks, and organization that leaks massive amounts of US intelligence data, but none from Russia or China. They are not fair and balanced organization, and there is no reason to trust them on this.

      The contrary evidence comes from the statements of three US intelligence organizations (signed of on by all US intelligence organizations) plus two or three private cyber security firms who have purportedly come to the same conclusion.

    3. Dear Greg, in my modest opinion, the Russian Hackers are made of the same stuff the Iraqi's WMDs were made of. But despite their ethereal and unsubstantial existence, they seem to have gained a permanent slot in the world's memetic space. It is the same for the WMDs in Iraq. Once I met someone who told me she was completely sure that Saddam's WMDs existed, even though nobody had ever found them. It was just that they hadn't looked hard enough. So, some things are destined to remain forever part of the fantasy world that humans create - never completely on this side, nor on the "other side".

      But please note that my considerations on the possible waning of the effects of propaganda are independent on whether the Russian Hacker are mythical or real creatures.

  4. Greg, how did Russia intervene exactly? I'm not seeing any mechanism in which they could interfere with the usa election from outside, certainly nothing important compared to what was happening in the USA. Also not seeing motivation. The Clinton foundation was only to happy to do illegal dealings with Russia and anyone else. What actually lost Hilary the election was the democrats open rigging of their own primary against a socialist, 'peoples candidate' which showed them to be as corrupt, if not more so, than their rivals. The democrats couldn't have done a better job of alienating almost their entire voter base!! Hilary ended up being the worst of two horrible candidates, with trump looking slightly the better even to socialists. That she lost to trump was some achievement, but entirely predictable going by the warnings and hate expressed by democrat voters as the primary unfolded in all its horror.

    1. First, the hacked the DNC and (apparently) The Republican NC, but selectively released emails only from the former. This was tied into a propaganda effort which focused attention on particular emails taken out of context to make them seem much worse than they were. (Some of it was bad in any event, but it is likely emails from the Republicans would have revealed as tawdry a tale.)

      The timing of the release appears also to have been specifically planned to manipulate the news cycle.

      Second, they generated and distributed a large number of fake stories designed to appeal to particular target audiences.

      Third, the hacked electoral authorities from several states, and may have manipulated the electoral rolls. This third arm of the attack is reported to have not been very successful.

      It is hard to quantify how much impact this had, but given the close margin of the election (in terms of the winning margin for Trump in the key states that swung the election), it is very probable that these activities tipped the balance.

      Independent of this, there is substantial evidence that Trump has fairly close ties with Russian organized crime, and has either knowingly assisted in money laundering, or turned a blind eye when transactions with his businesses were used for money laundering. There is uncertain evidence that at least some of the money laundering were bribes from the Russian state concealed as transactions with Trump companies. Uncertain in that the purpose has been alleged in the famous dossier by the former British Intelligence agency and transactions very similar to those alleged in that dossier in fact took place; but it is impossible to distinguish intent and these actions may just be ordinary money laundering (or Russian oligarchs may just be very bad at business).

    2. There is no evidence Wikileaks got hold of Hilary's criminally unencrypted emails via Russian hackers. You seem to have fallen for exactly the type of pathetic and transparent MSM propaganda Ugo is talking about. The jury is out where the leak came from as its not been disclosed. They were most likely leaked by a DNC insider who did not like the extremely open corruption and incompetence being displayed by their party and wanted reform. But its a moot point anyway. The US voters had every right to know about the Clinton's crimes and how corrupt the dangerous the DNC had become. The fact is, if they were not corrupt, and had not rigged the primary and just fielded Bernie Sanders in the general election as dem supporters demanded and voted for, the dems would have won by a landslide. He was, and still is by far the most popular politician in the USA. its unlikely Russia had anything to do with the US election. There is absolutely no evidence they did and its a moot point anyway because of the truth of the leaks, and because the msm were running massive counter propaganda against Trump anyway. Clinton didnt need help to lose to Trump as the DNC had disenfranchised their entire voter base and were fielding a truly hated candidate. I was watching all the Jimmy Dore and young turks youtube vids during the primary and it was clear from the comments what the electorate thought of what was going on. I read literally hundreds of comments saying that if Sanders 'lost' they would either not vote in the general or vote for Trump as lesser of two evils or just to spite the DNC because of the corruption and election rigging.

  5. 1) The 93% unfavourable view of Iraq may have had more to do with Saddam Husein being a strong-arm dictator who had actively pursued genocidal policies against his own people rather than the lies about weapons of mass destruction. Certainly at the time I had an unfavourable of the Iraqi government while not believing the propaganda about WMDs.

    2) The unfavourable view of Russia peaked at 70% in 2015, long before any suggestion of collusion between Trump and Russia. That was presumably related at least in part to their actions in the Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea and the shooting down of an airliner. What you call propaganda against Trump, along with Russia's active interference in the US election and their involvement in Syria shoring up the Assad regime has only been responsible for a reversal of the approximately 5% decline from that peak.

    3) Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia with the intent to defeat Clinton has been proved by the release of Donald Jr's emails. Don Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manaforte have been proved to be willing to cooperate with "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump", and they did so in secret making that cooperation collusion by definition. What is not proven is that that collusion extended to Russia's cyber war on US democracy.

    4) You have massively over interpreted the Washington Post graph, which is of what individual people most dislike about Trump. People are capable of disliking more than one thing about a person, and that they most dislike one thing in no way shows that they do not dislike, even vehemently dislike, another. I, for example, most dislike his winding back of action on climate change, but would rate him as the US's worst ever president even if giving consideration to his lies; or (if proven) his active collusion with Russia's cyber-war.

    5) It ill behooves you to play so fast and loose with facts and analysis in an article attempting to impeach propaganda.

    1. About your point 2), it seemed obvious to me that the anti-Russian campaign had started much before Trump's election and that it had evolved as an anti-Trump weapon on the run. But you are right that it wasn't clear from the text as I wrote it. I modified it slightly to take this point into account

    2. And you may have a point with your n. 4). There may be a "hierarchy of dislike" that puts Russiagate as a second-order factor in the hatred that many people feel for Donald Trump. Still, I think it doesn't change my point: the "Russiagate" propaganda operation didn't stick on Trump - at the time of Reagan, we spoke of "Teflon Presidency." Trump seems to be able to do even better, at least on this issue.

    3. Finally, about your n.1, excuse me, but I think you are stretching the matter a little. I am perfectly willing to believe that some people (including you) didn't fall for the WMD story, but still hated Saddam Hussein for other reasons. Fine, but there remains the fact that the whole propaganda campaign that led to the war to Iraq spun around the imaginary WMDs. People wouldn't have approved the war so massively if they hadn't been genuinely scared about something.

  6. The propaganda works as far as the light has not been shined on Americans multiple interferences in other countries. They play the "victim" and complain that Russia's not playing fair. Something stinks about this election and it was not the Russians. The whole "super deligate" structure of the Democratic party robbed Sanders of his nomination. I hate to think who the Democrats pick to run against Trump. I can't think of a Democrat who could match Trumps slimyness, but I'm sure they will find one.

    1. The super delegate structure was in place when Sanders nominated, and Clinton got more elected delegates in any event. Regardless of the merits of super delegates, it was not the cause of Sander's losing the primary. If you are going to complain about anything in the electoral structures in the USA, the place to start is allowing winner takes all allocation of electors in the electoral college (which is blatantly anti-democratic, as is the usual justification on the basis that it is necessary so that large urban centers don't dominate the decision as to who should be president, ie, a claim that urban citizens are not entitled to the same rights and representation as rural citizens). Even before that, I would go after the laws that allow corporations (who are not citizens) to fund election campaigns.

    2. Good chance I've been misinformed on the election. I fell for the fake news, suckered by propaganda. Does an informed voter even exist? My b.s. Filter has been clogged for a while now. If I remember right I got that tid bit from multiple sources. I read it on the internet, it must be true!

  7. This is the USA we are talking about and the echo chamber in UK, the EU Parliament et al. I find it difficult these days after 50 years to still read the Guardian. The Daily Mail propaganda has always been like that. I think that Russian PM Medvedev analysis is more to the point (see link below). Sanctions on Russia have just passed into US law - the deed has been done.

    My guess is that on one important point Medvedev has got it wrong. Trump seems to me not especially relevant from now on, the moment has passed, so I expect talk in some US circles about removing him to gradually subside like the froth it probably mostly was. Medvedev’s analysis is here, if the reporting is accurate.

    I guess some of our comments on this, Ugo's blog, illustrate that propaganda does matter. It alters the perceived 'factual' base of the world we imagine we live in.

    1. Phil, zerohedge just gives a link to the Mevedev FB page. Here is a link to the specific post:

    2. The Guardian has fallen very low, principally because its star columnists are intellectually negligible; and because every other article is about LGBTXYZ nonsense.

    3. Thanks Bill!

      That is what I mean by being in the echo chamber. My problem actually has been more with the Guardian's uncritical acceptance of the portrayal of a revanchist Russia ('Putin') and more recently with it's grasp of domestic politics and the degree of spin given to its news reporting generally. The spin seems to have increased, but that could be me.

  8. I do not think that US intel vets are traitors or that they are not patriots:

  9. People absorb information, be it honestly or mendaciously intended, thru filters they have in place before they behold said information. My mother had much trouble accepting that Dutch colonialism (she was from Groningen) was brutal, vicious and predatory; she preferred to think of how her homeland had welcomed refugees from abroad, particularly Spain (e.g. Spinoza). A popular threat for misbehaving young Dutch children was “You better behave or Santa Claus will take you away to Spain!” My German grandmother was more than hesitant to believe the horrors perpetrated by WW2 Nazis; my “yankee” grandfather fought in WW1 and learned how utterly false the tales of German atrocities in that war were. These close family members were all amazingly well-informed and open-minded.

    A college girlfriend of mine (late 1950’s) told me of her father, an ardent Communist, went to Spain to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He spent most of the Spanish Civil War in a Russian brig; he said his impression was that they didn’t think he was Communist enough. It later amazed him how hard it was to divest himself of his affection for “Uncle Joe” (Stalin) after WW2.

    Marrying a stunningly beautiful (and swarthy!) mixed-race lass removed most of my racist filters… and those of my family. Toward the end of his life, my father would claim that an open mind is the result of regularly changing one’s prejudices.

    My view of all that is Russian is warmly filtered by my diverse family. A love of classical ballet owes much to Svetlana Beriosova (of my wife’s side):
    altho the Beriosov’s universally loathe “Uncle Joe” and his despicable spiritual heirs.

    Dr Bardi, your overall view of Russia appears to be absorbed thru an 81C or warmer filter. I'd be happier if you'd cool it some… again, it's your blog, which I very much appreciate.

    1. Dave, sorry, I am not sure of what you mean as a "81C filter", could you explain?

    2. I think he means that your view of Russia/Putin is lacking in criticism.
      _Especially_ this article. It reads like you think that the Russian propaganda is nonexistent/negligible (in the West, not even talking about Russia itself).

      I've been reading (what are now called) alt-right and alt-left websites for years and the situation (the lack of critical thinking about Russia and information from Russian sources) has been getting worse in the last years - especially since the start of the Ukrainian war and the rise of Russia-funded English speaking news organisations.

      I believe that a factor is the language barrier : alternative websites are unlikely to have the means to directly translate Russian (and Ukrainian) news.
      So the alternative websites gladly jumped at the opportunity to relay news criticizing the West, not realizing that they were making "a pact with the devil". (Russian-funded, English-speaking news criticizing Russia are for some reason hard to come by...)
      (I mean, have you forgotten where Putin comes from? Don't you think that the use of propaganda wasn't integrated by him as a second nature in his formative years?)

      Other factors are the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and "the grass is greener on the other side". The current "filter bubble" effect makes it worse.
      There does seem in fact to be a new "cold war" going on, with a polarization of opinions, people on both sides unwilling to try to find common ground.

      But I'm also getting more and more the suspicion that some of the alt-websites aren't just relaying the Russian propaganda because it aligns with their worldview - they are also being paid for it. It doesn't seem that unlikely to me, when we're getting to the point that some European political parties get funded by Russia.

      There's also the general degradation of the quality of content on alt-websites (all media?) : I've now stopped reading the comments on Zero Hedge, and hardly read the articles themselves on thankfully there are still sites worth reading like yours!

    3. @Peak.Singularity:
      You are clearly referring to russia today, arent You? I just wnna say, I do believe russia today a good thing. Of course russia is using propaganda to further its interest, i never understood what the fuss was all about. I am sure that german intelligence agencies do this as well (i doubt their proficiency very much though).

      The CIA partly formed to provide the propaganda to change german "nazis" to proper democrats and capitalists. There is a very good 3 hour documentary on "arte" TV, called "operation wunderland", about the cold war era propaganda in germany, ican really recommend, its available in french and german.

      Thus especially here in germany, all through my life, up to the Berlin wall coming down, russian (actually DDR-Stasi) and US propaganda had competed viciously over germany. I would venture it was hard to find journalists in germanay that were not payed by one side or the other. The result was not that bad. The quality of the media was much better then. After the Berlin wall fell, and the west had "won", stasi propaganda stopped.

      The result was a total degradation of all media, culminating first in the Serbian propaganda lies. ("See Operation Horseshoe" in Wkipedia) and later in the post 9/11 journalism. Journalism became notieably one sided, and concentrated in the hands o 8 german billionaires that own and control all of german print media of note.

      I studied in the former buildings of "Radio Free Europe" (now owned by Munich university), the former CIA funded radio station, that broadcasted all over the eastern block. Radio free europe was clearly propaganda, but it was still pretty good radio, mostly telling people the truth about the absurdities that really went down east of the wall.

      Russia today similarly is mostly pretty good journalism, telling me about the absurdities in the USA. Just as I would hot have expected fair and balanced news about the USA on "radio free europe", I would not expect any good journalism about russia on russia today. That does not stop me from using russia today to provide me with a different perspective on the news. A perspective that is often sorely missing in german media, that is totally eurocentrically biased.

    4. p.s., you are raising a number of interesting points. First of all, I am sorry if I gave the impression that I said that the Russians don't use propaganda. Of course they do. All governments use propaganda; it is normal, it has been done for at least a century at least using propaganda in its modern form. (It really goes back to Napoleon, who was a genius in many fields).

      The point, however, is the use of propaganda outside national borders. Here, we enter a long, long story. Overall, the results of this kind of propaganda have been normally poor: propaganda thrives best in a specific cultural substrate and operates using a specific language, it is hard to export to others. This holds, I believe, for RT, which has an extremely limited impact on the views of the Western public. It may bounce a little on "alt-left" sites, but still with very limited propagation capabilities. Try to look at the RT news (I guess you did). It is normally flat and uninteresting, sometimes shrill and silly. I think most Westerners feel this way. RT is just a different memetic species with poor viral abilities; left alone it couldn't survive in a hostile environment. And if the Russian government pays for its diffusion (surely they do, within limits) they are just wasting money.

      The situation is different from the opposite viewpoint: the diffusion of Western propaganda in Russia. There is a completely asymmetric situation, here, the Russians can understand English, while the Americans don't understand Russian. So, the Russian memetic ecosystem is permeable to infection by the American virus (it means, among other things, that broadcasting "The Voice of America" in Russian is even more a waste of money than broadcasting "Russian Times" in English). In the past, everything in English was a worry for the old Soviet Government and they tried to forbid American information from reaching Soviet citizens. That was a failure for several reasons, but today the Russians can watch American news; not directly broadcast to them, but they can via the Internet. Even from Italy, I could easily watch CNN, if I wanted to :-).

      Nevertheless, the American propaganda doesn't seem to be taken a foothold in Russia, except for a very small subsection of the Russian society. Even though the Russians understand what's being said on CNN, it is just a different cultural substrate. "Make America Great Again", for instance, is a meme that can penetrate only the American memetic sphere. Propaganda is the ultimate asymmetric weapon.

      So, as you see, it is a very complex situation. The only thing I want to add is that I didn't use "propaganda" in a negative sense. Propaganda is a communication tool; it is part of our world and we need to understand it. If we refuse to admit it exists, we are easy preys for it

    5. The notion that US influence in Russia is inconsequential is pretty strange. The russia we see to day is in no small part a construct of US influence. It was under a period where russian politicians where considered to do washingtons bidding, that the oligarchy we find today was formed and Putin was installed.

      After the fall of the soviet union, the USA immediatly moved in and did everything to make Russia a new vassal of their empire. Their favorite puppet was Boris Jelzin.

      So especially during the Clinton administration, Boris Jelzin was supported with huge amounts of money and advice how to take control of the media.

      Maybe you will remember that a Communist was Jelzins competitor for presidency in the 1996 elections (Gennadi Andrejewitsch Sjuganow).

      The American greed for russian ressources and hatred of communism made these elections the focus of american foreign policy at that time. There was not only a Team of 6 campaign managers, provided by the USA (as reported by the Washington post then), there have been millions of dollars handed out in the process of these elections with "unknown purposes". (as reported later in western media)

      It all worked out, even though some election fraud was still neeeded (where Cechenian villages, wiped out in the war, have been voting for Jelzin with all votes of the no longer existing population).

      Vladimir Putin, as chosen successor of Jelzin after his death not much later, was in this way created by US influence in russia. If not for US meddling in russian affairs, Putin may not be where he is now.

      As so as many times before, the US intervention did not work out in the long run.

    6. Here is a longer report about this time:

  10. Dr Bardi: My apologies for the analogy; I am a longtime photography buff. An 81C filter is used to shift the color balance of a photograph in a yellow direction; it goes about as far as a color "correction" filter can without looking weird. Conversely, an 82C filter shifts the color balance toward the blue. Counter-intuitively, "warmer" color temperature colors are lower, "cooler" are higher. Think of "white-hot" is hotter than "red-hot".

    An overly-cool color balance makes pale white people (e.g. Irish) and dark black people (e.g. Yoruba) far less attractive, while warmer balance is more flattering. My beautiful wife is hard to portray unflatteringly; swarthiness might have something to do with it, but not much.

    My analogy was that you perceive and represent Russian activities more favorably than I view as appropriate. As none of us like being told we do not present material accurately, I tried to avoid expressing my opinion in a way that can readily be taken as offensive. My attempt fell flat.

    1. Wow, I understand, now! Sorry, in my view, 81 C is about the temperature of a Finnish sauna, it may be pleasant, but not for a long time! About your observation, please look at my answer to peak.singularity

  11. Regarding perceptions of Russia, I suppose we each have our own particular biases and limitations. While I try to be as objective and critical in my observations as I can, I understand that some elements of subjectivity are unavoidable.

    Regarding yellow, around 1970, I established that my left and right eyes yield slightly different mental percepts of yellow. Considering that my perception of yellow objects is slightly different depending on whether my left or right eye is dominant, I can suppose other subjective differences in perception that depend on various other states of my physical/chemical/biological system. I had learned to consciously change my eye dominance in 1966 (a few years before working on conscious control of vergence and accommodation in order to directly compare two perceived images of one object).

    With these limitations in mind, it appears to me that most descriptions of Russia in the western media refer to some imaginary country on another planet. I have been living in Russia since the summer of 1993. I have two children born in Russia. The oldest of them will start the fourth year in the biology school at Moscow State University in a few weeks, first going to the North Sea research station to collect more data on what seems to be a new species of Eteone in that area and then for a few weeks to Vietnam to collect some coral reef samples before resuming classroom studies in mid-October. The younger graduated from school a couple months ago and will soon start the first year in the school of hydrotechnical, agro-industrial, and civil engineering at Russian State Agrarian University - Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy.

    In summary, I spent the first two-thirds of my life in the USA, where I still have three brothers and a sister, numerous nieces and nephews, an ex-wife, two children, two grandchildren, and many cousins. The most recent one-third of my life has been spent in Russia (as a sort of participant-observer). For what it might be worth, I think my observations about Russia and about how it is being characterized in the western media might have some value.

    1. Well, that's very interesting, Bill. My knowledge of Russian is very limited, but my impression is that the Russian propaganda uses a different "style" in comparison with the Western one. The Western propaganda was born with the case of the US "Maine" of 1898 and it remains a monster-manufacturing machine. The Russians seem to be more linked to the old Soviet Propaganda, which used a more positive approach, mainly based on showing happy workers and happy peasants, glorious children of the motherland, that kind of stuff. I haven't seen the Soviet/Russian propaganda making use of the false flag technique. Or am I wrong? What do you think?

    2. It is hard for me to say anything about the Russian style of propaganda because I have not studied it to any significant extent. I have not watched television for about a decade. I long ago ran out of time to daily scan a few Russian news sites on a daily basis. My news scan is limited to a couple major US newspaper, and even then I often fall a few days behind and have to catch up.

      Basically, my impression from more than a decade ago was that Russian propaganda was generally much cruder (less sophisticated and effective) than American propaganda. Some related examples from newspaper journalism, TV news, and one sport might suggest why this would be so.

      Newspaper journalism in the 1990s struck as basically incompetent. One or more basic elements (who, what, where, when, how, and maybe why) were almost always missing from a news story. A news story was almost always filled with blatant opinionating, conjecturing, and also often meaningless froth and bubbles.

      TV news anchors and reporters on the leading national channels seemed to be at the competence level of local news shows in American cities of 250,000 to 5000,000 population. They certainly would be unable to compete in the Los Angeles or New York local news markets, and national news would be out of the question.

      Before I came the Russia, the Moscow Red Devils, the national champion professional baseball team came to Anchorage to play against the Anchorage Buccaneers, a minor league team. They also play an exhibition game against a high school age American Legion team. The American Legion team beat the Russians without any difficulty. Of course, the situation would have different if the Russian champion professional ice hockey or football (soccer) had come to Anchorage to play against a local minor league or junior team.

      The point is that there was no real need for sophisticated effectiveness and therefore not much competition in those areas in the Soviet society.

    3. More or less agrees with my impression. It is not a very sophisticated propaganda. Simple themes: the motherland, army parades, that kind of stuff. Sometimes they have amazing music, though. And my impression is that after the period of dismay of the 1990s, it improved and became effective, even elegant on occasion - but only for Russians. Either Russia is your motherland or not. It cannot be your auntland. So, it is a kind of propaganda that can hardly be exported. That's one of the reasons that make me think that the money they spent on RT is wasted. But perhaps less wasted than what the Americans spend for "The Voice of America"!

    4. The truth is the most effective propaganda. Radio Free Europe was a very effective propaganda tool, because it took the blatant lies of the USSR propagandists and ripped them apart with the truth.

      There are always truths that one nation or the other has no interest in being reported, which might make those topics the most relevant to spread for other actors. Without a diversified international media, without RT and similar news networks, the "Western truth" will be the only voice in the world.

      Blatant lies have entered western propaganda and even more so the official statements of the US administration, and a lot of western media has turned itself into echo chambers of the elite voices. This gives RT and others the opportunity for ripping those apart with good journalism.

      To compare RT with the USSR propaganda machine is therefore nonsense. RT can totally be compared with "Deutsche Welle", or BBC World. Nobody attacks Deutsche Welle or BBC World, the same way the do RT, even though they are state controlled media outlets and have a mission that can only be described as propaganda, just as RT.

      Propaganda is first and foremost not about "spreading lies", but controlling the topics of public interest and discussion. Not reporting something is therefore the most important tool of propaganda.

      BBC World, CNN, Al Jazheera, RT, TeleSur etc. all promote their certain perspective and report about events others might ignore. Non western news organisations, contrary to what you seem to think, play an important role today, because they can fill the void on certain topics. They might even pressure western news outlets to report on events they might ignore if this competition would not exist.

      Take for example the news about Venezuela today. The western media is, I am afraid to say, not doing their job. There is not one media outlet telling a story different from what the US state department wants them to tell. (Maduro is a dictator, opresses free speech, shuts down opposition protests, is incompetent, venezuelas socialism failed etc. )

      The State Department today is lead by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. The largest oil reserves in the world today are found in Venezuela. It is no wonder that american foreign intelligence services and the state department have increased their efforts to topple the socialist government of venezuela. Promoting big oil interest was always the top priority of american foreign policy.
      Until now 50 million $ have been invested in overthrowing the chavinistas.

      Th former RT correspondend Abby Martin now works for TeleSur (the South american progressive states answer to CNN), and produces the "empire files".

      Recently she has spend 3 weeks in venezuela and reported the facts on the ground and actually talked to all involved parties, something no western media outlet bothered to do. ( )

      Just because this might be of note for this blog, did any western media really report on this years overshoot day, that came as early as August 2?

      Russia today did:

  12. I watched the election from Canada, immersed but separate, and have the view that H Clinton managed to lose the election with her own history and practices, despite having D Trump as an opponent. The fallout from the corruption of the democratic primary was the biggest factor in my opinion. The whole Russia thing appears to be an attempt to shoot the messenger, since no one on either side has suggested that the actual content of the DNC emails was fake. Unfortunately for H Clinton, some people actually read the contents of those e-mails, that was what swung the election.

  13. Concerning RT, I only follow the journalism I have some trust in. First and foremost, Chris Hedges, has always been an outspoken dissident journalist in the US. It is unthinkable for any other network shown in the USA today, to give somebody like Chris Hedges, pulitzer price or not, his own show. This show "On Contact", takes up topics ignored by western media.

    I have read Chris Hedges stories long before he joined RT, and I do not see that he is in any way "controlled by putin", or would stay at RT if he would be.

    Another Host of RT, Larry King, has once been the most prominent anchorman in US TV. Today he airs at RT. To think that Larry King is a frontman for Putin is just ridiculus. His latest show (featuring Russel Brand, also a nonentity for western media) can be found here:

    This is how Chris Hedges and Abby Martin reacted to the allegations of "russian hacking" into the US election progress.

    Chris Hedges' take on climate change also goes far beyond what western media would go to, linking capitalism annd climate change:

  14. Hello Mr. Bardi,

    what about bottled water:

    From your water works
    1 l approx. 0.002 €

    1l Pellegrino approx. 1.00 Euro

    With best wishes

    Moritz Berger



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)