March 20, 2014. The volume of propaganda in Russian government-controlled media varies between 13 and 89 percent. These were the results of an independent media analysis project Gorodskie Proekty (En. City Projects – Ed.) Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov, director of the analytical Levada Center and editor-in-chief of the The Russian Public Opinion Herald journal, has identified a similar pattern, as reported by Radio Liberty on svoboda.org.
The media is often the the most important conduit of information required to form a strong opinion on almost anything in our lives. Media professionals are required to follow a code of ethics known as the the “canons of journalism”. Unfortunately, when the stakes are high, “specialists” tend to broadcast carefully selected reports that continuously circulate in the media and that serve to form a strong, pre-planned, and often misleading set of messages. Even in theory public opinion is not strong enough to resist this pressure. This is what we currently see happening in the Russian NTV, 1 TV Channel and Russia 1.
One of the most vivid examples of media manipulation was a recent program on Russian Vesti Nedeli, released at 21:45 on March 16, 2014, by the news anchor Dmitry Kiselyov and editor-in-chief Oleg Dobrodeev. The 145 minute program included 129 minutes of propaganda.
Analysis of the program utilized a technique outlined by Robert Cole, author of International Encyclopedia of Propaganda, which clearly defines methods and approaches used for manipulation and installing a false opinion in the viewer’s or listener’s mind.
Specialists claim that this program used labeling – one of the strongest propaganda techniques. One of the examples found in the report is the application of the term (and the strong associations and emotions it evokes) “fascism” when describing Ukraine’s new government.
Additionally, in order to receive the support of its audience on the issue of the militarized conflict in Crimea, Russian media had to persuasively make the case that military intervention was the ultimate approach to resolving the confrontation and the only way to “bring peace” to Crimean citizens.
Other media have continuously used linguistic propaganda: exaggeration and misleading negative statements – repeating terms like “followers of Bandera,” “radicals,” “extremists” and “terrorists.”
It is believed that TV programs like the one above may have triggered street clashes in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Kharkiv on March 13 and 14, 2014.
Interestingly, reputed Russian sociologist and head of the Moscow-based polling agency Lev Gudkov claims that Russia has created an absolutely unprecedented atmosphere of hysteria and fear among its citizens when covering events in Ukraine. “In terms of intensity, comprehensiveness and aggressiveness, this is like nothing I have seen in the entire post-Soviet period,” said Gudkov, as reported by NPR.
According to him, 54 percent of the Russian population which now supports sending troops to Ukraine was influenced by this intense, aggressive, and ultimately false propaganda in recent weeks. Gudkov stressed that Russians do not really understand what is happening in Ukraine, as alternative sources of information have been disabled or blocked, including numerous news websites and the TV channel Dozhd (En. “Rain” – Ed.), which has been severely restricted.
In addition, Russian media has been aggravating the situation by reporting that Kyiv had been allegedly overtaken not just by nationalists but by “thugs,” “the Nazis” and “fascists” during the “coup”. The Kremlin was able to reanimate old Soviet clichés and complexes by propagating the idea that there was chaos and anarchy in Ukraine, said Gudkov.
Gudkov also spoke of another secret and important motive in the Russian media: the return of Russian lands that according to the Kremlin should not belong to Ukraine. “It’s not just about the Crimea, but also about the eastern Ukrainian regions.” It is no coincidence, he said, that propaganda sources insist that Sevastopol was a Russian city and a city of Russian glory, therefore aiming to justify its return.
The situation in Crimea may reflect a reaction to the weakening power base of support for Putin’s regime and to the growth of social discontent in Russia. A feeling that Russia’s political system is as corrupt as the Yanukovych regime had been has not gone away, concluded Gudkov.