dedo Vasiľ (ded_vasilij) wrote,
dedo Vasiľ

Disinformation Digest. issue NEXT

  • Analysis: White nights in St. Petersburg

  • Analysis: Manipulation is a tough job

  • Analysis: Unlikely supporter

  • Friday fun: Is the EU bad or is the EU bad?

White nights in St. Petersburg

Every year during the “white nights” in June, Russia’s old capital St. Petersburg becomes a meeting place and a communication platform for Russian and international leaders. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is an annual flagship in the Russian government’s communication.

Russian media portrayed the forum as a successful opportunity for Russia to reach out to the world, without making any real concessions. However, in a time of crisis, the Kremlin’s messages inevitably also find themselves subject to critical debate. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's wish to selectively engage with Russia was covered. At the same time, his statements that the EU does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and that the Minsk Accords need to be fully implemented if sanctions are to be lifted were carefully ignored by many Kremlin-loyal media.
"The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and you! Participate in something grand! Be in the team of the best!" - reads this poster advertising the annual event in Russia's former capital.
Veteran opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky noted on his blog the presence of Western leaders who "came, as it were, to use this opportunity to speak directly, and not just through the media, to the assembled Russian elite: Don’t expect anything new, have no such hopes. Polite conversations, lunches, dinners, panel debates - sure. But no exceptions will be made, nor will there be deviations from the policy of isolation and the sanctions.”

Criticism came not only from foreign leaders, but also from inside Russian society. On Facebook, opposition politician Vladimir Milov said that the Economic Forum is "an attempt to portray some sort of strategic perspectives and geopolitical greatness in the absence of such [perspectives and greatness]. [Russia is] in the worst crisis in 20 years and has no exit strategy out of it; […] the inability to build even the notorious Crimea bridge; […] Also worth noting: the complete absence of Chinese people on the two major sessions dedicated to strategic issues of energy development."
A local TV station in Voronezh interviews pensioner Tatyana in a news report showing how senior citizens buy overdue bread as fresh products are unaffordable for them.
Opposition leader Alexey Navalny highlighted on his blog the contrast between President Putin’s message about Russia as an attractive place for international investors and a news item which had been broadcast the same week by the local TV station in Voronezh, showing how Russian senior citizens queue to buy overdue bread because they cannot afford to buy fresh products (see image above). Theoriginal video was uploaded on Facebook where it was viewed 271,000 times and was shared almost 6,000 times.

In a comment, veteran think tanker Lilya Shevtsova concluded that there is an incompatibility between what she sees as the Forum’s main message, namely that Russian “wants to be friends” with the West again, and the “inability to give up anti-Westernism as a mechanism for mobilisation and legitimisation of power - because [Russia’s authorities] have no other instruments! Being friends with the West while at the same time fighting with [the West] in the public consciousness requires a particularly sophisticated balancing act. Especially when the confrontation with the West both for the political class and for a part of society has become a way of life.” (Images: Alexey Navalny's blog)

Manipulation is a tough job

RT, previously known as Russia Today, can be seen as a tool to bring the Kremlin's messages to an audience outside Russia. Unfortunately, the facts are sometimes so far from the messages that it can be a tough job to keep the official line.
Russian authorities constantly deny the usage of cluster bombs in Syria, despiteevidence to the contrary. However, RT covers the actions of the Russian army in this country, which means it has to show the soldiers, the weapons, and also the jets. And analysts of the Conflict Intelligence Team produced pictures showing that some of the Russian jets did indeed carry cluster bombs.
RT quickly edited the video to hide the evidence of disinformation and manipulation – but it was already too late. RT was accused of "covering up war crimes", as reported in the Independent.

Unlikely supporter

Media reports about the recommendation of the Permanent Representatives of the EU Member States to roll over EU economic sanctions against Russia were not significant inside Russia. However, the Kremlin’s international flagship Sputnik was clear in communicating the angle preferred by the Russian government. In two almost simultaneous stories, Sputnik used well-known lines such as “[t]he EU is planning to extend anti-Russian sanctions although they have not achieved their main objective”; “the anti-Russian front among European countries is increasingly disintegrating, with many countries opposing the extension of restrictive measures” and “[t]he European Union has prolonged anti-Russian sanctions for the fourth time. However, Brussels is unlikely to extend them automatically next time. There is a growing number of European countries calling for a discussion on sanctions as well as a mechanism to ease them”.

After the news transpired, Sputnik let a diverse group of politicians give voice to the Kremlin’s message: From Serbian President Milorad Dodik, ("Europe has suffered the most from sanctions it imposed on Russia") to another figure not exactly known for her support of Kremlin views: “Savchenko in favour of EU anti-Russia sanctions being gradually lifted”.

Friday fun: Is the EU bad or is the EU bad?

Pro-Kremlin media have undoubtedly perfected the art of falsehood: they are biased even when asking questions. Since last week has been conducting an opinion poll among its readers to find out how its audience feels about EU-Russia relations.

To the question "How would you evaluate the European Union's policy towards Russia?", the survey offers three barely suggestive answers:

A. "The European Union causes more harm to the EU itself with its actions than to Russia."
B. "Member States of the EU do not have independent policies."
C. "It is hard to say, I do not really understand politics."

While 75% of the respondents believe that EU Member States do not have independent policies, we are pleased to note that RIA's audience feels confident about its knowledge of politics: only 3% chose option C.
Tags: disinformation review

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