Now that Russia has shifted its focus to Syrian Civil War and reportedly sent its troops and military hardware to the war-torn country, the Kremlin is looking for ways to strengthen its international image and drum up support from Westerners.
Russia has been trying to find support for its policy around the world with the help of its international broadcaster RT, aka Russia Today. And the Kremlin has significantly stepped up its efforts to influence the Western opinion ever since annexing Crimea in March 2014. Now that there are indications that Russia is serious about entering Syrian Civil War, it looks like the Kremlin is going to be beefing up its propaganda machine more robustly.
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However, the West is not sleeping either. Western media has been looking for ways to target Russian speakers living in the West. Last week, the BBC announced its plans to open a Russia version of its satellite TV and video service. The BBC explained that it is needed to counter the well-financed propaganda, which comes from the Russian RT channel. However, the budget of the BBC exceeds the budget of RT. On top of that, the BBC has nearly half a century of experience more than RT.
“If the BBC feels challenged by RT, it can be explained by the fact that the Russian propaganda is working,” said Igor Korotenko, a Russian military expert, who is often published in Russian media. “It seems that Russia has succeeded in getting into the heads of Westerners, and that’s a dangerous thing. Some Westerners begin to feel like they are being lied to by the Western media, which is why they turn to alternative sources of news. And that’s where RT sweeps them off their feet,” Korotenko said in an interview with ValueWalk.
Growing attractiveness of Russian propaganda
It was also reported that the EU’s European External Action Service is going to launch a special task-force with the task to counter Russian propaganda and target Russian speakers living in Europe. Earlier this year, the European Parliament issued a resolution to the EU, urging it to develop “a communication strategy to counter the Russian propaganda campaign.” However, recent polls suggest that these efforts would be useless.
The poll published by Russia’s VTsIOM found that 42% of Russians agreed that foreign governments are using the Internet “against Russia and its interests,” while 45% of respondents said they would support the idea of banning foreign media outlets’ websites. Meanwhile, Russia is pushing further with its propaganda. In 2015, the Kremlin substantially increased RT’s budget by 75% to 20.8 billion rubles (around $300 million). Russia’s international media operations now account for 34% of total Kremlin media spending (it was 23% last year).
However, RT cannot compete with top Western media outlets on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. As for YouTube, RT is an absolute leader, having over 1.5 million subscribers and about 1.5 billion views on its channel.
So what’s the deal with people being attracted to RT’s YouTube channel so much? RT is known for its video reports from scenes of disasters or other breaking events around the world with little or no narration at all. And apparently, that’s the kind of thing that attracts viewers today. They want to be the first ones to witness things and they want to be able to make conclusions on their own.
U.S. media uses z’chronic deceit,” Russia – credibility
It must be pointed out that the BBC alone earns more than RT. And considering the fact that the BBC is just a small part of the Western information machine, the West spends on its media much more than Russia. RT’s budget stands at about $300 million per year. In contrast, the BBC alone has about $370 million, while the BBC, which owns the Voice of America, Radio Liberty and many other outlets, receives about $752 million per year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. spends nearly $750 million per year on CNN. There is also a number of the so-called independent media outlets financed by the State Department through Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, according to GlobalResearch. The whole planet is “swimming” in the lies of the U.S. and U.K., the Canadian website recently concluded.
“Clearly money and exposure is not their problem. Credibility is. The problem the U.S. and U.K. face is that their joint enterprise upon planet Earth is predicated upon lying, deceiving and exploiting humanity,” the article read.
Telling the truth is not an option for the West unless “the basic premise they labor under was somehow changed,” GlobalResearch wrote. “And because of that simple fact, their winning of the information war is not a possibility so long as their opponents use credibility rather than chronic deceit as their daily currency,” GlobalResearch concluded in its rather controversial article.
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What NATO is worried about is whether Russia is planning to infiltrate the three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – with its propaganda, befouling the West’s reputation. The Baltics is a vulnerable spot of NATO, as the three countries have combined average audience shares of up to 25%.
What’s also alarming is the rate at which pro-Kremlin commenters – the so-called “trolls” – spread hatred toward the West and praise Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy. These kinds of trolls are being paid by the Russian government, according to Lyudmila Savchuk, who exposed a factory of trolls based in Russia’s Saint Petersburg.
It was also reported that every time a Westerner replies to a troll’s comment, the troll commenter receives a bonus from the agency. Thus, the “extra salary” of such trolls is formed by the number of likes and replies he gets.