The Presidential elections of 2016 in the United States were as we now know, heavily influenced by Russian meddling and propaganda. This led to an outbreak of news and reporting regarding propaganda created and distributed by pro-Russia media outlets, as well as individuals. This past election stirred up much controversy surrounding this issue of Russian propaganda, however, internal and external Russian propaganda efforts have been in full force reaching back to the Soviet Union era.
Before analyzing the current state of Russian propaganda, we must first identify and define what propaganda really is at its core. Dictionary.com defines propaganda as “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” While this definition is accurate, it fails to include the methodologies with which propagandists use to insert their agendas. Most propaganda includes subliminal messages interwoven into seemingly innocent displays of entertainment. The fact is, that propaganda wouldn’t be successful without somehow appealing to the pathos, ethos, or logos of its audience. And more often than not, propagandists take advantage of their target peoples by way of deceit.
Although, propaganda doesn’t always influence its audience by tricking or lying. For example, Disney produced propaganda during World War II, in an attempt to influence its youthful viewers. While this may seem irreproachable, it still falls under the definition of propaganda, as the creator’s intent was to deliberately spread information.
While Disney’s propaganda efforts were not outwardly offensive, the propaganda coming out of Russia these days is quite the opposite. Most of this content is nationalistic and geared largely towards creating a positive view of Russia in an attempt to influence its citizens’ opinions. This YouTube video titled “I’m Russian Occupant” proves this to be the case, as it constantly reminds its audience that everything Russia has ever done has impacted itself, and the world in a positive way. The video is of extremely high production value, which makes this matter even scarier. How would Russian citizens know that this content is heavily geared towards a nationalist agenda? It is no surprise then that in 2010, the Russian government spent an estimated $1.4 billion on propaganda. I’m sure that this has only risen dramatically since then, as production costs have dwindled substantially since then.
It seems that the Soviet Union never fully disassembled itself. On the surface, the cold war may have seemed to have diminished Russia’s international influence. However, after analyzing the current state of Russian propaganda, coupled with its effects on the 2016 election, one thing is clear: Russia is still a global antagonist. I feel that both education, as well as the spreading of awareness of the nation’s tactics, will go a long way in an effort to stunt this Russian takeover.