6 Reasons You’ve Probably Read Russian Propaganda Today

Soviet propaganda is iconic across the world, from museums to the T-shirts worn by that guy that always brings an acoustic guitar to the party. But it’s not a thing of the past: The modern Russian state has their own propaganda, and they spend at least $300 million a year delivering it directly from the Kremlin to your Facebook feed. Cracked sat down with Professor Eugen Fedchenko, who helps run the propaganda-busting website StopFake.org, and talked to him about how Russian propaganda slips into our reading every day.

#6. Modern Russian Propaganda Is Weaponized Nonsense

Propaganda was ever-present in the old Soviet Union, aimed mostly at the USA:

Pretty subtle stuff, much of the time.

We can all agree they hired great artists, right? We would pay top dollar to watch this guy fight CGI aliens next to Captain America.

Somebody forward this to Marvel.

But judging the effectiveness of Soviet Propaganda is another matter entirely. The natural assumption, based on decades of Bond movies, is that most Soviet citizens bought into the propaganda. The mainstream academic opinion is in line with that: Soviet propaganda worked pretty well, particularly because nothing else was allowed inside the country.

Eugen Fedchenko is a professor of journalism living in Ukraine who also lived through the last couple decades of Soviet history on the frontier of the USSR. And out there, in his recollection, Soviet propaganda was less effective:

“Soviet propaganda was completely dull, even for Soviet people. If you explain by propaganda that Americans are starving and you go to grocery store and it is empty … these kind of reality checks made Soviet propaganda ineffective domestically.”

Modern Russian propaganda is made by some of the same people who used to make Soviet propaganda and focuses largely around the news network Russia Today (RT, to its hip young friends, of which it has precisely none).

Hip readers questioned more, then left.

Russia Today is owned and financed by the Kremlin, so it’s like if the Pentagon owned Fox News or MSNBC, and everyone was just fine with it for some reason. And while old Soviet propaganda was distinctly nativist, Russia Today learned from the American media.

“Instead of one thing, you need thousands of things. Instead of one audience, you target many.”

RT spun off into a number of websites, including the English-language Sputnik:

You’ve probably seen at least one article by RT or one of their affiliates on your news feed within the last year. Likely involved with some bird-fucking insanity, like this:

And it’s weird that something like this would come out of the Kremlin. It almost doesn’t seem political at all, until you look at a bunch of RT headlines at once and realize their habit of casually implicating the U.S. government in corruption or incompetence. Sometimes justifiably …

And other times?

Who gives a shit!? Didn’t you read that RT story? We’ve got space alien mob rule to worry about.

Professor Fedchenko explained the reasoning behind Russia’s next generation of propaganda: “Instead of ideology you use nonsense, and with all that noise people lose focus.”

In 1984, the height of propaganda was signs with unblinking eyes that recorded your every movement. In 2015, the best government propaganda looks like a shitty conspiracy forum.

#5. Russian Propaganda Hides In Your News Feed

Sites like RT and Sputnik run content that rivals BuzzFeed:

The actual text of the article is of a NASA guy admitting that Area 51 exists, but clarifying that it’s just a place they test new planes, etc. Y’know, exactly the same thing the U.S. government’s been saying for years.

The truth is out there … it’s just boring.

Because of the way Facebook works, if you find yourself clicking on a lot of articles from a website — say Russia Today or Sputnik — because it had one of those headlines you just had to check out, new articles from that same site will show up more frequently in your news feed. And they won’t all look instantly crazy.

Like how your uncle’s posts look during non-election years.

“So they are telling people about UFOs and lizard gods and natural medicine and paramedical things … and then they started to criticize foreign governments and blaming foreign governments, and it became apparent this stuff is hugely attractive to many people.”

So articles like this appeal to the kind of folks who are broadly suspicious of any brown people:

Similar to this garbage posing as real news to cross into your brain.

While an article like this has better odds of luring in that friend who deeply trusts the healing power of crystals:

“They have a huge audience in the Middle East because they criticize Israel consistently. A huge audience in South America because they criticize the U.S. government. And these are very simplistic concepts which are so attractive, because people want easy explanations.”

No matter who your Facebook friends are, RT or one of its affiliates has propaganda catered to the things they already believe about the world. It’s the Trojan Horse of propaganda. Many, maybe even most RT articles don’t advance any specific agenda. But they worm their way into your Facebook feed, and then when the news breaks that a passenger plane has been shot down over Ukraine, maybe this pops up:

And if you don’t bother to dig any deeper into that story and learn that the Russian government’s done stuff like obviously Photoshop satellite photos to make this same claim, maybe you just incorporate that little headline into your view of world events.

#4. Russian Propaganda Works Like Fox News

Are you a dumb blogger who hates the government and wants someone with a budget to pretend you matter? Russia may have an opportunity for you:

“They invite a lot of local journalists and editors and languages, so if you watch Russia Today America, you see … American faces and journalists, a studio that looks like any American channels, the structure of the material is familiar … but the topics are different. And that makes it attractive: It’s different.”

Russia Today also gambles a lot on the laziness of the average reader. If they quote an “expert” in an article, they know that most people won’t bother looking into that “expert’s” background. Here’s one example pointed out to us by Cracked writer Jim Kovpak:

The article backs up its insane claim — that Europeans will flee Europe due to all the refugees — by pinning the whole idea on “Polish media.” Read a little deeper, and you’ll get sent to this sketchy website:

The “translation” should change every word to “bullshit.”

Nearly all the articles are written by the same guy, “krakauer,” and the most successful articles feature only a handful of comments. It’s clearly some person’s crazy website (the article above is suggesting that the Ukrainian conflict is a possible “Second Vietnam” for the U.S.) that RT is crediting as “Polish media.” Which is technically correct — the worst kind of correct. They do it to Western media too:

“They like being able to say Western media is on their site — ‘AMERICAN MEDIA PREDICTING COLLAPSE OF UKRAINE’ — and then you go and it’s a WordPress blog of some guy at USC.”

Oh, also, did you know we’re on the brink of nuclear war with China and Russia?

If you actually read the article, you’ll find it’s based entirely on a blog post written by Paul Craig Roberts, who spent one year as assistant secretary of the treasury and is exactly as qualified to comment on the likelihood of WWIII as everyone reading this sentence. He’s also kind of a 9/11 truther, but to RT he’s just a “Reagan official.”

Soviet propaganda is iconic across the world, from museums to the T-shirts worn by that guy that always brings an acoustic guitar to the party. But it’s not a thing of the past: The modern Russian state has their own propaganda, and they spend at least $300 million a year delivering it directly from the Kremlin to your Facebook feed. Cracked sat down with Professor Eugen Fedchenko, who helps run the propaganda-busting website StopFake.org, and talked to him about how Russian propaganda slips into our reading every day.

#6. Modern Russian Propaganda Is Weaponized Nonsense

Propaganda was ever-present in the old Soviet Union, aimed mostly at the USA:

Pretty subtle stuff, much of the time.

We can all agree they hired great artists, right? We would pay top dollar to watch this guy fight CGI aliens next to Captain America.

Somebody forward this to Marvel.

But judging the effectiveness of Soviet Propaganda is another matter entirely. The natural assumption, based on decades of Bond movies, is that most Soviet citizens bought into the propaganda. The mainstream academic opinion is in line with that: Soviet propaganda worked pretty well, particularly because nothing else was allowed inside the country.

Eugen Fedchenko is a professor of journalism living in Ukraine who also lived through the last couple decades of Soviet history on the frontier of the USSR. And out there, in his recollection, Soviet propaganda was less effective:

Modern Russian propaganda is made by some of the same people who used to make Soviet propaganda and focuses largely around the news network Russia Today (RT, to its hip young friends, of which it has precisely none).

Hip readers questioned more, then left.

Russia Today is owned and financed by the Kremlin, so it’s like if the Pentagon owned Fox News or MSNBC, and everyone was just fine with it for some reason. And while old Soviet propaganda was distinctly nativist, Russia Today learned from the American media.

RT spun off into a number of websites, including the English-language Sputnik:

You’ve probably seen at least one article by RT or one of their affiliates on your news feed within the last year. Likely involved with some bird-fucking insanity, like this:

And it’s weird that something like this would come out of the Kremlin. It almost doesn’t seem political at all, until you look at a bunch of RT headlines at once and realize their habit of casually implicating the U.S. government in corruption or incompetence. Sometimes justifiably …

And other times?

Who gives a shit!? Didn’t you read that RT story? We’ve got space alien mob rule to worry about.

Professor Fedchenko explained the reasoning behind Russia’s next generation of propaganda: “Instead of ideology you use nonsense, and with all that noise people lose focus.”

In 1984, the height of propaganda was signs with unblinking eyes that recorded your every movement. In 2015, the best government propaganda looks like a shitty conspiracy forum.

#5. Russian Propaganda Hides In Your News Feed

Sites like RT and Sputnik run content that rivals BuzzFeed:

The actual text of the article is of a NASA guy admitting that Area 51 exists, but clarifying that it’s just a place they test new planes, etc. Y’know, exactly the same thing the U.S. government’s been saying for years.

The truth is out there … it’s just boring.

Because of the way Facebook works, if you find yourself clicking on a lot of articles from a website — say Russia Today or Sputnik — because it had one of those headlines you just had to check out, new articles from that same site will show up more frequently in your news feed. And they won’t all look instantly crazy.

Like how your uncle’s posts look during non-election years.

So articles like this appeal to the kind of folks who are broadly suspicious of any brown people:

Similar to this garbage posing as real news to cross into your brain.

While an article like this has better odds of luring in that friend who deeply trusts the healing power of crystals:

No matter who your Facebook friends are, RT or one of its affiliates has propaganda catered to the things they already believe about the world. It’s the Trojan Horse of propaganda. Many, maybe even most RT articles don’t advance any specific agenda. But they worm their way into your Facebook feed, and then when the news breaks that a passenger plane has been shot down over Ukraine, maybe this pops up:

And if you don’t bother to dig any deeper into that story and learn that the Russian government’s done stuff like obviously Photoshop satellite photos to make this same claim, maybe you just incorporate that little headline into your view of world events.

#4. Russian Propaganda Works Like Fox News

Are you a dumb blogger who hates the government and wants someone with a budget to pretend you matter? Russia may have an opportunity for you:

Russia Today also gambles a lot on the laziness of the average reader. If they quote an “expert” in an article, they know that most people won’t bother looking into that “expert’s” background. Here’s one example pointed out to us by Cracked writer Jim Kovpak:

The article backs up its insane claim — that Europeans will flee Europe due to all the refugees — by pinning the whole idea on “Polish media.” Read a little deeper, and you’ll get sent to this sketchy website:

The “translation” should change every word to “bullshit.”

Nearly all the articles are written by the same guy, “krakauer,” and the most successful articles feature only a handful of comments. It’s clearly some person’s crazy website (the article above is suggesting that the Ukrainian conflict is a possible “Second Vietnam” for the U.S.) that RT is crediting as “Polish media.” Which is technically correct — the worst kind of correct. They do it to Western media too:

Oh, also, did you know we’re on the brink of nuclear war with China and Russia?

If you actually read the article, you’ll find it’s based entirely on a blog post written by Paul Craig Roberts, who spent one year as assistant secretary of the treasury and is exactly as qualified to comment on the likelihood of WWIII as everyone reading this sentence. He’s also kind of a 9/11 truther, but to RT he’s just a “Reagan official.”

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