Beating the Kremlin’s psychological warfare

27 January 2022, 04:51 AM

Media manipulation, or the obfuscation of truth, is but one of the many tools Russia uses in its propaganda campaigns, and we would do well to learn to spot it.

Even in our age of rapid technological advance, some practices are evergreen. For example – the propaganda methods pioneered by (Nazi propagandist) Joseph Goebbels are being used to this day. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently demonstrated just that, when he was arguing with his German counterpart.

Video of day

Lavrov demanded that Russia Today TV station, Kremlin’s propaganda flagship, be allowed to freely operate in Germany. Yes, that RT. The very same station that is routinely sanctioned by civilized countries for its incendiary speech, propaganda, fake news and misinformation. A top diplomat like Lavrov lobbying on behalf of RT exposes just how important it is to the Kremlin to be able to peddle their crooked narratives in Europe. This tool trumps even bribing politicians or fueling various by-the-numbers anti-vaccine protests.

Propaganda is a weapon of mass destruction. It destroys resolve and sows panic. It neutralizes patriotism and imposes the opponent’s point of view. It’s even capable of completely distorting worldviews. Unfortunately, we can clearly see that happening in those of our lands that have been under Moscow’s total narrative domination for eight years.

Russias psychological total war

Psychological warfare is hardly a new concept. It emerged shortly after the Second World War. It explores ways to affect how people in an adversarial country behave and feel, using propaganda to ratchet up social anxiety. It allows one to not merely weaken an opponent, but even to establish a degree of control.

There was, at one time, a term for this kind of weapon – “pychotronics”, a branch of parapsychology. Wikipedia describes it as a hypothetical weapon that influences the brain, causing discomfort, psychological disorders, or death. KGB explored “psychotronics” back in the 1990s. Those efforts may have since been abandoned, but the longing to control people, to influence their psyche and emotions, is very much present in Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB man.

Modern Russia treats media not as means of communication, but as weapons of war.

That’s why we must curb Russian media presence to the best of our ability. Any media outlet that has a whiff of Kremlin about it should be treated like a virus, a malignant tumor.

How can Ukraine resist Moscows narratives?

Russian media influence (a vector of their aggression) ought to be met with a strategic, multi-pronged response. It’s not sufficient to simply fact-check and debunk Putin’s lies, we have to establish our own agenda, propagate our own narratives, make our citizens more resilient to misinformation. Crucially, these narratives of ours should be consolidated and coordinated.

Our enemy seeks to undermine our unity, making us unable to defend against their advance. Resilient citizenry makes for a resilient state, and their mutual support is vital for any narratives we would try to establish. Our anti-propaganda strategy must rest on the cornerstone of commitment to truth and fact.

How can we spot hostile media manipulation?

Pathological mistrust of institutions and confusion about world affairs are both results of a lack of critical thinking on our part. Each and every one of us has to learn to detect attempts at malicious manipulation.

We should be skeptical about news that are:

·       Full of abstract notions, ad hominem attacks and fearmongering.

·       Rebroadcasting old news under click-bait titles, with intensely polarizing language.

·       Contaminated by controversial narratives of Russian origin, e.g.: “Russians and Ukrainians are brothers”, “we are but one people.”

This is one propaganda tool the Kremlin employs, and the great many others can be lurking anywhere – on TV, in social media and instant messaging services. We have to be careful to not allow those to infect our minds. The sooner we learn to use our critical thinking faculties, the sooner we will find victory.

Media literacy is a must, as well as thoughtful media consumption.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google News

Ukraine Today
Fresh daily newsletter covering the top headlines and developments in Ukraine
Daily at 9am EST
Show more news