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Why the Mainstream Media’s War Against Russia is Failing


(SPUTNIK)  The Western mainstream news media’s aggressive coverage of Russia has come back to bite them due to one simple factor, says independent journalist and blogger Albert Naryshkin.

In his analytical piece for the Russian news and analysis journal PolitRussia, Naryshkin suggested that Western countries had “overestimated the power of their informational might, just as they had their power and influence in many other areas. Obama had once promised to ‘isolate Russia’; Europe and the United States were set to destroy its economy and its image. None of this ended up happening.”

A recent study by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) entitled ‘The Anti-Russian Vector: Foreign Media in 2015’, the journalist noted, shows some very interesting trends.

The report explains that, following the downturn in relations between the West and Moscow in 2014, “the Western media’s initial cavalry charge against Russia ended up boomeranging against them and forcing them to backpedal. ‘Problems with trust from one’s audience’ was how the report’s authors characterized Western media’s problems at a round table dedicated to the report.”

Summarizing the RISS report’s findings, Naryshkin explained that since the end of the Cold War, “the confrontation of ideologies is no more.” Therefore, criticizing Russia for simply being is no longer possible; “it is necessary to criticize its policies.”

Accordingly, the chief problem for Western mainstream media attempting to drag Russia through the mud is that Moscow’s foreign policy has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be both sensible and reasonable.

The situation today, Naryshkin suggests, “is reminiscent of the story surrounding Georgia in 2008, when [Western media] first blamed Russia for everything, and then were forced to admit that it was Tbilisi that provoked and unleashed the conflict, and that the actions of Russian peacekeepers, and then the armed forces, were both logical and legally sound.”

“After that, the same story was repeated in Ukraine, when those who seized power in Kiev were initially diligently depicted as saints, while Russia faced demonization. Two years later, disillusionment and disappointment are beginning to take hold, and Europe is chasing Kiev, telling it that the Minsk Agreement is a good and necessary thing,” (something Moscow has suggested all along).

Finally, there is the Syrian case. “At the start of the Russian military operation, the West again happily began accusing us of all manner of sins: on our ‘attack on the opposition under the pretext of fighting terrorism’; on ‘civilian casualties’; on the ‘creation of the flow of refugees [to Europe]’. But now, following the withdrawal of Russian air power, after the beginning of the peace process, and most importantly, after the liberation of Palmyra, it once again becomes impossible to incriminate us” – Moscow proved to be on the right side of the issue once again.

It was enough, Naryshkin suggests, to recall London Mayor Boris Johnson’s reaction to the liberation of Palmyra, written in an op-ed for The Telegraph: “If Putin’s troops have helped winckle the [Daesh] maniacs from Palmyra, then (it pains me to admit) that is very much to the credit of the Russians.”

Thus, the journalist notes, “two years of furious attacks by Western media, with the inevitable admission of our rightness – even if reluctantly, with reservations, and through clenched teeth, have had an effect: the world’s leading publications have felt a loss of confidence among their readers, and this is exactly what the RISS report’s authors talked about in their presentation.”

“In media metrics (i.e. the statistical measurement of media content), there is an indicator known as the index of aggressiveness (IoA), that is, the ratio of negative to neutral stories in the media about a given subject. When the proportion exceeds five to one, it can be safely said that information warfare is being waged. A year ago, some Western media, based on statistical studies [presented in the RISS report], reached a ranking in relation to Russia of 7-8 to one. In 2014, the ‘champions’ in this group were Germany (7.14) and the US (6.72).”

Interestingly, 2015 saw an important downward shift in the ‘index of aggressiveness’ rating among key Western countries, including the US (which dropped from 6.72 to 2.3), Germany (dropping from 7.14 to 2.25), France (from 3.65 to 1.05), and Austria (from 4.03 to 2.47). At the same time, the rating of other countries, including Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia saw their numbers jump upwards (from 0.98 to 4.5, 2.52 to 3.23, 1.16 to 3.65, and 0.96 to 4.3, respectively).

RISS chart showing the 'direction of information policies of foreign media in the years 2011-2015'. The x axis shows the 'average monthly publications' (relating to Russia), and the y axis the index of aggression. The dark green and teal lines show the trends in German and American media, showing their jump beyond the threshold (dotted white line) into full blown information warfare in 2014 before a reversal in 2015.
RISS chart showing the ‘direction of information policies of foreign media in the years 2011-2015’. The x axis shows the ‘average monthly publications’ (relating to Russia), and the y axis the index of aggression. The dark green and teal lines show the trends in German and American media, showing their jump beyond the threshold (dotted white line) into full blown information warfare in 2014 before a reversal in 2015.

In other words, Naryshkin notes, “the tendency today seems to indicate that Western countries are moving away from an information policy of confrontation, and softening their rhetoric.”The reason for this, the journalist suggests, is that there is strength in truth.

“It works like this: with the end of communist ideology, which irritated the West, Russia became a country that can be criticized only for its specific actions, because otherwise it is no different from the majority of developed countries – with a democracy, elections, religious freedoms, and so on. Except digging through these details is not interesting to foreign audiences.”

“What’s left is to criticize its foreign policy.” However, here, the problem for the mainstream media “is that Russia’s policy ended up finding active support from ordinary voters in many countries.”

Evidence of this, the journalist suggested, can be found simply by reading the comments sections of many Western news sources – most recently following the liberation of Palmyra.

“In this situation, a barrage attack by pro-government media (and they are the majority in both the US and Europe) – would mean to strike at their own electorate. In France and other European countries the right-conservative opposition has already begun making considerable gains against the ruling left-centrists and neoliberals.”

RISS map on the ‘general characteristics of the informational situation around Russia in 2015’, showing the dominant tonality of media materials related to Russia. Red indicates ‘negative’, orange ‘moderately negative’, yellow ‘neutral’, light green ‘moderately positive’, and dark green ‘positive’. Grey countries are those where monitoring was not carried out.

Accordingly, Naryshkin notes, Western media have changed tactics, “making Putin personally, instead of Russia, the main target of criticism. However, since Russia’s geopolitical successes are associated with the policy pursued by Putin, this has meant that after every success in the international arena, the media has been pushed to bite back, talking about his fantastical billions or trillions in wealth…horror stories about his family and his entourage,” etc.

Following the success at Palmyra, Naryshkin suggests, it’s likely that some new ‘revelations’ will soon be made.

Ultimately, the independent commentator argues, “the West has not changed its goal, but has changed the tactics of its information warfare. The major national media have been removed from the front lines, leaving the dirty work to ‘information sabotage groups’, formed specifically for this purpose. For example, Riga recently saw the opening of the Center for Strategic Information Operations, its goal almost openly said to be anti-Russian propaganda in media and social networks in Russia and neighboring countries.”

At the same time, the RISS analysis summarizes, “leaving aside the assertive informational aggression of 2014, 2015 has seen an offensive against those media which represent real, independent journalism – that is, against those who might doubt the correctness [of the message] that the US government and those of other Western countries seek to tell the world.”

Ultimately, RISS suggests, that there is hope for change. “No political regime can prevent the flow of information, or prevent people from choosing their own sources. With the development of modern information and communications systems, this has been made impossible even in principle. The informatization of the world is capable of changing it qualitatively – not only technically, but socially and spiritually as well.”