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Putinist Propaganda
Russia’s Anti-American Fervor at Fever Pitch

Remember the jingoistic, post-9/11 days of “freedom fries” and “freedom toast,” after France declined to join the U.S.-led coalition? Well, in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the global backlash it has prompted, Russia is experiencing something similar, only intensified by total state control of the media. The Washington Post details just how strong anti-American sentiment has become:

After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say. […]

There are drives to exchange Western-branded clothing for Russia’s red, blue and white. Efforts to replace Coke with Russian-made soft drinks. Fury over U.S. sanctions. And a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia.

According to the article, today’s anti-American fervor in Russia exceeds that of the Soviet era.

Russia is not the only country where historical grievances are a powerful force in politics, and Putin’s is not the first regime to demonize America in order to bolster its position with nationalists at home. However much it is amplified by Putin’s media monopoly, this well of sentiment among the Russian people is an important feature of the geopolitical crisis we now face. Observers and policy makers would do well not to underestimate it.

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  • Clayton Holbrook

    I don’t know all the details of how opinion polls are conducted in Russia, but wouldn’t the answers and results be influenced by propaganda and fear?

    • Jacksonian_Libertarian

      Opponents are being murdered and imprisoned in Russia so polls are likely to be badly influenced by fear.

      • Dan Greene

        Oh, yes, that must be it. They really love us but are too cowed to express their it.

        You are a simple soul, aren’t you?

    • Alex K.

      Polling people in Putin’s Russia is a bit like asking a random man in a random country, “Have you cheated on your wife?” I bet you’ll get a “No” from 97% of respondents.

  • Dan Greene

    “Putin’s is not the first regime to demonize America in order to bolster its position with nationalists at home.’

    Interesting that TAI takes poll results of public opinion and transforms that into a supposed campaign by Putin to “demonize” America. Actually, Putin has been extremely restrained in his language. He constantly talks out “our European partners,” “our Western partners” etc. He has been careful not to get into the demonization game.

    The demonization has largely gone the other way. Putin is the subject of endless personal attacks in our media. The Sochi games were nitpicked in every detail–although they turned out quite well–because they were his project. Our media concocts new nonsense by the day: Russian submarines and planes on the verge of–but never quite managing–to violate everybody’s territorial airspace and waters, unsubstantiated allegations of treaty violations, ludicrous fixation on gay rights violations in Russia while we leave Saudi Arabia’s vicious policies unmentioned, and on and on.

    It’s frightening that this kind of “story” is what our “free” media generates. It’s not analysis; it’s not an opinion piece. It’s simply propaganda. How has our media become so debased?

  • Anthony

    Policy intellectuals are inclined to prognosticate like some observers they may bypass commonsense to paint their picture at the expense of simple reality. Thus, it may be with Russia – an uncommon wavering commitment to verities of Putism.

  • Alex K.

    However much it is amplified by Putin’s media monopoly, this well of sentiment among the Russian people is an important feature of the geopolitical crisis we now face.

    It’s amplified by multiple orders of magnitude. The Nazis had Leni Riefenstahl; the Bolsheviks had Sergei Eisenstein; Putin has no artists of similar caliber in his service but his approach is more effective: he’s creating an alternative universe completely, and purposefully, divorced from reality. As Peter Pomerantsev noted in Russia and the Menace of Unreality:

    Soviet propaganda went to great lengths to ‘prove’ that the Kremlin’s theories or bits of disinformation were fact… In today’s Russia, by contrast, the idea of truth is irrelevant… Russian current-affairs programs feature apparent actors posing as refugees from eastern Ukraine, crying for the cameras about invented threats from imagined fascist gangs. During one Russian news broadcast, a woman related how Ukrainian nationalists had crucified a child in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. When Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy minister of communications, was confronted with the fact that the crucifixion story was a fabrication, he showed no embarrassment, instead suggesting that all that mattered were ratings. “The public likes how our main TV channels present material, the tone of our programs…”

    This approach probably goes back to Goebbels and his disciples at UK tabloids but it’s the first time it’s been employed on this scale by the government of a major power.

  • adk

    Here’s something about the heroic life of Putin, his propaganda machine and the alternative reality it creates. The first piece comes from Putin’s mouthpiece, the second from The Guardian. The event took place in 2011.
    Premier treasure-hunting: Putin dives into “Russian Atlantis”
    Known for his keen interest in exotic adventures, Vladimir Putin has tried himself as a sea treasure hunter. While visiting an excavation of an ancient city in south Russia, the prime minister could not resist the temptation to take part in some research to shed light on the fate of the historic site.

    The PM put on a diving suit and dived deep into the Taman Bay where, to everyone’s utter surprise, he managed to find two ancient amphorae dating back to the 6th century AD. …Putin also told journalists that the Taman dive was his third-ever attempt at scuba diving.
    Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman admits Greek urn find was staged
    Archaeologists who had discovered ancient amphorae planted them in shallow water for Russian PM, says Dmitry Peskov

    Vladimir Putin’s apparently remarkable discovery of two ancient Greek urns on the floor of the Black Sea during a scuba-diving expedition was staged, the Russian prime minister’s chief spokesman has admitted.

    In an unusually candid glimpse into the cultivation of Putin’s macho image, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said archaeologists had planted the amphorae in shallow water for the politician to find.

    “Look – Putin didn’t find down there jugs that had lain there for many thousands of years. It’s obvious,” he said. “Of course they were found in the course of an expedition several weeks or days earlier. Of course they were left there or placed there. It’s completely normal. There’s no reason to gloat about this and everything else.”

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