A highly respected colleague visited Washington DC this past Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Dr. Emma Briant, author of the absolutely brilliant book “Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism”, of which I am writing a review, flew in to Washington DC. The problem with her book is something I do not encounter often, it is too good. I don’t want to prematurely reveal what I am soon writing, but the book forces me to slow down and read every. Single. Word. Slowly. It is very apparent to me that she agonized over every single word and was extremely diligent to portray the nuances of the US and UK influence communities. It is the kind of book which draws me in and keeps me absolutely spellbound. She makes all the major points, introduces the major players and interconnects them. She reveals new things to me, constantly. To an insider, this book is ‘rocking my world’.
I picked her up at Dulles International Airport and dropped her off in downtown Washington DC, so we had a good amount of time to talk. Time is spent wonderfully when speaking with someone so conversant in the ‘world’ in which we work.
She is currently researching US propaganda and I tried driving the point home that the US does not “do” propaganda. I’ve spoken with all the senior editors of VOA, RFE/RL, RFA and so on, and they all do their absolute utmost to avoid propagandizing at every step. These senior editors do their best to insure they do “fair and objective” reporting, they avoid bias at the reporter level, the editor and at the senior editor level. What they do may be counter to deliberate propaganda efforts, Russia’s for instance, so in comparison it could be perceived as propaganda.
Then she gave me heat stroke, she made my mind work overtime. (there’s an inside joke there)
She said “You do propaganda. Your blog.”
I sat back into the driver’s seat, stunned.
My mind tried to process her statement. I thought about the past 16 to 18 months, where much of what I have done is try to highlight and illustrate Russian propaganda, expose it, and counter it. I have researched Russian propaganda, investigated, aided other investigators (some most of you might not believe what I’ve been part of), and tried exposing Russian Information Warfare tools, techniques and processes. I have pleaded for the US government to start Counter-Russian-Propaganda efforts, without success. So when Russia accuses the US of having the best propaganda program in the world, I have to laugh. A workshop we were both in on Thursday absolutely confirmed this, but that’s the subject of a later discussion.
I have the freedom of ‘working for myself’. I can write a blog about anything, anything at all. I have no boss. I have no editor. I have no approval process, “staff” a few of the more sensitive blogs I have sent out for approval by people specifically affected by what I was writing and/or quoting. I am not paid for this blog and I receive no income from ads. I am not paid by anyone in the US government nor am I working for them, so I am definitely not a paid US troll or blogger.
I expose Russian propaganda. I reveal when it meets the definition of what I consider propaganda. Propaganda contains a kernel of truth around which a web of lies, mistruths or misleading statements is built. If I say the sky is blue because of all the Godzilla eggs floating around in the upper atmosphere, causing cancer in Outer Carjackistan, but Inner Slobovia’s space research program threatens those Godzilla eggs, but I write it more eloquently (hopefully), that might be considered propaganda. The sky is blue. After that the truth in that argument stops and the propaganda begins.
I counter Russian propaganda when I copy articles which expose “a” truth counter to Russian propaganda. If the Azov Battalion in Ukraine uses symbology and gestures reminiscent of the German Nazi party of the 1930s and 40s, the reminiscence is the kernel of truth, after that the propaganda begins.
My definition was directly influenced by the US Holocaust Museum’s display about German propaganda, which is currently on a road show. If you want to chat with the curator of the exhibit, contact me and I’ll hook you up, but only serious researchers, please.
Do I “do” propaganda? Short answer, no.
BUT, here’s the twist. Some people consider propaganda as anything counter to their way of thinking. If I believe in Blue and you believe in Red, anything I say promoting Blue or denigrating Red might be considered propaganda. Is this definition wrong? I can’t say it is wrong because there is not an accepted definition, but it’s not right – in my opinion.
I write a LOT which runs counter to Russian opinion. What I write usually also runs counter to the propaganda Russians are writing and reading. Therefore, I don’t “do” propaganda, but I do counter it.