Several years ago I was exchanging email with a Russian propagandist. I was young and dumb, so I asked him a question I had been dying to ask for a long time.
“This propaganda that you publish, do you actually believe it”?
His response, “We only publish the truth”.
My main concern was cognitive dissonance. I literally wondered how he slept at night because their propaganda was so different from the reality I saw with my own eyes.
I’ve raised this issue with quite a few propaganda and Russian experts. To simplify what most said, the Russians mentally compartmentalize the official storyline, the propaganda, and cognitive dissonance was avoided. Basically, they avoided their fake story confronting reality by locking it behind a mental barrier.
There were also polls and surveys conducted after the Iron Wall came down, after 1991, inside Russia. During the Cold War, most Soviet Russians were aware that the government put out propaganda which was utter and absolute horse ca-ca, but there was nothing they could do about it. The same appears to be the case now.
History repeats itself.
Kremlin Believes Its Own Propaganda and Loses Touch with Realities Russians and Russian Officials Can See, Shelin Says
Friday, October 26, 2018
Staunton, October 26 – The Kremlin has fallen into a trap that almost any government in power for a long time does. It has increasingly begun to accept its own propaganda as an accurate description of reality, thus losing touch with what is going on and offending both its own officials and the population at large, according to Sergey Shelin.
In support of that contention, the Rosbalt commentator points to the absurd situation in which Putin and his top officials are talking about rapidly rising wages at a time when they are falling and the response of Duma deputies to claims that they and their constituents know are completely imaginary and false (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/10/26/1742109.html).
What is especially harmful and even dangerous is that top officials are coming up with figures that have no connection with reality. If they overstated increases by a few percent, Russians might understand; but when they claim there has been a massive growth when Russians are experiencing massive declines that undermines trust and ultimately support for the powers that be.
Shelin provides an analysis which shows that the people are right and the powers that be aren’t, that real incomes are falling after a brief uptick earlier in the year and not rising at ten percent or more as Vladimir Putin and his ministers have insisted. It is not just the people who know this; it is the regime. But the people on top don’t care about facts but only effects.
Unfortunately for them, suggesting things are far better than they in fact are is having an impact very different from the one the Kremlin would like. It is undermining public confidence not only in these figures but in the adequacy of their rulers – and it is undermining as well the confidence of more junior officials that their bosses really know what is going on.
This doesn’t mean that the population is about to revolt or mid-level officials are about to conspire against the regime, but it does mean that the Kremlin has an ever smaller reserve of public and official confidence in what it is doing. That points to an outcome that may as the poet said be more of a whimper than a bang, but an end nonetheless.