Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin’s Media Monopoly Cutting It Off from Reality Just as Censorship Did Soviet Leaders, Sulakshin Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 31 – By imposing a monopoly on Russia’s information space, Vladimir Putin and his regime risk falling into the trap that leaders at the end of the Soviet period complained about: “their ears hear one thing but their eyes see something else,” a development that was fatal for the USSR and could be for Putin’s Russia as well, Stepan Sulakshin says.


            Sulakshin, head of the Moscow Center for Scientific Political Thought and Ideology, says that “information war is a prerogative of the state [but] an absolute monopoly in the media leads to degradation and decay” and “propaganda which goes beyond rationality and expediency” (


            Moscow today, like other governments, is telling itself that it has the right to impose such a monopoly because of the war in Ukraine, but that argument, the analyst says, missed the point that “war is not something that happens every day” and that the greater control the regime has over the media, the more likely it will not know what is really happening and not be able to avoid decay.


            Many commentators have warned, Sulakshin says, that the government’s control of the media is leading to the zombification of the population, but they have paid less attention to the ways in which it is leading at the same time and for the same reasons to an elite which believes its own propaganda.


            In that situation, he argues, “if the blind are leading the blind, then it is well known to which cemetery they will come as a result.”


            Any government has a right to put its message out via the media, Sulakshin says, but it must be careful not to destroy the media as a source of genuine information and feedback by going too far and setting up a monopoly. When that happens, the authorities typically explicit their possibilities, do not get a critical response, and lose their way.


            A vicious circle emerges, Sulakshin says. “The more stupid and mistakenly the authorities act, the more harm their actions inflict on the country … the more efforts the state media spend on explaining such measures as the most intelligence, wise, necessary and positive for the country.”  Those sending the message believe it as much as those to whom it is directed.


            And it is entirely possible, Sulakshin says, that the audience will wake up to the fraud even sooner than the elite. That is because “the population sooner or later will understand” that the regime’s claim that 85 percent” of Russians support it is implausible given the problems and that that in turn means “our state organism, including its information part is also seriously ill.”


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