Valentyna Bykova: kremlin propaganda manipulates the Western audience30.01.2023
Valentyna Bykova, the head of analytical projects of the International Center for Countering Russian Aggression told the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, how the kremlin propaganda tries to manipulate Western audiences.
«Russia is wagging an undeclared hybrid war not only against Ukraine but against the entire civilized world, – noted Valentyna Bykova. – For this, it uses tools of informational aggression: intimidation, manipulation, and disinformation. One of the kremlin propagandists’ techniques is mirroring, i.e. accusing Ukraine and other democratic countries of what the Russian aggressors are guilty of.
A vivid example is the creation of artificial food and energy crises in the world. Russia’s military actions made Ukraine reduce food exports. Russia is also trying to use energy carriers as an element of blackmailing Europe. However, russia’s information space puts the blame for this on anyone but russia.
Such actions of the kremlin have both a disinformation and a political aspect as by artificially creating food and energy crises, russia uses it as an element of blackmailing European politicians and creating discord among democratic countries. In addition, by artificially creating these crises, russia then offers its own services to resolve them.
Fear. Fear is one of the tools that russians propagandists have mastered to perfection, – emphasized the expert. – Fear is a perfect tool for manipulating our behavior. It is based on basic instincts, primarily the instinct of self-preservation. Fear paralyzes a person, and deprives them of the ability to think critically, evaluate and analyze information, and distinguish between truths and lies. If you have allowed yourself to be intimidated, you are already on the hook of propagandists, who can subsequently fill your brain with any narrative. That is why one of the main kremlin messages is that russia will allegedly use nuclear weapons if Ukraine crosses some conditional red line. The nuclear weapon narrative is how heard not only in russian talk shows but even by leading russian diplomats. But in fact, it is the last one left of the myth about the invincible russian army, the supposedly second army of the world.
What can we do to protect our consciousness from russia’s information manipulation? What is the role of the governments of the world’s leading countries in countering the kremlin disinformation?
Any communication, including communication for the purpose of disinformation, has three centerpieces.
Firstly, this is directly the message they are trying to convey. Secondly, these are the recipients, the target audience for which this message is designed. And thirdly, these are communication channels through which the message reaches the target audience. For example, television, print media, messengers, social networks, or informal channels of communication, i.e. gossip and rumors. Therefore, the most effective strategy for countering disinformation is the fight on all three fronts.
First, it is necessary to counter the cremlin disinformation, consistently debunk fakes and refute Russian narratives. This is best done in reality rather than in the information plane. The fact, that Europe managed, albeit with some difficulties to balance its own energy consumption and largely abandon russian energy sources is the best method of refuting russian disinformation that claimed that the EU would freeze without russian gas.
Second, it is necessary to develop media hygiene in society. And it should begin in elementary school.
Third, it is necessary to fight against the channels through which russian disinformation is spread. One of the reasons why Ukraine was able to endure in February 2022 is that russian social networks and some mass media such as Sputnik and Russia Today had been banned in our country by the decrees of two presidents for several years. I would like to note that this has nothing to do with the oppression of freedom of speech because in this case, it is not about democratic mass media, but about elements of the great propaganda machine of the russian federation. This is a war that is being waged in the information dimension. And the countries whose governments do not realize this will lose this war.
What can you personally do to avoid falling prey to propaganda or disinformation? First of all, develop the skills to critically perceive and analyze information, as well as be careful about the sources from which you consume news. Resilience to information and immunity to fakes should become one of the soft skills of a modern person», – Valentyna Bykova concluded.