There has been a vast change in the relationship dynamics between Russia and The West, influenced by a lot of international and political factors. The hegemonial battle has led to both countries trying to maintain a set image globally. Let’s compare how both sides indoctrinate their ideologies worldwide; Russia’s non-liberal, communism and the West’s capitalist domination.
Social media for politics
Since social media is not geographically or demographically bound, several countries use it to spread their ideologies worldwide.
When it comes to politics, they create an illusion of popularity for a political candidate. For example, during the 2016 US elections Trump, through his media business ‘Trump TV’ broadcasted his political ideologies online. Russian operatives portrayed Hillary Clinton as a devil and Donal Trump as God, through facebook and twitter. In fact, studies from the University of Oxford have shown that in Russia, 45% of highly active Twitter accounts are bots, which have been repeatedly used to mold global opinions. A Twitter official admitted that over 50,000 Russian-linked accounts were created in the days leading up to the elections.
Not just this, Russia has actively engaged in disseminating skewed news in nearby states like Ukraine to seed the thought of the west as their enemy.
US officials have publicly stated that Russia is the case to look to see how a particularly powerful authoritarian regime uses social media to control people.
Showing oneself as a military and monetary power
Since the cold war, the need for military power has been rooted deep in both side’s international identity. Western countries use the domino theory to oppose Russia’s communist propaganda. They justify invasion of other countries through the ‘helping them bring democracy’ narrative. Moreover, some critics have also suggested that the moon landing of 1969 was forged. The US, afraid of Russia’s space technology development, started this propaganda to show off its military might. It wanted to be known as a model for technological progress in the world. And well it worked!
Russia, on the other hand, is struggling with soaring poverty rates and a failing economy. From 10% in the early 2000s poverty, rates have risen to 13.5% in 2016. Despite this, the country adopts aggressive advertising to show that all’s well and to raise the spirit of its own citizens. It militarises adolescent brains through war supporting cinema and textbooks. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has portrayed himself and Russia as an aggressive powerhouse by giving refuge to Edward Snowden. And despite heavy efforts, US hasn’t been able to acquire his possession. A feat that makes Russia look powerful globally.
Western Media has formed perceptions
On the face, Russia is perfectly capable of destroying Western stability. It has uncovered the farce of capitalism, and convinced some countries that the west is the enemy; look what happened to Crimea and Ukraine. And this perception, in part, comes from Russian portrayal in western media. From shows like McMafia to characters like Black Widow, western media has shown Russians as gangsters and assassins, a creed one should fear from. Captain America posters show the superhero trying to beat Communist Russia. And since American citizens look up to the hero, they are instantly brainwashed against Russia.
The Sun headlines state that Putin was aiming to destabilise Britain and that he was waging a war against Britain. Another study by an MPhil student at the University of Oxford, published in the Times, is reported to confirm that people who watch the 24-hour English-language news channe l Russia Today (RT) are more likely to hold anti-western views.
Anna Motiskaya, a Soviet citizen said, “As has been witnessed historically, Russia was always the bearer of all evil – mostly I think because our direct and straightforward mindset thus deemed ‘offensive’ by West. Also, I guess there is something mysteriously attractive about bad guys. Which makes western media want to portray us that way, and place blame for all their mistakes.”
Such headlines show Russia as dangerous and lead to concepts of ‘war on terror’ to ‘tackle’ Russia’s violence.