Exercise: reading Russian propaganda courtesy of CNN

In contrast to the recent, crude Russian nationalist drumbeat, CNN has a “View from Russia”, “written by” former Putin advisor Alexander Nekrassov,  in the creative style very much in vogue with the western “opinion piece.” Quoting the nut of it,

"Although it may be tempting for Washington to overthrow Assad, such a move could backfire on the White House, giving ISIS a boost instead of a kick and turning those pesky U.S. midterm elections into a total nightmare for the Democrats."

This is pure RT, who are also trying to cultivate a fear of an imminent eruption of Yosemite. Continuing,

"(Incidentally, Russian experts believe that Obama will lose the Senate...So it made sense for Washington to wave the white flag -- albeit a very small one -- at the expense of the Ukrainian regime in Kiev, in order to signal to the Kremlin that it is time to do some business together."

The implication of a sellout would be just the thing to write to demoralize Kiev.

Having lost credibility as a direct communicator, it not impossible that Putin is using Nekrassov’s voice for a fresh start. But the article is either a sophisticated piece of propaganda, or a well-warped world-view that has not been vetted by Occam’s Razor. It may be an attempt at an audience with those who tune out RT and, these days, Putin himself, but in elaboration of the visible realm, it tends toward conspiracy theory. Most propaganda does.

Nekrassov refers to

"...the civil war in Ukraine, which most sensible people tend to classify these days as a direct stand-off between Russia and the U.S."

Is the reader that “sensible person”? Three tactics of manipulation are used by the author(s) of this article. The first two are:

  • Conflate something the reader believes about himself with something you want him to believe.
  • Gaining the reader’s trust, stretch the boundaries.

In this article, the stretch is a defective syllogism based on an additional dose of conflation:

"... it follows that Ukraine is very close to Syria when it comes to international power-play.

It follows? How?

According to Nekrassov, Obama cannot simply pick up the phone, and so,

"The view in Moscow is that the Obama Administration is telling the Kremlin that it needs help in dealing with ISIS. But as it can't just say it publicly, it is using Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to do the honors."

To complete the picture, Nekrassov describes the Russian reaction to the American initiative that never occurred:

"...Initially this was received with caution in Moscow -- especially given what has been going on for the past nine months in Ukraine -- but if that is not a signal from Barack Obama that he is ready to play ball with Russia, then I don't know what is."

The last paragraph embodies the third tactic:

  • Allege that proponent and  adversary agree on the interpretation.

Russian miscalculation of the Western reaction to the Ukraine incursion implies a surprising misunderstanding of the more hidden aspects of the Western psyche, a kind of ignorance more typical of those Third World countries afflicted by national psychosis, and historically by the Axis powers of World War II. A competing analysis of the CNN piece could attribute the tenor to that misunderstanding.  That it influences the content cannot be excluded. But the careful structuring of the techniques used suggests the intent of manipulation beyond the simple conveyance of opinion.

Elisions are used so as not to stretch the bounds of “fair usage” of the CNN article. Read it. All propaganda, except the crudest, is educational.