If at the moment Obama’s responsibility is to keep things from exploding, from the sidelines observers can engage in various modes of punditry, sophistry and authority and appreciate that the media sphere and cyber sphere have converged. Washington ponders its media war in cyber space, and potential pushback from Russian propaganda. Where is the next front of the information war to be fought? Washington wants control of its sector of cyberspace and to prevent Moscow being able to use it. Russia really does not want Europe to agree to back sanctions: and how might that aim be served, or other tactical aims, say by influencing key “opinion makers,” in whom US marketing professional are so interested.
The Sochi Olympics presented a phenomenon of corruption and media misdirection. Putin’s Crimea invasion may have been motivated as a diversionary war, when the opportunity presented itself with upheaval in Ukraine, to prevent the scandal that was about to emerge about Olympic financial rapacity. Putin himself is a major part of the Russian media message. His presentation without a shirt, with wild animals in extreme locations plays well to the oligarchs and the adherents of Russian ethnic nationalism. Washington ponders these elements of media war in cyberspace and Russian propaganda. Many scratch their heads.
Building up Putin’s Cult of Masculinity takes on an added dimension with the media presence of Natalia Poklonskaya whom he appointed as Attorney General for Crimea. Her notable persona is young and attractive, sweetly inscrutable, but perhaps disingenuously so, given her cleverness as a prosecutor. She is diversionary, the web of her following among worldwide fans and the fascinated, lead to her becoming figure of Japanese anime caricature.
TV Rain, Echo of Moscow radio news and internet sources like Lenta.ru have been shut down. Dimitri Kiselyov eliminated RIA Novosti and the Moscow Times to be rolled through corporate restructuring into a single agency to be known as Rossiya Segodnya or (Russia Today). Announced in December as a managerial decision, its effective date March 15 meshed neatly with the Crimean timetable. Lots of journalists suddenly had no jobs. Russian media does not release much in recent weeks. Russia Today’s political page shows a very sad-looking picture John Kerry: “Kerry Gives Up…” Directly next to that thumbnail is a photo of the Department of State with, “Six billion dollars worth of contracts misplaced the State Department.” Another thumbnail comes with the headline: “Stability and comfort over democracy.” The text describes polling data suggesting that 71% of Russians are prepared to sacrifice civic freedoms to preserve order and stability.
Now Washington ponders media war in cyberspace and Russian propaganda. Control of dissenting voice in Russia is strong, as in China and elsewhere: Central America, Africa and the Middle East, through media control and disruption of social media networks. Net neutrality is a key concept that the EU leads the US in advocating. That is hardly the prevailing view held by many governments for whom cyber space as an arena in which to fight power battles through easy management of dissent.
By Lawrence Shapiro