'Countering Russian mischief' not same as being anti-Russian – media

13:20, 28 July 2017
Politics
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The term "anti-Russian," a synonym for "Russophobic," has a long history. It expresses the self-victimizing and enemy-creating sentiments of the Kremlin and Kremlin-linked media. But "countering Russian mischief" has very different meaning than being "anti-Russian," the experts from CEPA, a StratCom project aimed at exposing Russian disinformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

REUTERS

The first term refers to countering something that Russia does; the second, "anti-Russian," refers to countering something that Russia is – not only as a political agent but also as a whole country with social-cultural-historical aspects, Urve Eslas, a columnist of the Estonian daily Eesti Paevaleht, wrote in a report for CEPA.

"Kremlin-linked media, in presenting 'countering Russian mischief' as the equivalent of 'being anti-Russian,' commits two fallacies. First, being pro-West does not mean being anti-Russian, even though Moscow tends to see it that way. This is not the first time the Kremlin perceives other countries' attempt to stand for the three pillars of liberal democracy – free and fair elections, rule of law, and freedom of expression – as a threat to Russia. In the post-Cold War world, the Kremlin has viewed uprisings in former Soviet republics and the Arab world as the result of efforts by the West, especially the United States, to spread democratic (and therefore anti-Russian) values," the author said.

Read alsoNATO Allies should spend more on counterintel, cyber-defenses to repel hybrid aggressionSecond, "anti-Russian" and "Russophobic" are terms that the Kremlin and media outlets linked to it use as a rhetorical tool called synecdoche. Synecdoche is a figure of speech where a part of some entity (the Kremlin, Russia as a political agent) is put into the position of the whole (Russia as a vast country with a complex political, historical, social and cultural history). This makes synecdoche a useful tool for propaganda.

"Kremlin or Kremlin-linked media uses synecdoche for propaganda reasons; when referring to "anti-Russian behavior" or ‘Russophobia’ – both of which use Russia as a political agent standing for Russia as a whole –the Kremlin-linked media sends its readers the message that the West sees the whole country (including the Russian people and Russian culture), as its enemy. It appears that the Kremlin’s attempt to use synecdoche has been fruitful; 72 percent of Russians see the United States as Russia's main enemy, with that percentage rising rapidly after 2013. Thus, 'anti-Russian’ and 'Russophobia' are terms the Kremlin and Kremlin-linked media use to explain away any Western activity that Russia does not like, or to justify its own deeds and mobilize Russians," Eslas wrote.

Read alsoRussian reporter expelled from Ukraine, 3-year entry ban imposedSince the tool used here is semantic, counter measures should be semantic as well. Using "the Kremlin" instead of "Russia" when criticizing Moscow's deeds would send a sign to Russia and to Russians that protecting the three pillars of liberal democracy against Kremlin influence and being anti-Russian are two very different things indeed, the author added.

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