Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Inside Putin’s Information War

I spent years working for Russian channels. What I saw would terrify the West.

By PETER POMERANTSEV, Politico.com
January 04, 2015

There were more than 20 of us sitting around the long conference table: tanned broadcasters in white silk shirts, politics professors with sweaty beards and heavy breath, ad execs in trainers—and me. There were no women. Everyone was smoking. There was so much smoke it made my skin itch.

It was 2002, and I was just out of university, living in Moscow and working at a think tank meant to be promoting Russian-U.S. political ties. A friendly Russian publisher who wanted me to work for him had invited me to what would be my first meeting in Moscow. And that’s how I ended up surrounded by Russian media gurus tucked away on the top floor of Ostankino, the Soviet-era television center that is the battering ram of Kremlin propaganda—home to the studios of the country’s biggest channels. Here, Moscow’s flashiest minds gathered for a weekly brainstorming session to decide what Ostankino would broadcast.

At one end of the table sat one of the country’s most famous political TV presenters. He was small and spoke fast, with a smoky voice: “We all know there will be no real politics,” he said. “But we still have to give our viewers the sense something is happening. They need to be kept entertained.”

“So what should we play with?” he asked. “Shall we attack oligarchs? Who’s the enemy this week? Politics has got to feel like a movie!”

(More here.)

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