Unreality in Russia?

And some cable "news" thoughts.

The following passage from Anne Applebaum’s piece in The Atlantic (Putin Is Caught in His Own Trap), struck me as worth highlighting and commenting upon.

The response is hard to understand without reckoning with the power of apathy, a much undervalued political tool. Democratic politicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to engage people and persuade them to vote. But a certain kind of autocrat, of whom Putin is the outstanding example, seeks to convince people of the opposite: not to participate, not to care, and not to follow politics at all. The propaganda used in Putin’s Russia has been designed in part for this purpose. The constant provision of absurd, conflicting explanations and ridiculous lies—the famous “firehose of falsehoods”— encourages many people to believe that there is no truth at all. The result is widespread cynicism. If you don’t know what’s true, after all, then there isn’t anything you can do about it. Protest is pointless. Engagement is useless.

But the side effect of apathy was on display yesterday as well. For if no one cares about anything, that means they don’t care about their supreme leader, his ideology, or his war. Russians haven’t flocked to sign up to fight in Ukraine. They haven’t rallied around the troops in Ukraine or held emotive ceremonies marking either their successes or their deaths. Of course they haven’t organized to oppose the war, but they haven’t organized to support it either.

So, it should be noted that it is very hard to know exactly what was happening on the ground in Russia over the weekend, so I take any assessment with a grain of salt. Yet, the above did strike me as plausible. If what is being fed to populations is a string of contradictory falsehoods (or just a storm of bullshit), it does make a discerning reality quite challenging. Further, it does seem like the fruit of Putin’s media strategy would be apathy, and as Applebaum rightly notes, an apathetic population may be less likely to mobilize against the regime, they also are less likely to mobilize in favor of it. And, I would note, a pro-regime mass mobilization is often a major tool in the authoritarian toolbox.

Tangentially, the above made me think of this clip.

First, Corn is correct: very little has been learned from the Dominion lawsuit (although if you parse her words carefully, she doesn’t exactly lie here).

Second, this is just stunning. I have been studying world politics for well over thirty years now, with a special interest earlier in my life in political violence, revolutionary change, and state capacity in the face of both. I have never witnessed or read about anything quite like what happened over the weekend in Russia. If there was ever a story more important than innuendo about Hunter Biden (and yes, that’s a low bar) this was certainly one. Indeed, I can think of very little that would have been less newsworthy over the weekend, even in a hypothetical sense.

And yet, here she is, pretending like the attention paid was because the Biden administration didn’t want people talking about Hunter. It is just insane. But, as we know from the discovery during the Dominion lawsuit, FNC is far more interested in telling its core viewers what they want to hear than they are in being a news organization.

They clearly are happy to help create their own little maelstrom of nonsense and unreality to try and keep a few more viewers from going to Newsmax.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Media, Society, World Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    Next she will be reporting that Putin has called Trump for help since Trump is the real president and Trump owes Vlad for finding Hillary’s eMails.

  2. DK says:

    But we were told Putin was super duper popular with the Russian people. Whoops.

    If Bartiromo weren’t an idiot she’d know that Biden doesn’t have to do anything to “distract” from the Hunter Biden nonstory, because nobody outside of the rightwing loon fantasyland shares their Hunter Derangement Syndrome.

    We’re wondering when the $2 billion Saudi-Kushner deal will be investigated and explained.

  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I will just note is passing that, in the same vein in which The Bible says a person cannot serve both God and money, it may be possible that two contrasting political philosophies will not be able to occupy the same metaphysical (or real) space. The contradictions will become too stark and people will need to choose…

  4. inhumans99 says:

    This is not a nice thing for me to say, but Bartiromo was (is) known as a money honey, she is as qualified to speak about what is happening in Russia as my sisters tortoise is, if tortoises could talk.

    She needs to stay in her own lane, look pretty in front of the camera and stick to reporting on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

  5. charontwo says:

    It is not just Bartiromo, complaining that Russia is distracting from Biden is a common complaint in the Conservative bubble.

  6. drj says:

    Well, for conservatives everything is only ever about them. Nothing ever happens because sometimes shit just happens. Conservatives are always at the center of everything, being besieged by nefarious forces out to get them.

    Global warning? Leftist hoax to force everyone to become environmentalists. Immigration? Leftist plot to weaken the West and get revenge for the Soviet Union losing the Cold War (AKA Cultural Marxism). Acceptance of sexual minorities? Leftist conspiracy to destroy masculinity. Trump losing the election? Deep state stuffing ballot boxes to destroy America as we know it. Global pandemic? Leftist scheme to prepare the US population for future compliance.

    I could go on and on.

    If caught in such a mindset, of course the CIA fomented a mutiny in Russia to distract from Hunter Biden’s laptop. How can the bit player (Russia) take center stage by itself? Don’t they know that the plot must always revolve around the Real Americans(tm) in the good old USA?

    Childish but true (I think).