World Putin Ramps Up RT’s Propaganda Budget as Poll Rating Slumps
Trump's Damage to a Cold War Icon
The previous administration’s partisan takeover of America’s international broadcasters failed. What’s to prevent a future administration from trying again?Within days of the Senate’s June 2020 confirmation of Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker nominated by Trump to run the agency, the portrait was removed and the quotation painted over. Steve Capus, Lansing’s former senior adviser, told me it was “a petty move”—a precursor of the changes to come.
MOSCOW–With Vladimir Putin’s popularity, news of the United States’ latest round of sanctions on Russia has alarmed the Kremlin, prompting its cast of experts, advisers, and anti-American ideologues to float several possible responses.
Senator Olga Kovitidithat Russia would “send America to a blind knockout.” One expert publishing lists of Russian media “spreading fake news.” Certain military experts the formation of “information battalions” in cyberspace, modeled after the masked Russian soldiers deployed in the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Ultimately, the government landed on a familiar strategy: they will try to change the perception of Russia by pouring even more money into propaganda.
Why Putin wants Alexei Navalny dead
Navalny’s movement is unlike any in recent history.It was not completely unexpected. In recent years, a number of Russian dissidents and defectors have been poisoned. And Navalny is the most outspoken critic of the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. In less than 10 years, Navalny has risen from blogging about corruption to being the face of Russia’s opposition movement. When he was poisoned, he was organizing a campaign that threatened Putin’s party in elections across the country.
After the sanctions were announced—this time in response to the poisoning of the opposition politician Alexei Navalny–the Russian government isaiming to expand the global audience of the Kremlin-funded RT television channel from 800 to 900 million viewers. They want to raise viewership on online platforms by promoting the internet content of the entire fleet of both Russian and foreign-oriented media outlets, including RT, RIA Novosti and Sputnik radio. In order to achieve this, the Kremlin has ramped up the state media budget to 211 billion rubles (about $2.8 billion)—a 34 billion-ruble ($460 million) increase from previous years.
“No doubt, RT’s information soldiers will use this significant budget effectively to influence Euro-sceptics, anti-globalists, and Washington critics,” an opposition politician in Moscow, Ilya Yashin, told The Daily Beast. “Putin believes that if the West has its state-sponsored Radio Liberty or BBC, the Kremlin should become serious in what they like to call a ‘mirror response.’ This is a new stage of the ongoing Cold War.”
Trump wins CPAC straw poll by wide margin
Former President Donald Trump won the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll with 55% of the vote in results announced Sunday.Trump got 55% of the vote in the poll in which he was included, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in second place at 21%.
“Do not underestimate RT’s growing influence,” he added.
Some say the media battle goes both ways., a former opposition activist covering Russian social issues for RT, was banned from American social media platforms last year. “The Cold War goes for both sides. I have been banned on Twitter for working for RT in April, 2020. That is nonsense,” Baronova added.
Investment in propaganda at home has already turned Russia into a nation of skeptics. In the early days of the conflict in Ukraine, 48 percent of Russiansthe Public Opinion Foundation that they think propaganda harms their society.
According to a socialby the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 88 percent of young Russians aged 18-24 said they were on YouTube. Even the Kremlin’s most notorious propagandist, Vladimir Solovyev, in a recent interview for Komsomolskaya Pravda that “the television audience is growing terribly old.”
Congress is writing up Biden’s stimulus plan. Here’s what’s in it.
Stimulus checks and UI, but not a $15 minimum wage: the state of the House’s stimulus bill so far.The House of Representatives has drafted and passed its version of the budget reconciliation package, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for those making up to $75,000 and $400 expanded weekly unemployment insurance benefits through August 29. It also contains a restaurant rescue fund, money for reopening schools, and Democrats’ long-sought-after funding for state and local governments, among other items. House Democrats included a $15 minimum wage provision in their version of the bill, but that’s a non-starter in the Senate.
Video: US announces Russia sanctions over poisoning of Alexei Navalny (FOX News)
Young Russians are hungry for the truth, and in recent years, influential Russian YouTubers have started to take a more open approach with their content. Russia’s top online interviewer, Yury Dud, has 8.7 million subscribers and more than 500 million views on his channel. Tens of millions watched Dud’s documentaries on the AIDs epidemic and poverty and neglect in Kamchatka, Russia’s forgotten peninsula. More than 29 million people viewed Dud’s interview with Alexei Navalny soon after the politician recovered from his poisoning attack.
In spite of state pressure on opposition bloggers, emerging YouTube stars are now covering some of Russia's most acute political issues. Irina Shikhman, another popular blogger, focuses on making celebrity-oriented videos in which she asks public figures uncomfortable questions about their personal lives. But some of her most popular clips are political in nature: over two million people viewed Shikhman’s interview with Navalny ally Lyubov Sobol.
Anti-Putin Campaigners: It’s Time to Sanction the Large Adult Sons of Oligarchs and Cronies
Back when he was still running Russia’s FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, a longtime Putin crony who now heads the Russian Security Council, famously referred to himself and his colleagues as representatives of the “new nobility.” Nepotism is now breeding a new generation of Russian “nobles,” who are poised to take over the Kremlin upon the retirement of their fathers. These princelings—some of whom already occupy exalted positions in the government and the corporate world—are accused of benefiting from their parents’ money, mostly stolen from the state, via off-shore accounts.
Russia’s only independent online television channel, TV Rain, has 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube. The channel’s founder and owner, Natalya Sindeyeva, says she isn’t worried about the Kremlin’s boosted promotion of RT.
“We have been competing with state television channels without any state budget, without any administrative resources, for 11 years and we managed, which means money is not the main thing,” Sindeyeva said. “If they boost social media, the algorithms would recognize the artificial traffic. We don’t see any threat, since we are experienced in responding to challenges. Our audience trusts us and independent bloggers, our main job is not to lie. Trust cannot be purchased for money,” she said.
It is too early to know for sure whether RT’s reports will crowd out independent media in Russia. “It depends on the quality of their content,” TV Rain’s editor-in-chief, Tikhon Dzyadko, told The Daily Beast.
Some independent bloggers saw the government’s increase of spending on internet content as a positive sign. “It seems the Kremlin realized they cannot ban YouTube, so they decided to choke it with propaganda,” blogger, host of the YouTube show “Straight Talk with Gay People”, told The Daily Beast. “Authorities spend shockingly huge money on RT, more than on any other television channel.”
Pavel Kanygin, who manages a YouTube channel for Novaya Gazeta, a legendary independent newspaper in Russia, says the government has begun to view social media platforms as a real threat. “We can see that the Kremlin has become serious about YouTube,” he said, especially after over 100 million people viewed an investigative report about Putin released by Navalny’s organization on the site in January.
“One thing is to get clicks and another to get people engaged, to comment on the publication–that is a completely different story that cannot be artificially created,” Kanygin said.
Poll: Most Americans support restrictions on unvaccinated people .
Over half of Americans believe that unvaccinated people should not be allowed back in the office or use public spaces.The national opinion poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos found that 54 percent of respondents said they were “very interested” in getting vaccinated. That was up from a January survey, when 41 percent expressed the same level of interest, and 38 percent in a May 2020 poll before a coronavirus vaccine was developed.