The Russian news program Vesti Nedeliy launched a propaganda nuke at the Russian nation and at the West on 25 February with a broadcast narrated by Dmitry Kiselyov about the capabilities of Russia’s new hypersonic Zircon missile. The report made waves with its bellicose graphic and discussion of the missile being used against specific US targets. The video segment is shown here below:
Naturally, the Western media went into an uproar, castigating the Russian President as a warmonger, while at the same time conveniently ignoring the fact that the Russian President’s statements were in response to the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
However, there are multiple problems with VESTI as a news service that this report exposes. In discussions with people in Moscow, we were able to get some perspective on this network and what it does.
Vesti is a state-run propaganda arm of the news media, and of the most virulent type.
Vesti is to the Russian people something like a mix of “You Are All Going to Die Now News” plus the National Enquirer in the US. The network regularly operates its broadcasts as incendiary propaganda, so much so that the aggregate of Russian citizens view the network as conservative Americans view CNN – a bunch of nonsense, putting it politely (and it ought to be said here that Russians do not put things politely – they relish calling things what they are. We just cannot print that language here.)
The anchors of Vesti, like Dmitry Kiselyov, know they are disseminating nonsense.
How do we know this? By looking at the people themselves and examining what is known about them. Dmitry Kiselyov is actually highly notorious in this regard. He is often referred to as the “Russian Goebbels” after the infamous Nazi propagandist who is famous for the line “if you keep telling the same lie often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth.”
Kiselyov makes his paycheck doing his rather morbid entertainment TV, but his talk about threats of nuclear war actually go against his own personal interests. He as well as others among some of the wealthy Russian elites, have properties in Europe, and in the United States. They have children attending schools in these places. They have money kept in accounts outside Russia.
This was alluded to, actually on another Vesti program, in an interview with the LDPR firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky who said as much. We can see this here:
Our source maintains that Mr. Kiselyov is one of this number.
The Russian people themselves do not buy it.
So, what about the report itself? How is this received by the Russian people?
In almost – if not every – situation in which Vesti has arisen for discussion with various people in Moscow, Vesti is considered “extremely fake news.” However, it does have a strong sensationalist aspect that can be used to frighten the Russian people. Since the network is slick in its production values, it easily gets attention, both in Russia and outside the country, and it is easy to look like it represents the thought of the government and the people of Russia.
This is not usually so. It appears that Russian people have had their fill of state run news, so they do not carry the tendency to trust the news media the way Americans seem to. In order for a Russian person to really understand what is going on, he or she watches these things, and then reads or watches other broadcasts to “read between the lines.”
The notion of news networks in the country being trustworthy seems to be heartily and constantly denied, at least in those we spoke with.
What does this mean about this report?
Perhaps about one year ago, Glenn Beck reported in the US that in Moscow, the city was absolutely quiet because everyone was afraid of war breaking out. This was around the time that the US, France and Great Britain launched the missile strike against mostly empty buildings in Syria as a show of strength against what appears to have been a false-flag attack. Nevertheless at that time, according to Beck, the war drums were beating in Russia. How did he know this?
He watched or was made aware of a Vesti broadcast in which the network was telling anyone who cared to listen how to store food against the probability of a nuclear conflict. We did a quick bit of communication with contacts in Russia with the question “is there a panic going on there? Is there a war scare going on right now? That is what the news here in the States is saying.”
The response, from an American living in Moscow, was, “no, everything is normal. One person talked about seeing this Vesti report on TV a little bit, but everyone is fine.”
And that is how it is in Russia now. Vesti conducted its business and got some attention, but no one in Russia, including its president, is looking for or is eager for war. And although President Putin spoke strongly about the INF situation and Russia’s exceptionally astute program of weapons development, the charge Mr. Putin laid was that the Americans are acting unpredictably and Russia must protect itself. However, no one wants war, and there is no threat of it, but rather a wish that the foreign policy wonks in the US would come to their senses.
The upshot of this latest media kerfluffle is that some people in Russia and in the West probably collected their paychecks for the week.
There is nothing to see here, but there are plenty of real events far more deserving of attention by the press.
The problem here is the press, not the governments
In the United States, the issue of falsified news has dominated the conversation of conservative America. We see more and more crazy examples of pure and deliberate dishonesty in reporting by the day. We have seen that the same practice is happening in Russia and presumably many other countries.
More and more the press is trying to become the driver of policy in the United States. In Russia the role of the press is as yet unclear, though speculation abounds that it is trying to distract people from their own problems by scapegoating other places and people. This is true everywhere.
But one of the key factors stoking this may be the presence of the 24-hour news cycle, the ease of access to the Internet, and the fact that most of the time in the world there is very little happening that is of interest to the whole world. If you do not have a story, why not embellish one to make it sensational, and draw some views or clicks? This appears to be the model that many networks and providers are following.
However, it is damaging. Vesti appears to have overstepped its bounds by speculating on the things President Putin spoke about and taking his words way out of context. This kind of thing can be very dangerous, especially when there is a warmongering faction in the West that would love an excuse to call Russia an aggressor nation.
President Putin is not an agressor. But Dmitry Kiselyov is certainly playing this very role.