Monday, May 29, 2006

Study of the Russian Media

[Correction]

State media encounters no resistance from the passivity and submissiveness of the masses as the lack of free media in the country pushes further away the prospect of an emergence of a functional and dynamic society.

Russian people generally prefer pro-government media which transmits positive and optimistic information and entertainment programs, rather than serious analytical programs, the experts said. The so-called new middle class ignore media which deal with problems in the society by focusing instead on optimistic sources of news, with “Vzglyad”, the internet-based newspaper, being one such example. However it is television which seems to have most impact, with the two primary channels reaching the vast majority of the country.

Such choice for positive media is said to be influenced by the longing for stability, safety and happiness as over two-thirds of Russians express fear for the future, four-fifths of the population live in fear for their personal safety (also called the “Beslan syndrome”) and three-quarters of the population believing that Russians are less happy now than they were few years ago. Additionally to this rise of fear, people have noted the decrease in law and order. Such sociological events will eventually lead to the rise of isolationism and xenophobia among the populace.

The reluctance of people to give attention to the media which focuses on negative news also stems from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent chaos which left the nation in deep shock from which it has not yet recovered. The nostalgia for the old times is all too visible, with over 68 percent (up from 63 percent in 1998) of people expressing their sadness at the disappearance of the Soviet Union. It is not then surprising that Russian people tend to view post-Soviet social and political institutions in a mostly negative light.

Through mass media, the state controls the minds of the people setting definitions and boundaries for the virtual “we” (Russian people) and “they” (foreigners, Western political sphere) and, in order to strengthen the government’s position, it produces key symbols for the masses. One of those symbols is the lack of alternatives. State media effectively stands for the notion that there are no real alternatives to the current regime, that of Mr. Putin. Another is the re-emergence of the view of the “golden” Soviet age, with the 1970’s being presented as the most positive time in the recent Russian history without any references to the crimes under the Communist rule and the subsequent human suffering. This explains why Russian people feel no guilt for the actions of the Soviet Union.

Another supposition which is presented through the media is the “special path” for Russia. People are literally made to believe that Russia cannot follow any other political system and must find its own way. Additionally, the mass media harbours the view that foreigners or even Russian emigrants can never understand the problem that the country is facing, thus their views and advice are ignored while the outsiders risk being labelled as enemies. Importantly, the enemies of the regime become also the enemies of all Russians.

Most Russians do not feel pride in their country and the majority has lost hope of joining the ranks of the so-called “civilized world” in the near future, something which fans the fire of extremism and fanaticism in the country, be it xenophobia, corruption or vast spending on luxury goods. While the government tries to promote the sense of pride and nationalism in the country, the separation between the people and the elite grows bigger as, paradoxically, over 62 percent of Russians do not want their country to become a colossal and powerful nation setting political and economic trends around the world.

And so, what is presented in the media of the political elites and what is happening on the ground becomes ever more disparate, only enforcing the totalitarian nature of the political system whilst making any possibility of evolutionary progress unlikely.

RC, Vedomosti, Vremya Novostei

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Media in Russia substitutes other civic institutions - expert

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