Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The merger of domestic and international politics

Far right-wing Americans praising Putin? Russian operatives promoting Trump's campaign? What's going on?

Russian propaganda is state-of-the-art again
FOR much of post-Soviet history Russia was seen as an outlier whose politics would inevitably move towards those of the West. After the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in America, it appears the opposite is taking place: the style of politics practised by Vladimir Putin’s regime is working its way westward.

From the Mediterranean to the Pacific, Mr Putin is hailed as an example by nationalists, populists and dictators. “My favourite hero is Putin,” said Rodrigo Duterte, the brutal president of the Philippines. Mr Trump called Mr Putin “a leader far more than our president.”…

“Putin enjoys a cult status with all holding a grudge against the West.” Nowhere is that status greater than with the nationalists of America’s “alt-right”. Matthew Heimbach, the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party and a crusader against “anti-Christian degeneracy”, told the New York Times he sees Mr Putin as “the leader of the free world.”…

The last time Russia had such a role in crystallising anti-establishment ideas was in the 1920s and 1930s, after the Bolshevik revolution…

Today, 25 years after the Soviet collapse, Russia is again seen as an emblem—this time of a nationalist imperial order. And just as in the 1930s, its isolationism does not prevent it from being involved in the global populist, anti-establishment trend. The Kremlin’s bet on marginal right-wing parties has paid off as they have moved into the mainstream. It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump.

Unlike the Socialists of the 1930s, the Kremlin and its friends today are driven not so much by ideology as by opportunism (and, in Russia’s case, corruption). Mr Putin’s primary goal is not to present an alternative political model but to undermine Western democracies whose models present an existential threat to his rule at home. Having lived through the Soviet collapse, he is well aware that the attraction of the prosperous, value-based West helped defeat communism. The retreat of that liberal democratic idea allows Russian propagandists to claim a victory…

The Kremlin “counters ethnic nationalism with its own version of state nationalism,” Alexander Verkhovsky, an expert on Russian nationalism, writes—one based on wars and other state achievements, not on ethnic identity. In Mr Putin’s view the nation must consolidate around events, figures and ideas provided by the Kremlin…

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2 Comments:

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

As a student of AP Comparative Government, I find it very inappropriate for you to post opinionated and fact-less articles disguised as education. This text written by The Economist is not only extremely subjective, but offers no evidence whatsoever for its claims.

For example, examine this claim:
"Having lived through the Soviet collapse, [Putin] is well aware that the attraction of the prosperous, value-based West helped defeat communism."
The phrase "attraction of the prosperous, value-based West" has no place in textbook education. It is not objective and it implies that only the West has values.

And here is another excerpt, perhaps the most disturbing:
"It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump."
The author fails to mention any evidence of disinformation by RT or Sputnik. And the author also does not provide any evidence for Russia's alleged cyberattacks committed in favor of Donald Trump's presidency. The author's evidence is simply baseless claims.

Reading this article is not beneficial to any student. Especially in a subject like Comparative Government, it is never smart to make confident declarations about anything. Instead, it is important to consider the facts and speculate ideas from them. This article does not demonstrate that.

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

I beg to differ.

It's highly appropriate to post opinionated and fact-less articles on this blog. One of the primary goals of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course is to teach students to analyze and evaluate information, as you have done in your critique. (That's why there are free response questions on the AP exam.) But one article is not the whole course. It's one of many things students will encounter and analyze.

Yes, it's biased. Everything we confront is biased. Even our textbooks. Our job in teaching and students' jobs in learning is to identify the biases. The goal is an objective as possible description upon which to build comparisons and generalizations.

You object to the absence of evidence to back up assertions in the article. When I post an article to the blog, it's only a excerpt. I generally include the structure of the main theme(s), and omit the examples. I expect that anyone who is going to pursue the topic will read the whole article. That's why the title is a link to the original posting.

But you say that the author of the reporting "fails to mention any evidence of disinformation by RT or Sputnik." It's hard to imagine any government- or state-run news agency presenting a totally factual, objective report from RT, Sputnik, Aljazeera, Xinhua, or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on topics seen as vital by those in power in the country sponsoring the dissemination of the news. As for evidence, you'll have to read the article.

I'm glad you're reading and exercising your critical thinking. In this case I think you need to expand your frame of reference.


 

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