The novel, 1984 by George Orwell takes place in a totalitarian nation that has full control of media and media production. Even the pornorgraphic films are produced by the state. The situation in 1984 represents the ultimate manifestation of what was close to becoming a reality in Soviet Russia, waging war on citizens. The Party controls all aspects of society in 1984 and everyone owes their allegiance to Big Brother. Under Stalin’s rule, people worshiped him as a god. The 40 million citizens who did not worship Stalin or posed a threat to the state, were purged. There was no press freedom and people had no choice ut to follow the state.
Russia’s modern day media landscape is complex and consists of dynamic relationships between state and private entities. In 1984 every citizen owed their allegiance to the state, in Russia the majority of people willingly endorse Putin, the Kremlin and everything they stand for. Almost every media outlet is influenced and censored by the state and expresses what the people want to hear which happens to be Putin’s point of view. Russia has historically been a country with tight oppression and political control and the people have not grown to know or seek much freedom.
Under monarchs and communist rulers alike, the oppressive Russian state held sway over a powerless people. Russian society never came to think of itself as a force that could make a difference; it never developed the skills of or desire for social organization” (Lipman 2). The historical situations of oppression and government control in all aspects of life are what people know in Russia. “Putin rightly judged that the people would not stand up for new institutions which they had not come to value, and in a matter of a few years the legally defined democratic architecture was reduced o a mere facade” (4).
Under Yeltsin’s presidency, the people’s government was dramatically changed and life was different from Soviet times. Yeltsin had created a democracy and it did not reflect what people wanted (Lehtisaari). Putin took advantage of Russia in this vulnerable time, won the presidency, and disregarded the democratic structure that the people also did not appreciate. Censorship in Russia has been justified by legislation that has been created primarily under Putin’s reign. In 2015, Reporters without Borders ranked Russia 152 of 180 countries in terms of media freedom.
Three major laws egulate the Russian media sphere; the Law on Mass Media, adopted in 1991; the Law on Communications (2003); and the Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information (2006). The Law on Mass Media has been repeatedly changed and updated, with the latest changes introduced this year” (Krasnoboka 8). The Russian government can manipulate many of these laws in their favor as they are open to interpretation according to Krasnoboka. Russia has also passed a law that will restrict foreign ownership of Russia media to 20%.
This is expected to greatly effect the few independent ews outlets that were heavily funded by Germany and France (Haring and Polyakova). “New legislation has made it much easier for the authorities to clamp down on the internet – in the first half of 2014, anti-extremism laws were used to close down 85 websites” (“Russian media”). The anti-extremism laws were created to prevent people from publishing content that is politically extreme, hate speech, or terrorism (Krasnoboka).
This creates a dangerous environment for reporters where the law can be interpreted in favor of the authorities and to protect Putin’s decisions from scrutiny. The control that Putin has over the government extends to his personal agenda and promotion of his own image. “When Putin declared Dmitry Medvedev his desired successor for the presidency, all three major national channels instantly turned Medvedev into their chief newsmaker and gave him blanket coverage” (Lipman 5). Putin served as president from 2000 to 2008 then became the prime minister under Medvedev’s presidency from 2008 to 2012.
Putin got re elected for the presidency in 2012 and is continuing his six year term. Putin’s decision to endorse Medvedev for the presidency hen run again for president in 2012 has been called tandemocracy and has contributed to new arguments that Putin is a dictator (Applebaum). “Russians can now watch a much wider range of TV channels offering far more appealing content than in Soviet times; however, the level of state control remains high, with nearly all the main channels belonging to the Kremlin and its close allies (“Russian media”).
With a media that is partially owned by the government, they are bound to use it for their benefit. In late 2015, Rossiya24, a state owned TV channel, displayed a woman news anchor with Russian fighter jets on a creen behind her. Russia had initiated a bombing campaign on Syria a few days earlier. “Analyzing wind speeds and cloud formations, the woman reassured viewers that Syria’s weather in october was perfect for Russia’s aerial assault. ‘Experts note the time for the start of the air operation [in Syria] is chosen very well,’ the woman said. ” (Gordts).
In this case, the popular news channel Rossiya24 is being used to justify Putin’s order to bomb Syria. People experience news through the mindset and perspective of Putin because the Kremlin literally owns most of Russia’s major news channels. The situation in Crimea for reporters who do not share Putin’s perspective is harsh, with recent harassments and deaths leaving suspicious trails to the Kremlin. With the Crimean annexation in 2014, independent journalists in Russia and Crimea alike have met hard opposition when they speak against the annexation.
All voices of dissent- journalists, academics and artists – face harassment, trumped up criminal allegations and accusations of being ‘undesirables’ under Russia’s foreign – agent law, which stipulates that all media human rights and freedom of expression in Crimea today re more tightly restricted than in Russia, where the Kremlin cannot exert the same level of control” (Haring and Polyakova). The few laws that protect Russian journalists do not apply to Crimean reporters. They are threatened, abused, and often restricted from writing at all (Applebaum).
Journalism in the Crimea is challenging because Russia’s nationalistic ideals are imposed on the peninsula and Russian censorship stops any dissent that might arise. The subjectivity that can often be portrayed in state controlled media outlets is met by little public scrutiny because of nationalistic ideals and beliefs in Russian reatness. “Another popular approach [in the cinema industry] is to film sequels of Soviet movies. Overall, Soviet-era movies continue to be extremely popular in the country” (Krasnoboka).
The democratic era of Yeltsin has passed and people are revived by the power Russia had in Soviet times. Belief in the need for pluralism is declining, from 67% in 2012 to 57% in 2015, and a mere 5% believing that media censorship should be abolished, according to independent pollsters, Levada Centre” (“Russian Media” 2). People are changing their view on government and less see multiple branches of government as necessary for Russia. A video named “I’m a Russian Occupant” is Russia’s “most viral propaganda video” according to reporter Sarah Kaufman. “I’m a Russian occupant’ seems to be going viral because of its catchy patriotic slogan and futuristic effects.
Twitter, VK and Facebook exploded with users proudly exclaiming, “I’m a Russian occupant! ” And sharing the video” (Kaufman). The video was narrated in Russian and accompanied by English subtitles. The last paragraph of subtitles read, “Understand I do not need your hypocritical ‘freedom,’ I do not need your rotten ‘democracy. ‘ Everything you call ‘western values’ is alien to me. I have other interests! I’ll politely warn you for the last time: Do not mess with me! I build peace, I love peace, but more than anyone I know how to fight” (Ivanov).
This video is directed towards the west and is similar to propaganda of pre Cold War era times. Russian citizens love their country and a stronger, more centralized state makes them proud of their historic power. Professional media outlets and small internet “troll” groups alike have taken Western events out of context and created conspiracies in order to promote distrust among Russian peoples and westerners. In 015, Adrian Chen, a reporter for the New York Times, travelled to St. Petersburg in order to investigate a Russian “troll” group known by as “The Agency.
The group was responsible for hoaxing a chemical explosion in Louisiana, an outbreak of Ebola cases in Atlanta, Georgia, and a video of an unarmed black woman getting shot to death by police. All three cases were not true but included fictitious videos that displayed the events. The hackers also got into people’s personal Twitter accounts and tweeted about the fake events. “The internet audience has expanded from its early adopters, who were more likely to be ell-educated liberal intelligentsia, to the whole of Russia, which overwhelmingly supports Putin.
By working every day to spread Kremlin propaganda, the paid trolls have made it impossible for the normal internet user to separate truth from fiction” (Chen). On Chen’s last day in Russia, he spoke with the editor in chief of the Federal News Agency (FAN). FAN was supposedly connected to “The Agency” but the editor in chief claimed FAN was a victim of a negative image and had no association with “The Agency. ” | left St. Petersburg on April 28. One day later, FAN published an rticle with the headline What Does a New York Times Journalist Have in Common With a Nazi From St.
Petersburg’ The story detailed a mysterious meeting in St. Petersburg between a New York Times journalist – me – and a neo-Nazi (Chen). FAN claimed to be a reputable news outlet that objectively reports the news according to Chen. Although Chen did not experience this type of journalism after he left St. Petersburg. Russia’s propaganda extends to causing mayhem on the internet targeted at the west, which can raise concerns on which publications in Russia actually include any truth.
In 1984 every citizen owed their llegiance to the state, in Russia the majority of people willingly support Putin, the Kremlin and everything they stand for. Big Brother would be what historians call a “cult of personality. ” The Party’s motives in 1984 were to gain power over their people and they did this by waging war on them. Putin is competing with other nations and not his people, but a united Russia that can see through his perspective, will benefit him most. These are the roots of government intervention and censorship in Russia. In the Stalin era, the intentions of the state were close to those of Oceania in 1984.
Stalin focused on consolidating all states and territories around Russia and uniting them under communism into the USSR. He purged millions of people in these various territories every year in his fight to create the USSR. Putin is not waging war on his people and the censorship of media he promotes serves a purpose of unifying Russia so it can compete as a world power amongst other nations. Russian citizens have great pride in their country and are willing to give up some freedoms to objective information because they trust Putin to make their nation successful.