OPINION: The American Media Has Spread Russian Propaganda More Effectively Than Russia Itself

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MARCH 16: Russia President Vladimir Putin looks on during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 16, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Hannah Peters/Getty Images

As the United States celebrated Independence Day over the weekend, the media continued to warn Americans of an allegedly all-powerful plot by Russian intelligence to advance misinformation. Unfortunately, Russia’s greatest distortion of our democracy will never be investigated, because it’s being perpetrated by the media and the Democratic Party.

I do not say that as hyperbole. Carefully studying Russian propaganda techniques and reading expert analyses from the intelligence community reveals that the media could hardly do a better job promoting the goals of Russian propaganda if they were paid in rubles.

The Department of Homeland Security explained Russian aims in an October 2020 assessment. “Russian actors will attempt to undermine national unity and sow seeds of discord that exploit perceived grievances within minority communities, especially among African Americans,” the report stated. “The Russian government promulgates misinformation, threats, and narratives intended to incite panic or animosity among social and political groups,” such as “portrayals of U.S. law enforcement as racially biased.”

That dovetails with FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony before Congress a month earlier that “hostile foreign actors” conduct “disinformation campaigns” designed “to mislead, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values.” Similarly, former government intelligence analyst Clint Watts told NPR in 2018 that Russian propaganda plots “to make Americans lose confidence in democratic institutions and elected officials by turning every crack in our country into a chasm and pitting different race, ethnic groups, religious groups, socioeconomic groups, Second Amendment, abortion rights, whatever it might be where we fight, instead of being a unified front against them.”

There could scarcely be a better description of the legacy media.

As part of Russia’s campaign to fracture American unity, it has endorsed voices of hopelessness who turn to violence. The Director of National Intelligence noted that in 2012, the Russian state-sponsored TV network RT “aired a documentary called ‘Cultures of Protest,’ about active and often violent political resistance,” and told viewers American government can only be changed by “revolution.” That sounds much like the message of CNN’s “United Shades of America,” in which host W. Kamau Bell interviewed violent members of Antifa. “Look, this fighting for democracy and against fascism thing has always been a messy business. And, yes, people get hurt [and] property gets damaged,” Bell said.

Russia has focused much of its own propaganda driving a wedge between police and the black community by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Slate reviewed the ads purchased by the Kremlin’s Internet Research Agency and reported that “hundreds of the ads were focused on police violence toward black Americans.”

The Kremlin could never buy the publicity won by CNN and MSNBC’s laser-like focus on the exceedingly rare cases of law enforcement officers shooting unarmed black men. Frequent MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson of Morgan State University told Brian Williams in April, “I’m just as likely to get shot by that cop as I am with a potential intruder. That’s just the reality. That’s the reality of it that I live with every day.” Another contributor, said last June that black “People should be free to move about this country without the existential dread.” Just last month, former Obama administration appointee Brittany Packnett Cunningham told MSNBC that the nation’s “rising crime … is actually the fault of the police.”

The Kremlin tried to convince black Americans that there is no safe haven for them anywhere in the U.S., even in professional sports. Before the 1984 Summer Olympics, Soviet agents forged letters purportedly coming from the Ku Klux Klan that threatened to kill black athletes. “The Olympics — for the whites only,” they said. “We are preparing for the Olympic games by shooting at black moving targets.”

The legacy media likewise magnified false reports that a noose had been found in black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage. (In reality, the pull rope had been in the stall for years.) CNN political analyst Errol Louis connected the fictitious death threat to Wallace’s opposition to the Confederate flag. “These things don’t change overnight, and they don’t change without some ugliness,” he said. “We’re starting to see some of the ugliness.”

The Left is the most convenient vehicle for engendering civil strife, with its embrace of intersectionality and its poisonous spawn, identity politics, which divide the country based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual preference, gender identity, and (of least importance to the modern Left) socioeconomic status. The finer and more impermeable the divisions can be cut, the greater the resultant division. The legacy media drive this fractious message home literally 24 hours a day.

The goal of getting Americans to question the legitimacy of their government advanced thanks to the media, which spent four years delegitimizing the Trump administration. When the late Rep. John Lewis said he did not believe “Trump is a legitimate president,” then-CNN political analyst Symone Sanders replied, “I’m not going to sit here and make judgments on whether or not it’s appropriate for John Lewis to join the Resistance. I’m here for the Resistance.” (Sanders is now Kamala Harris’ chief spokeswoman.) The media did not confine themselves to the executive branch. When multiple Democrats called Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court “illegitimate,” CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger said, “Kamala Harris was saying, the Democrats believe that this — with reason I believe — that this entire session lacks legitimacy.”

The legacy media certainly increased the number of Americans who do not trust what they read or hear on the news. How else could viewers react when CNN described last summer’s burning of Kenosha as “fiery but mostly peaceful,” in a manner reminiscent of Baghdad Bob? How should they respond to a media that claims the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab went from “impossible” to “suddenly credible” with no real change in the evidence? Even the media’s fact-checks are frequently politically motivated or outright erroneous. The legacy media have discredited themselves, leaving Americans with the developed world’s lowest trust in the media.

There is one final objective of Russian propaganda that many other assessments do not capture: Péter Krekó, a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and executive director of the Budapest-based Political Capital Institute, once told me that one of Russia’s greatest desires is to appear more powerful than it truly is. The media accomplished this task beyond Moscow’s wildest dreams. Russia has a shrinking population, an aging nuclear arsenal, and an economy smaller than the GDP of Texas. The DNI says that Russia will “struggle to project and maintain influence globally.” It tries to fill the void with paltry Facebook ads and troll websites. But Democrats and the media spent the last four years acting as though Vladimir Putin dictated Republican policy in a manner comparable to a medieval tsar appointing regional commisars to oversee grain production in the Caucuses.

If the media truly wish to combat “Russian misinformation and disinformation,” they can begin by dialing down their racially divisive coverage, ceasing to polarize Americans over political differences, and returning to the most fundamental task of journalism: getting the facts right.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  OPINION: The American Media Has Spread Russian Propaganda More Effectively Than Russia Itself