I picked up a copy of the New York Times (it’s free for college students, which makes it less pretentious?) and guess what I found inside!
It was a special section called Russia Beyond the Headlines, with a teeny tiny little disclaimer that reads “A special advertising supplement to The New York Times“. I was perplexed.
On first glance, it’s pretty easy to recognize that you’re looking at propaganda. The eight page pull-out, designed to look exactly like a newspaper, featured sunny articles on Russian business, politics, entertainment, and even had some human-interest stories.
Here’s a sampling of the headlines that are tailored carefully to an American audience:
- New Russian Government to Back Privatization Effort (Keep in mind that the “new government” is led by a young upstart named Vladimir Putin.)
- Moscow Welcomes Foreign Business
- Russia Anticipates E-Commerce Boom
- Creating a Leaner and Meaner Fighting Force
- Reforms to Promote Transparency and Bolster Medvedev’s Legacy
- Winning Hearts and Minds, One Cake at a Time
The front page news blurb about the May 7 inauguration of Putin easily refuted allegations of election fraud.
Despite accusations of fraud in in the elections, observers generally agreed that a majority of Russians did indeed vote for Putin.
So there you have it. The good people at Russia Behind the Headlines has spoken, Russia’s awesome!
RTBH is a branch of Russia’s state owned newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, responsible for the creation and distribution of what they call “original, on-the-ground coverage of Russia from professional, independent journalists who are passionate and knowledgeable about the country, and opinion pieces from commentators who hold a wide range of views about Russia’s leadership and direction.”‘
The section runs in 19 papers around the world, including the Washington Post, under the name Russia Now.
I know that the newspaper industry is hurting and everything, and I’m sure the Russians pay handily to run these ads, but isn’t a fake pullout section about Russia (put together by a state-owned paper) a bridge too far?
Given the obvious pandering to American ideals in RTBH, isn’t it clear that it might be just a touch subversive?
We only have room for one quasi-state run propaganda machine in this country to tell us about the outside world, we don’t need the Russians muddying the waters.