Truth vs propaganda

Photo of Vladimir Putin. Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru
Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru

It’s hard for us in a small country like Norway to fully appreciate how hard it is to govern really big countries or federations like the USA, Russia and China. It requires a strong central leadership that may need to do things that seems alien or even undemocratic to us. Authorities sometimes cross multiple lines, but I don’t know that Russia is particularly bad about that. We regard everything the USA do as a positive thing. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it came from America it’s automatically a good thing. It’s the opposite about Russia. Everything they say and do is bad. I always aim to be objective, but that kind of thinking is more than a little thickheaded. Do you really think the truth is that simple?

Who is Vladimir Putin really and what does he want? No one knows the answer because we only know him through his enemies, but I am quite convinced that we cannot rely on the image we have been presented with in the West. Most people may not see that narration as counterproductive as it is exactly what media and authorities seem to want, but I don’t see how this helps the citizens they are supposed to help. Norwegian media trusts American media, and Norwegian journalists frequently translate stories from US newspapers without bothering to question whether or not the article is biased. An article from Business Insider five years ago revealed that only 6 companies own 90 percent of US media. How much diversity and independence do you think that will produce?

It is impossible to know whether or not Putin is a Christian, and it’s not necessary to speculate on it as this is a matter between him and God. What we do know is that he has made a number of statements about how important Christianity is for Russia. He acknowledges that Russia is a Christian country and has spoken candidly about being baptized as a baby. His mother had to keep it a secret from her husband, who was a loyal member of the Communist Party, and we know how they felt about religion. It doesn’t matter whether he really is a believer or just uses religion as propaganda or a glue to keep the country united, but the fact that he finds it natural to speak about his own experiences at the very least suggest that he isn’t like any other Russian leader. He sees the value in a pre-communist Russian culture and Christianity is an important part of that. It is a tradition that has the power to unite Russians. Just to illustrate how vast and diverse Russia is, Norway and North Korea both border Russia.

I have watched some excerpts of speeches by Putin on You Tube and he seems to be doing a good job publicly. It’s an open question whether he is the greatest leader we have today or whether he is a tyrant, but we must realize that we are surrounded by propaganda. No one is interested in just reporting the truth or giving us the correct image of Vladimir Putin. I have no illusions about Russia being a utopian society, but I have a hard time believing that the world has become a more dangerous place because of what Russia, and Russia alone has done. It’s interesting that the Putin I watch on TV is calm, knowledgeable and has intelligent analyses of the USA and NATO. He doesn’t appear to be the madman he is often described as. Some would argue that this is just an act, but I am not convinced.

There is something deeply unsettling about this uncompromising, absolute attitude we see from NATO. Russian presidents have only evil intentions and US presidents have only the best intentions. There  is a lot of fundamentalist ideology behind this kind of propaganda, but the truth is probably that there are evil and good people on both sides. These are the nuances we don’t read and hear about in MSM. I wish I could say I had the answer, but when future historians debate the leaders of the 21st century Putin may not be seen as the only source of the problems we are seeing today. We may be just as much the source.

There are certainly a lot we can criticize Putin for, and many believe his mistakes are so obvious that proof is unnecessary. Nothing has changed really. It has been an established truth at least since WW II that America is good and Russia is evil, and as the leader of the free world America is always right. Don’t get me wrong, I support the USA, but I get a little skeptical when there is so much effort to discourage any debate on the matter. I have no doubt that Putin is guilty of some of the charges against him, but the truth is never as simple as some want us to believe.

Ask yourself where the information about Putin and Russia comes from. Is it from people and agencies that are inclined to be fair, or that don’t really care whether we like or dislike Russia? In other words, is the source independent? We are being told that Russia is behind almost everything that has gone wrong in the world today. There has, according to this view, been no development between Stalin and Putin. They are just as bad to the world. It is suspicious in itself when we have such a great need to believe that Putin is evil, while we are innocent. If something goes wrong we are nothing more than victims.

It’s interesting that someone is willing to entertain the idea that NATO isn’t always correct. It is naive to believe that journalism, history and politics don’t contain a certain amount of propaganda. I believe they do on both sides, but it’s not certain that Russia is more guilty than we are. I have expressed these views before, but this particular post was inspired by the Norwegian pundit Hanne Nabintu Herland. Check out her blog, The Herland Report (a mixture of English and Norwegian articles).

The question doesn’t just apply to Putin. What do we really know about Assad, what did we really know about Gadaffi, and where did this information come from?

While I am touching the subject of our righteous indignation, the UN Refugee Agency reported on April 11 that there is already a growing displacement, but now 20 million people risk starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia,and Yemen. They reported on the conflict in South Sudan the next day, and there are now 380 000 South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. I assume we can’t blame Russia for creating this situation or for preventing us from helping.

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