Russian Media in the Digital Age: Propaganda Rewired

In: Russian Politics
Sarah Oates University of Maryland,

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This article reflects on the role of media in the Russian Federation through the concept of “rewired propaganda.” The approach highlights how the Russian regime copes with challenges to its information hegemony in the digital age. The study employs two critical case studies to examine the Russian political communication sphere: the 2011–12 election protests and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian missile in 2014. The article argues that a key vector of analysis is understanding strategic narrative as the critical measurement of media control. The findings suggests that it is not so much who owns or controls the media that is key to understanding information control; rather, it is knowing who is constructing and disseminating the most compelling national narrative that holds the key to power in Russia. This focus on rewired propaganda and recasting of the debate will permit an analysis of the role of the media in the post-Soviet state even as the overall media environment has shifted with the advent of the digital age. On balance, the two case studies demonstrate that Russian elites have continued to adapt to growing challenges, showing an ability to use many facets of communication to consolidate an information dominance over citizens.

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