Tag Archives: Russian disinformation

Paul Goble: Disinformation consists of lies with a bodyguard of truth

In a lecture informed by numerous examples drawn from current affairs in eastern Europe, IWP adjunct professor Paul Goble discussed the nature of disinformation as explored in the work of the scholar Natalie Grant Wraga. At the event, hosted by The Institute of World Politics on September 17, 2014, Professor Goble described how Mrs. Wraga developed her firsthand knowledge of Soviet deception tactics. A prolific author born in Estonia, Mrs. Wraga fled the advancing Communists as a young woman and dedicated her life to the study of the Soviet Union and that regime’s efforts to shape foreign opinions. Although considered to be one of the foremost experts on Soviet deception, none of her works remain in print today.

Professor Goble noted that Mrs. Wraga made a sharp distinction between blatant propaganda — which observers can easily discount from coloring their judgments — and disinformation. He characterized Mrs. Wraga’s description of the latter as a demonstrable lie, or lies, surrounded by both truths and statements which the audience wants to believe. By studying the preferences and biases of various audiences, a disseminator of disinformation is able to tailor messages that successfully spread falsehood without alerting the audience to the presence of any information other than what they have already judged to be factual and reliable. Mrs. Wraga’s line-by-line analysis of numerous Soviet documents, said Professor Goble, shows that most effective disinformation contains “between 90% and 99% truth.”

Furthermore, Professor Goble provided contemporary examples to suggest that the Russian Federation continues to employ carefully-targeted messages laced with deceit about Russia’s objectives and adversaries that appear to be successful in altering the perceptions of both popular and elite audiences. He called attention to the diverse languages of the nations of eastern Europe, many of which are little-understood outside their homelands, thus allowing nuanced meaning in some messages to escape broader attention. He also stressed the failure of Western scholars to appreciate how the events of 1991 are perceived differently by some in Russia compared to the interpretation held by most scholars and policymakers in the West, and called attention to the fallacy of equating “media balance” with objectivity.

In a robust and illuminating question-and-answer session, Professor Goble commented on the comparative effectiveness of various methods of mass communication, saying that the “era of short- and long-wave radio is over,” and suggesting that US concentration on social media results in failures to reach sufficiently broad audiences (he noted that satellite television appears to offer untapped potential for reaching certain audiences). He also addressed questions concerning how the United States might develop a stronger base of foreign language expertise, and how government transparency in the United States is a strength in shaping foreign perceptions.

Russian news agency mischaracterizes IWP professor’s lecture

The news agency, RIA Novosti, one of the largest in post-Soviet Russia, has quoted extensively Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz’s September 10 Intermarium Series lecture on Ukraine.

Although the Kościuszko Chair is generally always happy to see its lectures quoted in the media, it must be pointed out that the RIA Novosti piece was Muscovite disinformation. The lecture was open to all, but a RIA Novosti correspondent never identified himself/herself, nor did one interview Dr. Chodakiewicz.

Even more characteristically, RIA Novosti only mentioned selected, cut-and-pasted quotes taken out of context, thereby distorting Dr. Chodakiewicz’s arguments. The Russian correspondent intentionally picked out snippets to portray the Ukrainians as incompetent and the U.S. and its NATO allies as weak, indecisive, and, in general, not serious about defending Ukraine. In reality, Dr. Chodakiewicz’s criticism focused on the ineptness of Ukraine’s top-heavy post-Soviet military brass, not the rank and file troops.

To counter the post-Soviet disinformation, we are reposting Dr. Chodakiewicz’s advice, which we encourage RIA Novosti to quote in full:

What to do?

a)   Ukraine:

  • Secure and seal the border with Russia.
  • Seek provisional dual power in the Donbas (as opposed to evacuation or invasion).
  • Invite Western monitors, civilian and military (but not peacekeepers).
  • Purge the armed forces and security of the post-Soviets.
  • Hold no elections before asserting control over the entire country.

b)  The West:

  • Establish bases in the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland.
  • Arm Ukraine with conventional weapons.
  • Establish and boost satellite TV programs to beam the Western message into the post- Soviet zone, in particular in Russian.
  • Counter the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign in the West.
  • Freeze (gradually and selectively) all private and public assets of Russian origin in Western banks and financial institutions.
  • Supply Poland with enriched uranium for a nuclear device (like we did for Japan in the 1960s when China was at its most belligerent).
  • Supply Europe with gas and oil from the U.S.

The full lecture can be found below.