Due to the hostile environment, word on the street is that numerous media outlets are being shut down by the Russian government, while others have voluntarily left Russia over the last 45 days. Only information that has been filtered through the state media is allowable for Russian public consumption. Social media sources outside Russia have also been shut down and very little real information is getting into Russia. This makes it difficult for anyone in the country to find ground truth.
Just one recent example is the sinking of the Moskva this past week. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship’s stored ammunition and resulted in an explosion that left the Moskva with structural damage. Later, the Ministry said the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet had sunk amid rough seas as it was being towed to a nearby port.
Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles that severely damaged the ship, this past Thursday. Regardless, the ship now lies at the bottom of the Black Sea. Whether the Moskva was the victim of a Ukrainian missiles or Russian incompetence, it is an embarrassment for the Kremlin.
To control Russian public opinion, President Putin’s propaganda machine was moving quickly by Friday. Russia-1, a state-owned Russian television channel and the Kremlin’s mouthpiece, has championed the war since the beginning. They came close to acknowledging Ukraine sunk the Moskva by demanding a crushing response. Olga Skabeyeva, a Putin lead propagandist, told Russian-1 that Western support for Ukraine amounted to direct conflict with Russia, saying ‘’What it’s escalated into, can safely be called World War Three.” and “Now we’re definitely fighting against NATO infrastructure, if not NATO itself. We [Russians] need to recognize that.”
Another guest on the show likened the sinking of the Moskva to an attack on Russian soil, despite the Kremlin’s insistence it went down because of a fire. The guest had to be reminded not to use the word ‘war’ and to use the approved terminology ‘special military operation’ all the while stating Kyiv should be destroyed. Later that evening, Kyiv was struck by rockets, a clear indicator that Vladimir Putin wants revenge for the sinking of the guided missile cruiser.
Russian Propaganda in the United States
As of last week, the Russian propaganda machine continues to run unfettered in the U.S. A radio station sponsored by Russian state media and hosted by Americans is spreading propaganda in two US cities. In downtown Washington DC, radio to 105.5 FM WZHF, Radio Sputnik is broadcasting Russian propaganda with American hosts. Kansas City is also broadcasting the network, even as Facebook and YouTube have been forced to stop broadcasting in Russia. RT.com and Sputniknews.com are both available with Russian state-sponsored twist to the news.
Scottie Nell Hughes, an American journalist, news anchor and political commentator is a presenter on Sputnik. When asked about Russian state media putting out lies about the conflict and why should the U.S. tolerate having Russian state media on our air waves, Scottie says- “Let the American people make that decision. Trust the American people to hear what they’re saying and make a decision for themselves whether or not they believe that is the truth happening.”
It appears that it is not the job of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to sensor content, the commissioner Geoffrey Stark recently stated. Instead he says, “It [The FCC] is to let listeners know where that contact comes from” and that “The public must have transparency from this information in order to be informed and make their own decisions about separating truth from disinformation”. Stark admits he finds some of Sputniks content deplorable. However, currently on the public airwaves, even if a station is backed by a country committing war crimes, they can continue to broadcast in the United States.