Propaganda in the month of March


During the last month, there was a lot of talk in the Estonian media about the appearance of Estonian politicians in the Russian media, conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus, as well as the attention received by two Master’s theses.

At the beginning of March, Ragne-Kõuts Klemm, co-professor of sociology of journalism at the University of Tartu, wrote on the ERR portal, a study focusing on the media consumption of Russian-speaking residents. He wrote: “Trust in the Estonian media has grown according to the people. However, as in the case of Estonians, considerable amounts of Russian-speaking media consumers also seek information from many different sources on important matters such as medical related topics. Especially if the information is not comprehensive enough and does not provide enough guidelines for everyday living.

For example, The Russian media does not announce whether Tallinn kindergartens are closed or not. The fastest and most up-to-date information can be found on the website of the city’s Education Board or the Ministry of Education and Research. ”

Oleg Samorodni wrote in a March review of the Russian media diary published in Delphi that at the beginning of the year, two countries simultaneously took steps to significantly limit the spread of Russian propaganda. In Ukraine, on the recommendation of the National Defense and Security Council, President Volodõmõr Zelenskõi imposed sanctions on three official Ukrainian TV channels. Almost at the same time, the broadcasting of virtually all Russian TV channels in Latvia were ended. These channels are distributed in Latvia by Baltijas mediju alianse (Baltic Media Alliance). The same company distributes Russian channels in Estonia as well.

In March, Maaleht wrote about RT’s plans to launch a TV station in Germany. ”Until now, only the German-speaking RT De internet channel wanted confirmation to be a widespread, normal TV broadcaster in Germany. At the end of January, the Russian embassy in Berlin announced that the state Russian media would build a media network this year “ready to be broadcast by RT De and the first live broadcast will be broadcast in Berlin in December”.

In March, Kadri Paas published an overview of her master’s thesis in several publications. On the ERR portal, Paas discussed the most important aspects of her work, including, for example, the information war. Paas posed the questions, why are hostile information attacks dangerous and why should we worry about hostile influences? She answers: “There is more than one answer to these questions. First, nothing will change overnight due to isolated and unsystematic attacks. That is why professional advocacy is never project- or campaign-based, but flexible, lasting and creative, certainly consistent. Moreover, continuity does not mean six months, but six or sixty years.

China’s influence activities are planned over decades and hundreds of years rather than months or individual years. The cross-border influence activities of the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation has been going on for decades in various directions. “

Conspiracy theories, the cancelling culture and MMS
In the series “Harri Tiido’s background stories”, ERR published a story about conspiracy theories, in which he wrote: “One of the background makers of such views is the mechanism of human mental protection. If it is felt that the matter is out of control, it is useful to see someone behind it who creates and / or controls such an uncontrolled situation for his own benefit. An additional factor can also be related to a person’s identity – they want to be part of a group with whom they agree. Group membership, in turn, leads to “ours or not ours” confrontations. Consequently, those who believe in conspiracy theories may be in more polarized groups. ”

In the commentary section of Vikerraadio, Raul Rebane wrote about information and checking it. “If your mother tells you, that you’re beautiful, it’s worthwhile checking this information!” This already classic sentence directs people to check the information and not believe everything they are told. “It’s not my business, let the journalists check it. They get paid for it,” could be said. God’s truth, only in recent decades has the situation been different. So what has changed?

In particular, what has changed is that with the advent of social media, the world has entered the stage of industrial production of individual opinions. Millions of personal opinions appear on the information market every hour and they lack the credibility control typical of traditional media. Look at Facebook’s volume of information. ”

In March, the Delfi fact-checking office published a lengthy overview of the background of the MMS advertising campaign that appeared in Estonian bus shelters. “A campaign to promote the toxic and forbidden MMS reached the streets of Estonia from far off Latin America. The “miracle cure” campaign has been accompanied by a series of deaths that have led to criminal investigations in the United States and Argentina. “

In mid-March, the topic of the cancelling culture was again on the ERR portal, and Maria Murumaa-Mengel, a social media lecturer at the University of Tartu, said that there are two types of cancelling, one is simpler in content whereby the person is informed that they have erred and are asked not to do so again. “But the other is much more aggressive, where people who have violated some norms are tried to be expelled from society.”

In March, ERR published another overview of a Master’s thesis. In her master’s thesis, Kristiina Peterson, a graduate of the University of Tartu in semiotics and cultural theory, identified the ways of depicting the coronavirus crisis in the first stage of media coverage of a pandemic: contempt and sacrifice, learning and warning, as well as humor.

“The virus of course, is a biological phenomenon, but an outbreak is not only within the boundaries of biology or medicine, but also spreads to social life and culture. In such cases, professionals in different fields must keep the different parts of the virus-related information field in proportion. On the one hand, they must show the severity of the disease; on the other hand, they must reduce fear and stigma and prevent the spread of misinformation in order to deal with the outbreak as effectively as possible. ” The sources of Peterson’s dissertation were the opinion stories and editorials of Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht as well as the Objektiiv.

Advertising model change

In the Radio2 technology commentary, Kristjan Port talked about the possibility of bursting the advertising bubble. Port said, that Tim Hwang, who has worked for large IT companies such as IBM and Google and most recently led an ethics and governance initiative for artificial intelligence at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a book on the threat of a sales crisis. “He sees recent developments in common with the crisis following the bursting of the global real estate lending bubble in 2008. The advertising phrase „advertising and the clock bomb at the heart of the Internet“ sums up the publication’s book-length argument.

In March, Google announced plans to phase out web technologies next year that uniquely identify users when they visit different websites. ERR points out in the news that Google plans to use new technologies in the future, called the “privacy sandbox”. They are used to analyze user groups’ Internet habits, allowing advertising companies to target redundant user groups with similar interests.

Deep Nostalgia
In March, Erik Prozes, the head of Postimees’ photo and video editing, wrote about an experiment with Deep Nostalgia, an application that revives old photos, where he took as a base material a portrait of his grandfather. Prozes writes: “He came to life, exploring the modern world with a keen eye. He turned his head, looked at me and smiled. My grandfather’s “revival” was a personal experience, making me both excited and terrified at the same time. I have never met him. I have only read his diaries and letters of regret to his family.

The video of my grandfather’s photo portrait, made with a few mouse clicks, was stunning. It is not real, but it has a dramatically realistic effect! For a moment, I felt like a member of a wild tribe who saw a photo for the first time and wanted to talk to the person depicted there.”

The arrest of Serendenko

At the end of March, it became known that the Security Police (KAPO) had arrested Sergei Seredenko at the beginning of the month. Seredenko was called a human rights defender by his teammates from the United Left Party of Estonia (EÜVP). He recently worked as a caretaker and was incarcerated on charges of anti-state activities.. Seredenko is a person familiar to Propastop readers.

The ERR also published a longer story about Seredenko’s detention, allowing statements from Seredenko’s closest comrades-in-arms Rusakov, Zarenkov and Blintsova.

Photo: screenshots of publications