CCLP visiting fellow Vasily Gatov was quoted in a New Yorker article about the overstated reach of Russian propaganda and its influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In “The propaganda about Russian propaganda,” journalist Adrian Chen describes the work of anonymous internet research collective PropOrNot, which claims to have identified 200 “Russian propaganda outlets” among all the news sources in the world. These sites, PropOrNot claimed, published fake news stories and highlighted real information favorable to Donald Trump and critical of Hillary Clinton, contributing to Trump’s eventual win.
But the group’s criteria for classifying a site as “Russian propaganda,” Chen said, was so broad as to include any outlet that had ever published content that was even vaguely pro-Russian, even if it was not directly controlled by the Russian state. This wildly exaggerated the sway that actual Russian propaganda, including “fake news” as well as biased reports, had in convincing the U.S. public to vote for Trump.
Gatov said that blowing the Russian threat out of proportion this way helped to meet the goals that actual Russian propagandists had of causing panic in the U.S.
“Think about RT and Sputnik’s goals, how they report their success to Putin,” Gatov said, referencing Russian state-controlled news outlets. “Their success is that they have penetrated their agenda, that they have become an issue for the West. And this is exactly what happened.”
At the end of the article, Gatov added that continuing to blame Russia for Trump’s rise ignored many of the real domestic issues that played a much bigger role in the outcome of the election, and which the American public was too distracted by the perceived Russian threat to confront.
“To blame internal social effects on external perpetrators is very Putinistic,” Gatov said.