Staunton, July 29 – Many in Moscow and the West, seeing the ways in which Russian television has mobilized Russians in support of Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, believe that the Internet can transform Russians into opponents of the Kremlin. But the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta warn that the web on its own does not and will not have that effect.
It is absolutely true, the paper says, that “the Internet makes various kinds of information accessible,” but that “does not mean that the information automatically becomes more sought after” or accepted. “Soviet power banned books and films,” but that didn’t mean people did not want to watch them. Now, these are widely available, but that doesn’t mean people do.
Consequently, it is wrong to think that the existence of the Internet or even widespread access to it, will “make an opposition member out of a citizen or even make that individual skeptical of what the authorities are saying.” The only thing that will do that is a critical attitude toward information, something reflecting background, intellect and education.
“On his own, the Internet user is in no way defended against the official point of view, including when it is expressed in the most primitive propagandistic forms,” the editors of the Moscow paper say. And the authorities are not only prepared to be far more clever in how they present their positions but also to be a player in the online world.
Russians can learn much from the Internet that the authorities would prefer they will not learn, but a large share of them are not interested in doing so. If they do get information from the Internet, they don’t rely on it as opposed to what they hear on television. Up to now, the Internet is simply “not competitive” with Moscow television in that regard.
The full results of Levada Center poll: “The Russian media landscape: television, press and internet” can be found here.