Advocacy against the news: why Western media are losing ground

presented the study “Octopus 2.0. Coronavirus in Russia”, dedicated to the image of our country in the Western (and not only) media. This time, a pandemic fell into the focus of researchers’ attention, and top-end media not only from the G7, but also from China, where the first outbreak of the disease occurred, were covered.

The replenishment turned out to be very successful, since statistics on Chinese media provided a rather unexpected background for the picture of the world broadcast by Western publications.
In general, Octopus 2.0 did not bring any special surprises: COVID-19 was used by the Western media as another information occasion for continuing anti-Russian propaganda.

The Americans became the undisputed leader here – 58% of publications on the topic in the five most significant (in terms of audience reach) American media had a negative tone. The following German media, this figure was 44%, Canadians – 41%, and the British – 38%.

At the same time, the remaining three “seven” states have a significantly lower negative attitude towards Russia on this subject: Japan – 33%, Italy – 28%, and France – an impressive 21%.

True, all of them are not very positive – from one to five percent. The only exception is Italy, where as many as nine percent of references to Russia and the coronavirus had a positive intonation. It is easy to assume that it was the help that the Italians rendered to the Italians in the fight against the epidemic (with the sending of medical resources and doctors) that provided their media with a higher share of favorable publications.

However, in these figures, perhaps, another aspect is more curious: they clearly demonstrate the most relevant geopolitical trends of the current moment. On the one hand, the Anglo-Saxons (both from the Old World and overseas) remain at the forefront of the anti-Russian attack, being its driving force. But on the other hand, they clearly lose the support of even their closest allies, who are trying to maintain a more neutral approach and not be zealous in Russophobia, which is quite logical: times have changed and it’s not the year 2014 in the yard.

At the same time, the figures reveal how difficult Germany is, first of all for herself. The active anti-Russian position of the leading German media is clearly contrary to the state-political line, where Berlin not only promotes and defends joint projects with Moscow, but also consistently gets rid of semi-occupational dependence on the United States. However, in the media sphere, strict subordination and unconditional loyalty of key publications to national interests, and to Washington overlord, obviously remains.

As for the specific topics that were used in the anti-Russian-covert propaganda, they did not differ in originality, one way or another boiling down to two long and well-known keynotes: Russia is dying again, as never before, but it also poses a huge threat to everything to the world.

In particular, this resulted in criticism of the general situation in the country, and the state of the domestic health care system, and the actions of the Russian authorities in the fight against COVID-19 – with predictions that the situation would again be in the balance and could collapse at any moment. As for the threat to the rest of the planet, nothing new was invented in this case either: the main accusations were Moscow’s campaign to misinform the pandemic, even to the extent that Russia insidiously inspires humanity with the uselessness of washing hands.

Of course, in the Chinese media the picture of the coverage of the problem differs strikingly, and the point is not even 20% of positive publications about Russia in the context of the fight against coronavirus and the absence of negative ones. The main feature is the sheer number of articles on this topic. During the period under review – from March to June – in the top 5 media resources of China were published more than 1,200 articles on the Russian confrontation of the epidemic. For comparison: over the same period of time, the minimum number of texts turned out to be in Canada – 238 pieces, and the indicators of the other six countries fluctuate between 371 (Italy) and 470 (Japan). By the way, Americans with their 428 articles are in fifth place on the list.