Several years ago, myself and more communication specialists wrote about the tricks of Russian propaganda that were being broadcast on Kremlin-controlled channels.
A rare statistical Russian withstands against them and the opposition figures who are not allowed to enter those channels don’t mean anything either in the country. But the time is passing by and good communication enlivens processes, where everything seemed to be getting worse and worse decades ago. Alexei Navalny, whom we know in Lithuania from the reports on rallies, arrests and judgements of the European courts, does not yet have any real ways to the government. Nevertheless, the Opponent No.1 is such an example in communication, that most of the politicians who drown in chaos, contradictions and demagogues can learn something from him.
Consistent communication on the Internet allows him to increase influence in the country, whereas the opponents are forced to hide deeper in the darkness of Kremlin, because as it seems, there are no such weapons there as in Navalny’s arsenal.
Many opposition initiatives die because they are simply not allowed to exist in Russia for a long time – the parties are not being registered, events are sabotaged, financial resources – cut off. In two decades we could count numerous politicians, who at some point finally gave up.
Navalny relies on a principle that whatever has the right to exist, must exist on his lips, on YouTube and in blog posts, in his and like-minded people’s public speeches. This is how for years “exists” a periodically not registered party “Russia of the Future”. Navalny considers himself being the president and his team members – as other representatives of the shadow government. The anti-corruption fund is operating alongside, draft laws are being constantly developed and proposed, etc.
Why this entire theatre is needed if there is no result out of it? Putin’s propaganda always tends to emphasize its irreplaceability and marginalize opposition participants and their actions. Navalny shows he is not alone; he is not a passer-by or crazy – he constantly presents the alternative version of Russian politics that would start to operate effectively the moment it comes to the government.
Navalny has accumulated the popularity capital as a blogger. It seems that from there he brought his habit of being regular and consistent. At the moment, an hour-long show is being broadcast on YouTube channel once a week, where the opponent discusses the current issues, gives his view on them, sometimes shares his team’s journalistic research and ALWAYS emphasizes that in the “amazing future of Russia” there will not be like this and consequently throws light on how it will be like.
In Lithuania, people have complained that it is impossible to watch the entire election reality show of Artūras Zuokas, others are allergic to Donald Trump’s posts on Twitter, and here – millions of people find an hour every week for basically political agitation!
Navalny has realized in time that even the bravest journalist or the media will not offset against the government lie that practically every actuality of the country is full of. Even the so-called independent media follows objectivity that is too vegetarian for Russia – Navalny there is portrayed as conflicting rally participant and periodic prisoner. A statistical Russian would hardly see such candidate as the future president. Something different is a vlogger that does live broadcasts, responds to the comments of the citizens and who does not switch off until he says everything. Later, the channel is supplemented by the “golden” moments and the main theses are quoted by other comrades-vloggers. Watching Navalny’s YouTube opinion is really interesting because it turns upside down every news. In the long run it seems that news without his opinion is no longer a full-fledged news.
Discussions are constantly happening on how many people actually support the opposition and what would they be determined to do for it (as well as the actual Putin’s rating). The question is slippery and handy for the Kremlin which strategy is to emphasize the lack of any other political force. Navalny obviously spits on those who are engaged in counting rally participants. He is determined to fight Putin with his own weapons. Listening to Navalny gives the impression that people support him unconditionally, that Putinians only survive in the government because of power and it is only the matter of time, when everything will collapse. But, as it seems, it is not collapsing for 20 years already.
Knowing the population of Russia and its cities, there are not that many people gathering to his rallies, however, this does not stop the 5 minutes to revolution intonation. The strength of Navalny is that he does not close down to a narrow circle of like-minded opponents. He actively supports every act of disobedience in the country and sometimes it really seems like it is his merit.
Many in Lithuania have seen a video about Dimon. Navalny’s fund has created many videos like such, revealing the corruptive Russian government schemes – one can only imagine how much uncompensated time and effort it costs. However, the trend of recent years is different.
Navalny’s “TV”, having gained enough weight in the ever-growing YouTube channel, publicizes the stories of unhappy citizens and initiative groups, helps them to make legal complaints in exchange for interviews. And you will not call those stories marginal delusions or provocations of the nation’s enemies. The most recent scandal has been the attempt of Moscow government and the official media to hide an enormous outbreak of dysentery in the capital’s kindergartens. It would seem that it is a domestic story, but thanks to Navalny, the evidence led to almost Putin himself – it was the company of his close friend that served food to the children.
More stories like this in the wide and abandoned Russia are endless and the frustrated people seem to know who to turn to, whereas Navalny always finds perpetrators just by the side of Putin.
Finally, Navalny perfectly exploits the opportunity that only the politicians who have no posts and are in complete opposition have – he does not compromise for his views and goals. The views as well as the goals are not original, many talk about that, however…
The Russian people have been living under authoritarian conditions for two decades already and some of them betray principles as if strategically (for a higher positive effect), while others do it for personal gain. Alongside the famous Putin supporters, there is a growing group of conformists who basically think like this: Putin is evil, but I’m just shaking the right hand of mayor and the theatre is working, and the orphans get their food. Navalny openly laughs from those who balance and in this entire mess his positions seems to be the clearest one.
For a long time, the Kremlin’s individuals have ignored Navalny, but one moment of grievance and incoherent threats spilled as of cornucopia. Even how much is worth the challenge given by the General of Russian Army, who Navalny has unmasked for his non-transparent procurement. This and other reactions show how far from modern means of communication and skills are decades of unchanging government. In Lithuania, we are sometimes surprised how some people change after spending 4 years in Seimas – it is only with horror to suspect how people live and think for decades being isolated from society behind the Kremlin walls.
In order to better understand how they see the world, there is no need for films and hours of propaganda TV, sometimes a single slipped out phrase can give it all away. A couple of years ago Kremlin invented another propaganda project – a documentary about Putin, that was created by Oliver Stone himself. Finally, in one public meeting with people, the main character of the film was asked, whether he saw a recently showed film about himself on TV. Perhaps wanting to demonstrate himself being indifferent to glory and not minding such an occasion, he admitted “to have seen it on tapes”.
The gap between Putin and Navalny is actually like between VHS tapes and YouTube. Therefore, if today the regime was to shamefully collapse, it would take a while to discuss what harmed it more – the opposition with Navalny ahead in the communication attack or the ordinarily passing time. A number of Russian people see some of Putin’s comrades instead of him, and the opposition that has fought him for decades, has not raised any other candidate than Navalny. However, thanks to him Kremlin’s propagandists have experienced themselves what it means to have a well-balanced communication machine, that is harder to break than to destroy political blocks, hide accidents in kindergartens or get rid of opponents.