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The RAND Corporation was originally founded in 1948 by Douglas Aircraft Company (predecessor of Boeing) to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces. Today, it has diversified its fields of research beyond the defense industry and aerospace manufacturing, now entering into more civilian-serving areas such as “Education and the Arts;” “Health and Health Care;” “International Affairs;” “Energy, Environment, and Economic Development;” and “Military, Veterans, and Their Families”.
The company assists other governments, international organizations, private companies and foundations with a host of defense and civilian-serving non-defense issues, including healthcare and education.
In 2016, the Rand Corporation issued a report, “The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model”, which opened:
Since its 2008 incursion into Georgia (if not before), there has been a remarkable evolution in Russia’s approach to propaganda. This new approach was on full display during the country’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. It continues to be demonstrated in support of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and in pursuit of nefarious and long-term goals in Russia’s “near abroad” and against NATO allies.
In some ways, the current Russian approach to propaganda builds on Soviet Cold War–era techniques, with an emphasis on obfuscation and on getting targets to act in the interests of the propagandist without realizing that they have done so.1 In other ways, it is completely new and driven by the characteristics of the contemporary information environment. Russia has taken advantage of technology and available media in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War. Its tools and channels now include the Internet, social media, and the evolving landscape of professional and amateur journalism and media outlets.
Distinctive Features of the Contemporary Model for Russian Propaganda
- High-volume and multichannel
- Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
- Lacks commitment to objective reality
- Lacks commitment to consistency.
We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”2
Contemporary Russian propaganda has at least two other distinctive features. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.
Interestingly, several of these features run directly counter to the conventional wisdom on effective influence and communication from government or defense sources, which traditionally emphasize the importance of truth, credibility, and the avoidance of contradiction.3 Despite ignoring these traditional principles, Russia seems to have enjoyed some success under its contemporary propaganda model, either through more direct persuasion and influence or by engaging in obfuscation, confusion, and the disruption or diminution of truthful reporting and messaging.
We offer several possible explanations for the effectiveness of Russia’s firehose of falsehood.
Reading the report, I checked out sources that it cites. Typical is this passage in the text:
Russian propagandists have been caught hiring actors to portray victims of manufactured atrocities or crimes for news reports (as was the case when Viktoria Schmidt pretended to have been attacked by Syrian refugees in Germany for Russian’s Zvezda TV network), or faking on-scene news reporting (as shown in a leaked video in which “reporter” Maria Katasonova is revealed to be in a darkened room with explosion sounds playing in the background rather than on a battlefield in Donetsk when a light is switched on during the recording).17
That leads to this:
-  Examples of Russian propagandists using actors to spoof actual news events from, respectively, Balmforth, 2016, and Oli Smith, “Watch: Russia’s Fake Ukraine War Report Exposed in Putin PR Disaster,” Express, August 24, 2015.
No link to that article was provided, because Rand doesn’t want to make easy a reader’s verification of its sources. However, the source is here. It’s about a glamorous Russian girl “Maria Katasonova, who works for a Russian MP,” and who created a video of herself allegedly in Donbass of the former Ukraine, but which she faked. I searched online for more information about her, and found an article “Biography of Maria Katasonova: a young politician, merits and personal life”, which has swimsuit-photos of her. She was working on the staff of a pro-Putin member of the Duma or Parliament, Yevgeny Fyodorov. Whether she had been encouraged by her boss to do that, I don’t know, and Rand’s report provides no information on that. If she was, then this incident displays the Russian Government’s incompetency. If she wasn’t, then this incident displays merely her incompetency. In any case, she wasn’t “using actors to spoof actual news events” but was instead showing off herself, and, it would seem, pretending to be in Donbass. There was no “actress” but herself, so far as can now be determined.
So much, then, for “The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model”.
The U.S. regime is vastly more professional at it. And this Rand report is, itself, part of that. It’s no joke.
As regards Katasonova’s video there, it was https://youtu.be/02wHlphIC1Y and is now all gone, not having left a trace — never copied into the Wayback Machine, so just entirely gone. (If Rand Corp. had been honest, they would have copied it into the Wayback Machine, so that Rand’s allegation about it could be permanently verifiable to their article’s readers.) Maybe she removed it from youtube herself, as having been a personal embarrassment. However, this video of herself remains on youtube, and here is one of the currently 11 archived copies of it at the Wayback Machine.