The particularly negative perception and attitude towards propaganda that exists and is spreading across Russian society has become an obstacle in communication between the state and society. The way out of this situation lies in bringing society back as a subject of propaganda and relaunching real propaganda, which in turn means Russia's return to the real story.
The propaganda image of propaganda in Russia
Today, in Russia, a negative image of propaganda continues to be formed. The word itself makes people wary. This perception has developed as a result of myths implemented in the public and political agenda.
First, propaganda is presented as something purely Russian, as if in other countries, there's no propaganda at the state and corporate levels and there's nothing but objective news and truth in advertising.
This picture of the world appears truly terrifying: In it, Russia wages information wars, manipulates the minds of its citizens and deceives the entire civilized world. It was aptly described by Alexander Zinoviev: "throughout the history of the Soviet Union, the Soviet people have been receiving negative images of the West from the state ideology. There was nothing criminal or immoral about this. It's a usual business in real history. After all, in the West, where there's no single state ideology, the masses were, and now are, even to a greater extent, fed ideologically-driven and false notions about the Soviet Union and communist society in general. There was an unprecedented pivot in perception of the West, even in the official ideology. It rushed to the other extreme, with the consent of the highest authorities of the country and upon their instructions."
Second, propaganda is now equivalent to misinformation, lies, manipulation, brainwashing, etc. "Inconvenient" news, photo and video evidence is declared, in turn, propaganda, and is branded as fake.
The positive functions of propaganda, such as spreading good values, principles and ideas of a particular society are completely excluded. Such an attitude is justified by historical references to the propaganda in Nazi Germany.
Third, propaganda is seen as a purely political tool. At the same time, corporate propaganda (marketing, branding, advertising, PR) is ignored and removed from the list of suspects, even though its role and importance in consumer society exert a no less powerful impact on humanity.
Fourth, propaganda is believed to be exclusively a function of the media. Other forms of influence on society (e.g., books denigrating a country's history) are removed from the realm of propaganda and are granted the alibi of freedom of speech.
All of the above makes the following possible: first, to create a negative image of the state and separate it from society with a wall of "lies" and mistrust; and, second, make the ideology — the substantive part of propaganda — invisible and non-essential for understanding. Thus, denial of the right to propaganda (that is, one's own propaganda) destroys and devalues public communication.
Ideology: Real propaganda
Even having cleaned propaganda in Russia from propaganda constructs and clichés, we won't come to understanding real propaganda, its functions, structure, mechanisms, etc. Propaganda institutes are nothing more than ideological tools.
The real ideology is disguised. In many ways, this happens because it is often too inhumane; modern Western propaganda barely hides its visceral Russophobia.
It is precisely ideology in the form of propaganda that provides the real impact that can unify or destroy society. The Soviet Union collapsed not because of mechanical propaganda, but the indoctrination of its population during the Cold War.
As Zinoviev pointed out, "the official Soviet ideology was completely unable to defend the positive achievements of its social system and criticize the Western defects; it was unprepared for a massive ideological attack from the West. The country was stricken by ideological panic."
Thus, society is the most important element of ideology. Society must become not only a passive object of propaganda, as is commonly believed, but also an actor in it, in order to be protected from external propaganda and viruses of mentality.
Society as object and subject of propaganda
Society is the real subject of propaganda. Propaganda's effectiveness is secured not only by its substance, but, above all, by the people's acceptance. In this sense, propaganda is able to broadcast any kind of nonsense and even outright lies, but if shared by society, it will work.
Thus, at a certain point in history, Soviet propaganda started losing out to Western propaganda. This happened because, despite the sheer volume of propaganda and its well-developed institutions (and its contents, the ideology), the people stopped believing in and sharing Soviet propaganda.
It was openly laughed at. Under objective social laws, the resulting vacuum was filled with foreign propaganda, which ultimately led society to catastrophe. What caused such an estrangement of society? Soviet propaganda lagged behind the post-WWII level of education and development of society, which was fairly high in the Soviet Union. Propaganda was at a pre-war level and couldn't be properly accepted by society, which was at a higher level.
Interestingly, modern Western propaganda and its agents in Russia are revisiting this gap, the high point of which came in the late 1980s. Western propaganda today remains at an intellectual level of uncritical perception of the reality of the 1990s, and is perceived at best as another case of a "Psaki worldview."
Society has advanced, having suffered a real understanding of many social and economic processes. Ukrainian society has yet to go all that way.
Resetting propaganda as a way to return to history
Russia doesn't yet have its own working propaganda system. It is still in the process of being formed. In order for this process to take place, it's imperative to resolve the following positive tasks:
1) return institutional propaganda to the public agenda;
2) fill it with social, cultural and political meanings (ideology);
3) increase the level of propaganda to suit the level of society in order to avoid further disconnect.
The latter task is particularly complex, multidimensional and important, as a decline in the public consciousness results in either dumbing it down or making it totalitarian. Thus, the transition to real propaganda marks the transition to real history. Remaining there is a matter of survival for Russia.