Putin used Tucker Carlson, exposing America's vulnerability to information warfare

Long before the likes of Vladimir Putin or Tucker Carlson, the concept of pseudohistory as a tool for totalitarianism had been extensively explored and implemented.

George Orwell probably provided the most precise characterization: “From the totalitarian point of view, history is something to be created rather than learned.”

Despite the former Fox News host and others attempting to frame the interview with a despot as an “alternative” viewpoint, it amounts to nothing more than the co-creation of propaganda and the fostering of a space within American society for foreign influence. This tactic has been employed numerous times in history with almost every dictator, offering nothing novel or alternative.

The interview only served to expose the vulnerability of modern democratic societies to information warfare. It also highlighted the gaps in basic education and media literacy, recruiting intellectually dishonest individuals in academia, culture and politics who don’t leave a place for thought – only for cowardice.

From the Soviet Union to modern Russia

Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes place information as the highest priority compared with democratic nations. As inherently artificial structures, these governments rely on a constructed narrative to maintain their power. Having imperial ambitions, they incorporate this narrative not only domestically but also internationally to secure at least partial acceptance beyond its borders.

To make it possible, it’s not enough to simply distort news, as this tool is short-lived and easily exposed. Much harder to fight propaganda when it’s embedded into education, culture and history. When it operates on the subconscious level and is accepted as common knowledge, akin to basics like “Paris is the capital of France.”

Society that survives more than several generations of totalitarianism loses understanding of its own history and is deprived of free thinking. The Soviet Union, and its predecessor Muscovy, serve as prime examples of regimes that systematically obliterated truth and the means to discover it. These regimes not only executed intellectuals and suppressed various national and cultural identities within their controlled territories, but they also ensured that individuals could never truly discover their origins, identity and heritage.

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The Soviet Union’s intellectual suppression is relatively well-known, although considered generally through Russian prism where only Russians have ever suffered. Little attention is given to nations that have never asked to partake in any of it. Peoples who have been forcibly deported and whose identity has been erased.

The actions of modern Russia are even less acknowledged. After the fall of the seven-decade-long totalitarian rule imposed by Russia on others, its academics, cultural figures and scientists were widely accepted in democratic societies.

This acceptance might have been intended as a benevolent gesture to assist Russians in moving away from totalitarianism toward a brighter future, but it resulted in countless agents infiltrating the West and establishing the system that serves the Kremlin today.

By providing a platform to the oppressor, the international community inadvertently allowed it to represent the very people it had been oppressing for decades, if not centuries. Rarely did anyone question whether it was prudent to trust academics and cultural figures emerging from a system that not only birthed a totalitarian empire, tried to erase all preceding histories but also continued doing the same in the form of modern Russia.

Mistakenly, democratic societies perceived it as an emotional, even individual, matter – where there was no place for responsibility, only for redemption.

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Two years after Russia invaded Ukraine

In the mid-1990s, foreign politicians and celebrities flew to Moscow, bringing McDonald’s and Coca-Cola: Naomi Campbell, the Clintons, Arnold Schwarzenegger. World-famous people posed for photographs in front of the Kremlin while Russian forces, under orders from that very Kremlin, were slaughtering Chechens and transforming their cities and futures into rubble.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022, it’s no longer fashionable to take photos near the Kremlin, but the same weaknesses are there: Western intellectuals believe themselves to be superior to any type of propaganda while in reality they become its co-creators.

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And I’m not speaking about Tucker Carlson here, but about everyone who established understanding of Ukraine’s history through Russian prism, who ignored the truth and took what was fed to them by the biggest modern – yet absolutely barbaric – empire.

Anastasiia Marushevska, co-founder of the Ukrainian nonprofit PR Army of communication experts, is editor-in-chief at Ukraїner International and a lecturer at the Projector Institute.
Anastasiia Marushevska, co-founder of the Ukrainian nonprofit PR Army of communication experts, is editor-in-chief at Ukraїner International and a lecturer at the Projector Institute.

Carlson hasn’t just provided a stage for Putin with his interview. It was another reminder that propaganda is not a matter of someone’s preferences and personal perceptions, and it’s definitely not a matter that affects only the general public.

Rather, it is a critical issue of national security, impacting the ability of democratic societies to resist totalitarian foreign influences.

Democratic nations need to prioritize information warfare as a means to forge a safer and more secure future not for Ukraine, but also for themselves.

Anastasiia Marushevska, co-founder of the Ukrainian nonprofit PR Army of communication experts, is editor-in-chief at Ukraїner International and a lecturer at the Projector Institute.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Putin used Tucker Carlson for propaganda in Russia-Ukraine war