Fake U.S. biowarfare labs. Fake killer birds. Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump cameos. Ukrainian “Nazis” everywhere.
Russia’s domestic television propaganda machine has reached such an intensity amid President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine that a tiny – but previously unthinkable – crack in Moscow’s state news juggernaut broke open earlier this week with an on-air protest.
For three weeks, what are known as Russia’s “federal channels” – separate state-controlled news networks that offer different flavors of the same Kremlin-fawning fare – have been serving up Putin’s spin on a war that his government calls a “special military operation.”
It goes like this: It was a necessary measure to save the people of the Moscow-backed separatist regions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas and liberate the rest of the nation from illegitimate “Nazi” authorities armed by reckless Americans – and the Russian military is hitting only Ukrainian military targets while its opponents are killing civilians.
To watch is to gaze through the Kremlin’s looking glass. It’s also a lesson in why Putin feels confident that his domestic apparatus, armed with a combination of propaganda and repression, can withstand the blowback of a war that U.S. officials say already has left thousands of Russian soldiers dead since the invasion Feb. 24.