I watched the opening pageant of the Sochi Winter Games -- and I was mesmerized. Of course it was all propaganda on an enormous scale, but wow, what a show. Breathtaking.
What was so interesting to me about it, at least in the abstract, was that it had been preceded by days, perhaps weeks, of negative news coverage of Russia, Sochi, and Putin, just on and on and on about how dismal and threatening and incomplete the situation was, over and over and over and over. Everything negative possible about Russia, Putin, and Sochi was highlighted in the American media on a pretty much continuous loop, in every imaginable outlet.
The underlying theme was "Terra! Terra! Terra!" -- because, after all, Sochi is in that strange borderland on the Black Sea where Russian Terra!™ lives. You know? Like the Boston Marathon Thing? The point of all the propaganda -- apart from ritualistic denunciations of the Enemy (which Russia is, according to many pundits who apparently never heard about the collapse and disappearance of the Soviet Union) -- was to make Americans disgusted and afraid of the Games' host country, terrified in fact, that something AWFUL would happen to our valiant athletes in such a dismal, horrifying, disgusting place.
And so the Russians put on this opening pageant, and it was stunning, absolutely astonishing -- and it was surprisingly informative and entertaining as well. It's propaganda, of course, as the Olympics are and have been for most of their history. But even propaganda can hold one's attention or be extravagantly artistic, even gorgeous. Much of Soviet propaganda strikes me that way. So it's no surprise that the successors to the Soviets can do it, too. American propaganda, by contrast, tends to be overtly false, when it is not ugly and pessimistic. The contrast is striking.
Well, now the propaganda narrative about Russia, Putin, and Sochi has apparently changed. The opening pageant was so impressive, it seems, that the current narrative is focused on Russian art and culture, achievement, can-do attitude, etc. Almost like Russia and the US are siblings of different mothers, unified in many more ways than we ever knew, yadda yadda yadda, and Putin ("for all his faults") is the one who made it so. He is being fluffed far more than denounced, for having masterminded such an "incredible show." Indeed. Sochi's incomplete and inefficient aspects haven't been forgotten, to be sure, but they are quickly fading from the narrative, and all the neat things about the venues and the city are being highlighted and promoted.
It's quite a turn about.
But these whip-saw changes in narratives and attitudes are part of the practice of propaganda.
It's something to be aware of, but knowing about it doesn't actually do you any good!