A true propagandist knows how to create and nurture an enemy. So long as Russia will not bend the knee to the U.S. Empire, it will find itself demonized in all forms of media.
by Joseph Waters
How do we achieve victory? How do we convince the masses, those billions of people? How do we open their eyes and make them see that the Western regime is dishonest, toxic, poisonous and destructive? Most of humanity is hooked on the Empire’s propaganda; that propaganda which is not only spread by mainstream media outlets, but also by pop music, soap operas, social media, advertisement, consumerism, ‘fashion trends’ and by many other covert means; cultural, religious and media junk that leads to total emotional and intellectual stupor and is administered like some highly addictive narcotic, regularly and persistently.
– Andre Vltchek (“How to Fight Western Propaganda“)
Not to worry, I think I have the answer to Mr. Vltchek’s question, or at least part of it. What we have to do is expose the ways and means in which the Empire brainwashes the young and continues to manipulate their thoughts, feelings, emotions and opinions long into adulthood. A big part of the problem is that people don’t recognize propaganda for what it is; the best propaganda is of course that which is not recognized as such.
A fundamental component of American propaganda is creating and maintaining an enemy. The enemy must be clearly differentiated as an outsider or an “other.” Differences such as race, religion, customs, etc., should be emphasized. One such group of people that has incurred the wrath of the U.S. ruling class like no other is Russians – first because the Soviet Union led the world socialist movement which threatened the capitalist system, and now because of the Russian Federation’s resistance to U.S. dominance. What gall!
Americans have been conditioned to fear, despise and condescend all things foreign, but nothing so much as Russia and Russians. This has been achieved, and is maintained, in a number of ways. For instance, one simple way to evoke a sense of the exotic or foreign when it comes to Russians is to slip in some Cyrillic alphabet into the titles of movies, novels or other propaganda works. This is done a lot. Furthermore, Russians are perpetually portrayed as being excessively stoic, sinister, duplicitous, oafish and even as cold-blooded monsters.
Remember Ivan Drago from Rocky IV? “I must break you.” That was the 80’s, but movies released just in the past couple of years continue to feature scary Russian mobsters, oligarchs and politicians – such roles not being mutually exclusive. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 there is a maniac stealing an armored car in the opening sequence of the film. He has a barbed wire tattoo on his forehead and it took me a while to realize he was Russian because all he did for five minutes was snarl and roar unintelligibly. Spider-Man finally corners him in an alley, disarming and subduing him and using his web-slinger to pull down his pants revealing polka-dot boxers; for a brief moment you can see a hammer and sickle tattoo on his leg. Nice touch. “This not end, spider!” the Russian thug shouts just before being knocked unconscious in a humorous way.
In The Equalizer with Denzel Washington you have more heavily tattooed and evil Russian mafiosi. By the way, what’s with all the facial tattoos?
Even a couple of journalists from the NYT and The Guardian, while making clear in their respective articles that they are no friends of Russia, could not help but find the ubiquitous Russian villain to be nauseatingly cliche.
From The Guardian:
The way Hollywood sees the world today, nothing could possibly be scarier than crossing swords with the Russians. On film, Russians [sic] gangsters will stop at nothing. They will kill your family, they will kill your girlfriend, they will kill their own employees, they will kill high-ranking members of the New York Police Department and, if you get them mad enough, they will kill your dog.
And this from the NYT:
Screenwriters even managed to vilify Russia in “Gravity,” a movie that features only three on-screen actors and takes place almost entirely in orbit. The space debris that imperils the American astronauts was caused by a Russian missile.
However, according to these journalists, Hollywood is simply catering to consumer demand. This is of course ridiculous. Assuming they believe what they are saying, these guys expect us to consider the pervasiveness of Russian villains, their hideous tattoos, ridiculously exaggerated accents, and screaming, slobbering and murderous ways as merely a coincidence. They are coincidence theorists.
I won’t claim that I conducted a completely thorough and exhaustive study, but I very quickly and easily came up with this list of over two dozen films, television (and one video game) where Russians are depicted in a negative light. On the other hand, I had to search far and wide to come up with two Hollywood movies where Russians are portrayed, if not as heroes, then at least with some positive characteristics or a nuanced view. Those films are Eastern Promises and Predators (2010). And now, a short list of media works featuring those nefarious Russians:
Russian Villains in Entertainment Media
A Good Day to Die Hard
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy
Iron Man 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (video game)
Red Dawn (1984)
Air Force One (with Gary Oldman)
Child 44 (with Gary Oldman . . . again)
James Bond movies (going well into the 90’s)
The November Man
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
A version of this article originally appeared on Russia Insider.