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This book defines Russophobia as the irrational fear of Russia, a key theme in the study of propaganda in the West as Russia has throughout history been assigned a diametrically opposite identity as the “Other.” Propaganda is the science of convincing an audience without appealing to reason. The West and Russia have been juxtaposed as Western versus Eastern, European versus Asiatic, civilized versus barbaric, modern versus backward, liberal versus autocratic, and even good versus evil.
During the Cold War, ideological dividing lines fell naturally by casting the debate as capitalism versus communism, democracy versus totalitarianism, and Christianity versus atheism. After the Cold War, anti-Russian propaganda aims to filter all political questions through the simplistic binary stereotype of democracy versus authoritarianism, which provides little if any heuristic value to understand the complexities of relations.
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A key feature of propaganda against the inferior “Other” is both contemptuous derision and panic-stricken fear of the threat to civilization. Russia has therefore throughout history been allowed to play one of two roles—either an apprentice of Western civilization by accepting the subordinate role as the student and political object, or a threat that must be contained or defeated. While propaganda has the positive effect of promoting unity and mobilizing resources toward rational and strategic objectives, it can also have the negative effect of creating irrational decision-making and obstructing a workable peace