Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The anti-"SoftPower Inc."

Did you know there is a social network and youth-driven uprising going on in Belarus? Most probably, not... many might not even consider it "news" anymore. And yet, things have gone from bad to worse most recently, again.

Fed up with the political and economic situation in their country and inspired by the Arab Spring, many young Belarusians have been organizing online and taking to the streets (yet again) in non-violent protests against Lukashenka's government. The center point? Twitter [@internetREVOLT] and VKontatke, the Russian equivalent of Facebook [Revolution Through Social Networks --> Movement of the Future].

Activists claim that hundreds have been detained throughout Belarus within the past couple of weeks only. While Bat'ko, the Father of all Belarusians, has lashed out against the protesters during the military parade marking the 20th Anniversary of Independence. He blamed external forces for meddling in his country and reiterated that he will not bow down to (the unknown) "them". Here's a quote:

"(Somebody) is trying to copy a 'coloured revolution' scenario here," he said, referring to protest movements in ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine in 2003-2004. 
We understand that the goal of these attacks is to impose uncertainty and turbulence, to destroy public consent and in the end to put us on our knees and to bring all the achievements of our independence down to zero. This is not going to happen."

It's more than just obvious who the Great Leader was referring to, but for those needing further clarification, there is this video:

Thanks to Vilhelm Konnander for sharing. [P.S. - Do pay attention to the green screen in the very beginning. Quite amusing...!]

Too bad it's not available in English. But I guess the video sort of speaks for itself. In short, it ridicules the online activists, referring to America's "Soft Power Inc." as the perpetrator and the official sponsor of chaos. It labels online activism as "the best job for an idiot" (paid for by the U.S. State Department), while suggesting that the followers/participants are all "hamsters" in a mob. Most importantly, the video makes it clear that the movement is closely monitored and that the names and photos of the activists are all taken note of.

A bad piece of Lukashenka propaganda: badly put together, blunt and old (rather, antiquated) style, despite the new packaging. Most of all, it's a great example of counter- (what the U.S. would call) "American public diplomacy through democracy promotion". This masterpiece would probably work great with those who already follow and trust Belarus' official media, obviously the primary target of this YouTube "campaign".

And this is how Belarus fights the information war.

As for the "2012" movie reference, seems like it's a popular trend in the former Soviet area. Remember this?


UPDATE [July 6, 2011]: Here's a great post regarding these events and the related online activity on Global Voices Online. This is certainly not over.


  1. Here's a good one I heard recently: After all these revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, why was there never one in the US? Because there is no American embassy in Washington!

  2. looool :)) and still, just like with any "revolution" --> Be careful what you wish for.

    i dread the idea of a "revolution" in America. a Tea Party victory would not only be a tragedy for the U.S., but consequently, for the entire world...

  3. Thanks for an interesting example of the Lukashenka's PD.
    Actually, it is counter-propaganda and I think such efforts are quite legitimate given the propaganda war waged against their country.
    I am not surprised it is in Russian, not in English. It is meant for domestic consumption. With most media presenting usually a one-sided picture to the Western (and not only Western) public, the powers that be in Belarus are aware they cannot do much about it. Their focus is to get their message to their people. The piece will probably be dismissed and ridiculed in social media worldwide as propaganda. I would suggest, though, that some thought be given to some explicit and implicit ideas in that piece.
    There is a huge (and growing) gap between democracy in theory and democracy in practice. There are far too many assumptions that are taken for granted and, even when questioned, are ignored or dismissed.
    Also, many terms (including "democracy," "revolution," "human rights," etc.) are used veeeeeeeeery loosely and twisted one way or another to suit the particular needs.
    Any knowledgeable person would find the statement that what happened in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan was “revolution” laughable and pathetic. Based on mass discontent and protests, those were (at best) “palace revolutions,” with various cliques within the (mostly) ruling elites vying for political power because that is the only way to secure economic power, control over resources, etc. None of those events were legitimate. Small wonder, there was some nervousness in some capitals “friendly” to new regimes and much pressure was brought to bear to secure legitimacy as soon as possible.
    I think now, in retrospect, the picture is quite clear.
    (To be continued)

  4. There is no denying that a lot of financial, material, logistical and (as contended in some studies, even) intelligence support was provided by foreign organizations (clearly, with their governments’ blessing or instructions) to "revolutionaries". There is a country in Eastern Europe (I think we all know the name of that country), the territory of which was used as a base for operations to support the “orange” revolution and now the pro-democracy movement in Belarus…
    If you call it democracy and respect for international law (the principle of non-interference), I would find that a non-orthodox interpretation…
    That is, in my view, the main reason why ruling regimes in the post-Soviet countries are so afraid of “colored” revolutions, i.e. they are confident they can handle internal unrest but are concerned that the powerful foreign players behind the scenes can get involved.
    Thus, the message of the video clip producers is clear: Do not be fooled and do not become (in their terminology a “hamster”) because you may end up becoming cannon fodder…
    I am not a Lukashenka's sympathizer. I agree that autocratic regimes are very annoying, at best. I think democracy is (or would be) a preferred option for most people.
    However, a very selective approach and stance of leaders in representative democracies undermines pro-democracy rhetoric. The events in the Middle East have provided great illustrations for this point.
    There is not a single democracy in the CIS region. Lukashenka’s regime, while autocratic, is by far among the mildest. Other regimes are not subjected to such scathing criticisms and even boycott. A good question: Why would Western “democracies” pick on him? Peaceful demonstrations in “democratic” Georgia were more than once brutally dispersed, activists beaten up and even tortured and framed up, etc. Any serious protests from beacons of democracy? Well, probably, Kazakhstan is a model of true democracy? At least, former VP of one country publicly declared Kazakhstan (almost) a paragon of democracy after bitterly (and justly so) criticizing Russia…
    I find this new “version” of “democracy in action”, which entails a lot of double standards, doublethink, narrow-mindedness, etc., quite disheartening. It seems like Robert Kaplan’s predictions about demise of democracy may prove prophetic…
    If cynicism and “pragmatism” are OK, if we are comfortable with dictators and autocrats who are far more brutal and avaricious than Lukashenka, why so much fuss about the latter? Is it selective perception, regional preferences or merely geostrategic and other materialistic interests?
    I think all people, not only in Belarus, deserve and have the right to elect their leaders and (no less important!) hold those leaders accountable.
    P.S. I have no nostalgia for the “Communist” times and I am not a socialist. Actually, a couple of days ago I was fiercely attacked (fortunately for me, only verbally) at a public forum by a Socialist for defending liberal, capitalist democracy…

  5. Oh wow. Quite an interesting point here, which I cannot but agree with. Selective attention and interpretation of events and interests never ceases to amaze me. And you are right, it's not just in the former Soviet/Eastern Bloc area.

    As I was watching the so-called Arab Spring unfold, I kept wondering why were all the parallels and comparisons made with 1989 and 1991, and not 2003, 2004 or 2005. Although the ones in North Africa became known as "Jasmine Revolutions" (for some reason), none of them claimed any "color affiliation" with the more recent events in the former Soviet area. I am sure it wasn't just a coincidence -- after all, it's all too obvious that the latter didn't bring any substantial change (if any) for their people. I don't really think anyone doubts that.

    As for double standards and geopolitical calculations - I think that's inevitable and quite apparent, too. To bring the most recent example: the U.S. AND French Ambassador's were out there in the streets, with the protesters, in Hama, Syria (out of all places) just yesterday, while there were almost no explicit statements made about the events in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, for instance. But then, this selectivity does not just apply to the U.S. (or the "West"). The very same is true of Russia and (more recently) China.

    Large countries have interests all over the place and they follow these interests however and whenever possible. What we are witnessing is their failure to cover it all up in the age of real-time media, where double-standards (or double-think) becomes all too apparent.

  6. P.S. - And yet, although one should be careful what they wish for - as with any revolution - I do think that people in Belarus, just as anywhere else in the CIS region or the Arab world or beyond, deserve to live in a country where they established the political system and representatives THEMSELVES. Debate and argument is good - it's only healthy - but as long as there is civil participation. Otherwise, it becomes a coup d'etat, just as you said, and people keep suffering. A lot depends on the circumstances and the environment, though, and THAT can be decisive...