Why the West needs to fight back against Russian propaganda: Brian Lee Crowley commentary

Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Brian Lee CrowleyFor Russia, the propaganda war didn’t end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Canada needs to act to counter its campaign of disinformation – and soon

OTTAWA, Oct. 31, 2016 – MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley is sounding the alarm over the insidious threat pro-Russian propaganda poses to the West.

Crowley, in a new commentary, shows why it is in the interests of liberal-democratic states like Canada to counter Russian propaganda efforts.

When the Soviet Union fell, the West mistakenly believed the propaganda war was over. With recent events clearly showing that the Kremlin is back in the propaganda business, it’s time for the West to take up new weapons in the contemporary battle against Russian disinformation.

To read the full commentary, titled “Lessons From The Soviet Era: Why we must the Kremlin’s new propaganda war”, click here.

A lot is at stake.

Crowley writes that allowing one-sided propagandistic “news” from authoritarian states to take root and flourish unchallenged is dangerous to the interests of locals and the stability of borders, politics, and institutions in a critical and strategic part of Europe, as the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have strikingly demonstrated.

“The very hunger of the human mind makes it a battleground for people’s sympathy and loyalty”, writes Crowley. “Propaganda is the obeisance that demagogy and autocracy pay to the human desire to understand and to do the right thing”.

But just because the Russians have reverted to a Cold War-era propaganda war doesn’t mean the West can continue to rely on tools from previous centuries.

“The very hunger of the human mind makes it a battleground for people’s sympathy and loyalty” -Brian Lee Crowley

The changing economics of media should inform our reflections on how to counter Kremlin domination of Russian-language media in strategically important regions. It’s a world where state-financed media such as the BBC and CBC are having to compete with anyone with a YouTube account and an iPhone.

This commentary is based on remarks made Oct. 20, 2016 by Crowley in a panel discussion entitled “Shrinking Space for Civil Society? Importance of Media Pluralism for Democracy in Eastern Europe and the Middle East”.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute lent a hand organizing the event, the main organizers of which were the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre, the European Endowment for Democracy, and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ottawa.


Brian Lee Crowley is the Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For more information, please contact Mark Brownlee, communications manager, at 613-482-8327 x105 or email at mark.brownlee@mli.dev.pcomms.ca.