Poland Coordinates Protests in Minsk. Why Russia Needs Runet as an Information Shield

Video by REDUX, it was then posted by Bornaya Solyanka, a successor channel to PolitRussia which has been deleted from YouTube since shortly before August 20th.

Poland Coordinates Protests in Minsk. Why Russia Needs Runet as an Information Shield

Translated by Sasha and captioned by Leonya.

The events in Belorussia bring on more than thoughts about the brotherly country’s internal and external political problems. The shutting down of the Internet over there and the phenomenon of the Telegram channel ‘Nexta’ (Belorussian word for ‘Someone’) make worth an examination of the informational aspect of such a thing as a street protest, particularly in view of the fact that in the era of Internet it is the information which brings people into the streets.

The rally and street protest as a sable form of the public city protest ritual have been considerably transformed under influence of the Internet and social networks. The methods for political mobilization and protest preparation have also changed with the appearance of the so-called new media. The key issue of these methods is naturally the conversion rate, the transformation of a social network reader and user into an active participant of a protest action in the street. The crux is that users can express their discontent at will and on mass in the social networks. But this does not result in people coming out into the streets. The thing is that joining the protests is practically always an emotionally rather than rationally validated action for an ordinary participant. Initially, according to sociologists, the propaganda is always directed to the young generation. The organizers play on the youths’ need to raise the self evaluation and to experience new emotions.

“The youth in any society is the most protest prone electorate,” explains sociologist, the director of the Enterprise group of the Sociology Institute, Maria Fil. “A generational conflict takes place here because the authorities are associated with a certain domineering of the older generation who allegedly are imposing their rules of play, the order of behaviour. In a wider sense it is the fathers and sons problem. The young want to announce themselves, want to have more opportunities and it seems to them that those opportunities are not as freely available as they would be, should the authorities be replaced. The opposition leaders arm themselves with an image of a modern advanced person.” Additionally it is important to evoke within a protester strong negative emotions. So the principal supporting factor for people’s emotions that make them come out in the streets can be the visuals of dispersing of rallies, when the security forces pound the protestors. After all it is a strong source for outrage. And the more such videos appear, the stronger probabilityfor those people appearing in the square who previously were not sure they needed to act. The advantage that the protest organizers have against their opponents, the authorities, is obvious: in most cases it is impossible to determine whether the attacked were the genuine protesters as opposed to those who attacked the police themselves. Of course you can spend a few hours in order to find out these nuances. But this has no bearing whatsoever on the target audience. So all that is left in the viewer’s mind is the violence of the law enforcement against the civilians.

After the first dispersals and arrests dozens of videos will appear on the Internet, which will trigger the chain reaction. The entire anger stowed withing the society will blaze up from one match strike, whose role will be performed by the right photos and videos. In these conditions the decision to block the Internet does not appear to be so stupid. It becomes rather logical. This way the authorities can kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, the interaction on the Internet has a direct influence on the formulating the rules for behaviour during the protest and at the point of detention. The protests are prepared on the Internet, there the problem is discussed, supporters are recruited. And next, when the protest moves into the street, the crowd’s movements are coordinated through the Internet. This means the demonstrators must be deprived of this possibility to coordinate their actions. But, as I said earlier, it is even more important for the authorities to deprive the protest of the new energy, which can be created by the same videos of protest dispersals and beatings. In this light, the situation in which Belorussia found itself is very interesting, when the country blocked everything it could, even to the detriment of its own economy, but was unable to block the Telegram with Nexta within it. The Belorussian authorities faced a completely new problem here, for whose solution they did not prepare in advance. Possibly they did not even suspect its existence. This problem can be briefly described as a punctured informational shield. In other words, to attempt blocking the social networks and fail at it is more effective than not trying to turn off anything.

According to the preliminary assessments the modest republic’s economy was losing up to $56 million a day. But this is not as bad as the informational vacuum which the authorities created with their own hands and which was filled by the oppositional channel ‘Nexta’, whose creators, the way, live in Poland by the way, and which gained almost 2 million subscribers in a couple of days, having become, in fact, the principle coordinator of the protests and the largest Russian language political Telegram channel. Compare: the popular and quite reputable channel “Nezygar’” has merely 348 thousand subscribers, which used to seem a huge number. Aleksei Navalny has only 176 thousand subscribers to his Telegram channel. I will not analyze the ‘Nexta’ channel in the context of Belorussian protests. I am more interested in something different. Everything points at the fact that a new anti-Russian media giant appeared under our noses, which, in addition to everything else, is practically out of range for the Russian law enforcement system. There should be no doubt in the Russophobic nature of the newly born Russian-language Polish media source. The channel simply gleams with outward Russophobia and a few times it transmitted fakes, one of which was the post about the ‘Russian spetsnaz’ beating up ordinary Belorussians. Have a look.

Besides this channel’s posts are soaked with calls for radicalization of the protest. Interesting are the personalities who created the channel. For instance the chief editor of ‘Nexta’ is Roman Protasevich, who used to work for the American ‘Radio Freedom’ and for the Lithuanian-Polish ‘Euro Radio’. The problem is that if some protests start in the territory of the Russian Federation, that channel will be able to easily tell the protesters what and how they should do all the way from Poland. And if the comrades from ‘Nexta’ calls for throwing Molotov cocktails into the law enforcement forces or shoot at them with fireworks, ‘Nexta’ could not be held into account. They are in Poland. Out of reach. In this hypothetical situation ‘Nexta’, calling for the protest radicalization, will not be acting in the people’s interest. Because this would cause casualties among both the law enforcement forces and among the protesters, and would bring to naught any possible concessions on behalf of the authorities, which would be quite possible in the case of a peaceful protest. As is the case in Khabarovsk, where there have been no dispersals of rallies, nor forceful detentions, nor beatings of citizens. On the contrary, the clerk in the rank of Prime Minister visited the region for the first time in thirteen years. Prior to Mishustin, it was Fratkov who visited the region in the remote year of 2007. All that time the leaders of the country demonstrated their attention to the region’s problems only from a distance. This illustrates perfectly the role of peaceful protests in Khabarovsk in the transformation of the Center’s attitude towards the entire Far East.

Russia should be thinking today how it should behave when the described above situation appears here. Because pinpoint strikes against particular agitators inside the country would be useless. Because the entire coordination of actions and the feeding the ever renewed videos and photos of beaten up teenagers to the undecided will be directed from abroad. Yes, Russia can repeat the mistake of Belorussian authorities and try to cover herself with a punctured informational shield. But here, it seems to me, the real help to Russia could be rendered by the sovereign Runet, of which there was so much talk some time ago. For instance, the Telegram channel ‘On Duty in Iran’ draws the example of the last year’s protests in Iran. This is what it says: “The Belorussian protests reminded me of the demonstrations in Iran back in November which was lucky to witness… the Iranian way of neutralizing the protest threat looks a lot more successful (than the Belorussian one). They didn’t just turn off the Internet within 24 hours, but launched the ‘national internet’, which meant that a widen local service remained: the state media sites continued working, so did banking systems, food deliveries and taxis, ticket sales – practically everything in the .Irzone, but no social networks, no messengers, youtubes or even email. The ‘national internet’ was prepared for almost two years but the result turned out impressive: it was practically impossible to bypass the blocking, while the basic infrastructure kept working. It is an extremely effective short term measure.”

This way, in case of events developing according to earlier described scenario, the sovereign Runet would help to prevent bloodshed and keep the protest within the peaceful framework, without causing damage to the country’s economy. Yes, technical questions arise as well as the danger of misuse of the instrument by the authorities. However the Kremlin and Russian society still have enough time to reach a compromise, having created a powerful shield against the external resources like ‘Nexta’, which, besides its role described above, could be used first and foremost for protection of important infrastructure of the country from cyber attacks during the cyber war, which I covered in my previous video. This is all for today. Write your comments, rate this video, subscribe to the channel and to my group in VKontakte (the link is in the description to this video), and see you soon.

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