The debate over the debate about Ketchum‘s placement of an aggressive Vladimir Putin New York Times op-ed continues this week, but there’s another side of the Putin’s PR offensive that we hadn’t heard of: it’s called Russia Beyond the Headlines, and it’s an English language propaganda rag that regular appears as a paid advertorial section inside American newspapers like the NYT and the Washington Post. Here’s what chess champion and democracy activist Gary Kasparov had to say about the latest edition:
Wow, “Pravda on the Hudson” is no longer a joke. 8-pages of paid Putin propaganda in today’s issue of the NY Times. pic.twitter.com/y16MKVjnqa
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) September 18, 2013
He’s not big on subtlety, and neither is Beyond the Headlines. It’s a branch of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia’s official state publication, and it brings a mix of politics, op-eds and cultural reporting—all with a heavy pro-Putin slant—to foreign newspapers around the world under the tagline “Our News. Your Language.”
Here are our favorite recent headlines at a glance:
- “Why the Putin’s Divorce Is Worth Quietly Cheering For“: because it has “humanized” the prez, who “loves his dogs”. “He has a lot of work to get lost in, now that his marriage is officially over and there is no point in pretending.” OK!
- “Russia Could Rebuild Tebow’s Career, Suitor Claims“: because amateur American-style football leagues are a thing and “a lot of U.S. football fans” would love to watch “Tim Tebow tearing up Moscow”…for a team called The Black Storm.
- “World of Fashion Welcomes the Return of Russian Style“: because “Women…always want to remain women, and that means Russian style will always be in fashion”. And that makes…no sense at all.
- “Making Moscow a City for Runners, One Step At a Time“: because the runner interviewed refused to give his last name, saying that “last names are not for the running life, running is still a territory of freedom”. Oh, you mean like carrying guns into Starbucks?
This isn’t your grandpa’s propaganda: most of what we’ve seen borders very lightly on snark. In fact, based on the Facebook comments on these stories, we’d say some Russians don’t think it goes far enough in glorifying Putin and his Federation.
We question the effectiveness of such publications given the fact that most Americans don’t read a physical newspaper and that even those geezers immediately discard the promotional sections. But it’s certainly an interesting glimpse into political PR from halfway around the world.