News & Information

Russian Propaganda, Penny Pledge, Assumptions

The Morning Show
  • Jan 8, 2015 2:00 pm
  • 1:39:59

PUTIN’S PROPAGANDA FACTORY  Flip on the cable news channel RT and you might think you’ve landed on the BBC or Al Jazeera. But Wall Street Journal media reporter and former Moscow correspondent Lukas Alpert says “from the beginning, RT has been sponsored, controlled and financed by the Russian government.”  Alpert’s new book, “Kremlin Speak: Inside Putin’s Propaganda Factory,” recounts the evolution of RT from its founding in 2008 to “counter people’s bad perception of Russia overseas.”  “There was always this foreign sense that Russia’s filled with gangsters and alcoholics, so in the early days, RT channel did documentaries on village life in Siberia and religious ceremony,” explains Alpert. “But RT wasn’t very popular, so over time, the channel morphed into an international broadcaster, 100 percent in English.”  It may look like BBC or Al Jazeera, but “look closely at the story choices and the tone of how the stories are presented, you’ll see it’s very in line with the statements coming out of Russia’s foreign ministry,” says Alpert. “The message from the Kremlin is being sent through this channel to foreign audiences.”  As RT has grown in strength and funding, Putin has cracked down on other media in Russia: “There are very few voices out there channeling anything that’s not the Kremlin line within the country,” says Alpert.  There’s a long history of state-sponsored media around the world. Alpert notes that China and Iran have gotten into English-language programming. The success of Al Jazeera (funded by the government of Qatar) “was probably the inspiration for RT in 2008.”  Alpert points to the way RT covered the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine: Very quickly, RT diverged from prevailing wisdom and reporting that the rebels had used Russian-made weapons to shoot down this plane. They danced around it, says Alpert.  Furthermore, Alpert says RT is prone to reporting on conspiracy theories. “As the channel grows more popular, they can really present some difficult – or problematic – theories,” says Alpert. “One they presented quite heavily, for example, is that 9/11 was an ‘inside job.’ That stirs up discontent in a potentially dangerous way, I think.”  RT attracted English-language reporters, initially, with a promise of “covering stories other media outlets are ignoring,” says Alpert. “It’s also turned out that RT is not covering stories that should be covered.” And there have been some high-profile “defections” by people who “get into this with good intentions and start to realize it’s not what they signed on for.”  Alpert writes in “Kremlin Speak” that for the most part, RT never outright lies. The trouble lies in what the station “leaves out.”   “People ought to know what they’re really watching” when they turn on RT, concludes Alpert.  QUINN MECHAM’S GLOBAL PREDICTIONS FOR 2015  BYU Political Science professor Quinn Mecham offers global news predictions for 2015.  1\. The Islamic State will remain powerful, albeit with degraded military ability. “There will be a lot of Western hand-wringing over why we are failing to resolve the situation,” says Mecham. “IS or IS imitators may try to launch more attacks on the West as retaliation for Western attempts to degrade it militarily.”  2\. Civil wars will continue to plague the world.  While the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars continue, Mecham predicts civil war will spread to Yemen, Libya, and parts of Africa (including the Sudan/Chad/CAR/Congo region, and also in parts of West Africa).  “This is due to reduced state capacity in these countries as well as the unwillingness or incapacity of international actors to intervene in meaningful ways,” says Mecham.  3\. Persistent low oil prices put political pressure on the leaders of Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Nigeria, and Mexico.  They respond to these pressures not by offering concessions, but by amplifying nationalist rhetoric and becoming more authoritarian, particularly in Russia and Venezuela.   4\. The Ebola outbreak will significantly decline, but not yet be fully eliminated.  Mecham predicts Ebola’s effects will largely remain confined to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  “As people start to recover from the emergency situation in these countries, the world will discover that the economies of these countries have been devastated, and that it will be many years before they can get back on their feet,” laments Mecham. “I hope there will be continued global support for aid packages to Ebola-ravaged countries, but I suspect it will be an unenthusiastic effort.”  5\. President Barack Obama will take advantage of his “lame duck” status in his final term with a Republican-controlled Congress to take some foreign policy gambles that may help to resolve some frozen conflicts.  Mecham says Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will normalize relations with Cuba is evidence of the kind of moves the President will make in 2015. As his second term winds down, the President can afford to take steps that might be unpopular domestically. “This is an area where he can leave a legacy,” says Mecham.  In 2015, Mecham expects a strong executive push for a deal with Iran on its nuclear program by June (despite some Congressional opposition). He also predicts a renewed push for an Israeli-Palestinian deal (contingent on a more receptive Israeli coalition emerging after the March elections), and an increasingly strong alliance with Eastern European states that fear Russian expansionism.    PENNY PLEDGE TURNS “LIKES” INTO MONEY  “Liking” something doesn’t mean much these days – at least in the digital world.  If you click “Like” on a friend’s Facebook or Instagram post, it could mean you really do like the content. Or it might mean that you like the person posting the content – or that you want that person to like you. Or you might just be out to get more likes for your own posts in quid pro quo fashion.  A couple of BYU student entrepreneurs David Hepworth and Chase Roberts have come up with a way to make your “Likes” count for cold, hard cash. “Penny Pledge” is the name of their program, which was recently named “Best Innovation” in a campus “Student Innovator” competition.  Penny Pledge users download a plug in for Google Chrome and add money to an account. Rather than just clicking “Like” on various YouTube videos or Pandora music or blog posts, click on the Penny Pledge button and a penny will be allocated from your account to that content creator. Penny Pledge will reach out to the content creators and let them know they have money waiting for them, explains Roberts.  Hepworth came up with the idea for Penny Pledge after first collaborating with Roberts on a popular app directing college students to free food on campus.  Penny Pledge had more altruistic motivations, says Hepworth. “I’ve always had the dream in my mind, what if everyone in the world gave me one penny – I would have more money than I’d ever need without affecting anyone else. What could good causes do with that kind of funding? I woke up the next morning and called Chase to start building the app.”  “Sometimes a ‘like’ just isn’t enough,” says Roberts, noting there have been times he’s “wanted to reach through the internet and hug someone” who answered a question for him. “Sometimes you really want to give back to someone and say, ‘Thanks.’”  Penny Pledge is in beta now at  ASSUMPTIONS ASSASINATE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION  Part of how we make sense of the world is through assumptions. They’re a kind of short-hand we use to guide our actions and our reactions in most every instance. They’re also probably at the root of the latest big dustup you had with a family member or co-worker.  Management consultant Dan Purkey calls assumptions “the silent assassins of effective communication.” He’s founder of the Open Door Group and author of “Uncommon Sense Management: Why 70% of Americans Hate Their Job and How to Fix it.”  Assumptions are also “necessary evils,” adds Purkey. Without making some baseline assumptions about the situation and other people, you’ll never get anywhere or get anything done. It’s important to learn to identify key assumptions in business communication - they often center on deadlines and expectations about how a task will be completed. Poor assumptions are a “fifty-fifty” problem, says Purkey.  If you don’t set a clear deadline, you’re at fault if your employee doesn’t complete the task on your time frame. The employee is at fault for not getting clarification on how and when you want the task completed.  Assumptions are not inherently bad or good. It’s the lack of awareness that causes problems, and “when the assumptions turn into actions, that’s when the problems start to occur,” says Purkey.  From the moment the boss walks into your cubicle, assumptions threaten to derail the conversation, says Purkey. She may be assuming that you have time to talk to her. You may assume that she understands that her interruption will delay the tasks you’re working on. Purkey suggests bosses start with the simple question, “Do you have a minute?” to eliminate that first assumption right off the bat.  “If you’re not clear with your boss about your priorities and tasks and just assume the boss understands, you’ve got a conflict in the making,” adds Purkey. “It’s important to put those assumptions out on the table.”  Purkey suggests stopping the conversation to paraphrase what you’ve heard. “It takes practice.”  MENDENHALL TO CALL COUGAR PLAYS IN 2015  BYU SportsNation co-hosts Spencer Linton and Jarom Jordan explain the significance of BYU Football coach Bronco Mendenhall’s decision to take back responsibility for calling plays during games in 2015.  THE FREEWAY REVIVAL ON HIGHWAY 89  North Carolina band The Freeway Revival performs “Highway Fever” live on BYU Radio’s music series Highway 89.