Lithuanian schools need media literacy as a subject states Vilnius University Communications faculty dean Professor Andrius Vaišnys.
Russian TV
© RIA/Scanpix

“We need an independently thinking individual from a young age, who […] even if they receive certain Russian information, would be capable of discerning that it is propaganda,” states A. Vaišnys.

In an interview for the show Savaitė (LRT TV) he also said that propaganda is a part of Russian politics, while its source is President Vladimir Putin and his administration.

- At a Vilnius bookstore, board games with soviet soldiers and “green men” are being sold, also in the capital there are pamphlets being distributed which urge to move to Kaliningrad, where everything is cheaper, while presenting the links of all the sites related to Russian propaganda. Thus we are talking about an information war and Russian propaganda. And most importantly I would like to ask to discuss something new I discovered. It is the concept of “violent information”, propaganda being identified as such. We know of physical and psychological violence and now even information can be violence. What makes you say so?

Violent information is information of an aggressive kind, when you must strictly distinguish manipulated fact and what impacts you psychologically. In reality it does not give a certain choice and limits certain individual freedoms, regardless of what the consumer of the information may say – but I am free in a free country, however you receive one-sided information all the time. Then information which limits capacities to delve into certain content is directed toward nations and societies. And it impacts you.

- Can we say that Lithuania, or more likely all the Baltic States, are an exclusive territory in the whole Russian propaganda web?

Yes. At least to us it is clear that there are two audiences in regard to Russian propaganda – that of the Baltics, including Lithuania, and that of Western Europe, the Western audience.

- Could we say that Russian propaganda is directly linked with its geopolitical actions?

Indeed. We have concluded that Russian information policy, propaganda policy is a part of Russian politics, a kind of Russian politics. The source is the Russian president, his administration because as soon as he became acting president, immediately a national security guideline document appeared where the West were accused (perhaps we were insufficiently attentive toward the document then) of the things that Russia has enacted toward the West for the past 15-16 years.

- The primary source is the president and his administration, but you have mentioned that it happens that people do not understand that they are faced with propaganda. I am speaking of “exclusive propaganda”. Films, concerts – perhaps that is what we should talk about. How impactful and aggressive is it?

These are matters of soft power. In fact it is difficult to talk of aggression in this regard. The term “soft power” itself would seem to preclude noticing the aggression. Here we can recall the aforementioned case of the bookstore.

Another political factor is an important sign that Russia has already established a celebration in November which is linked to the 1612 war with Lithuania and Poland as a national holiday. This is a clear political sign. It is the so called social unity day and non-aggressive films are being made – masterful historical movies, where the public is reminded of the day. But in those creations Lithuania and Poland are the enemies that were chased away.

I believe that the impact of soft power is measured not just in those concerts that are organised as if intentionally during Lithuanian state national holidays on February 16 and March 11, seemingly erasing boundaries and declaring that culture and politics have nothing in common. They have everything in common. And I believe that the core thing to our audiences is to nurture very critical individuals. They can view everything, but have to be prepared for independent interpretation. That is a challenge.

- That is media literacy, correct?

Yes. Media literacy programmes are fragmented in Lithuania. They exist as certain projects existing as projects implemented by various organisations in some schools. We need media literacy as a separate subject, we need individuals capable of independent thought from a young age, those who would integrally feel European and could, if they did face Russian information, discern that it is propaganda.

- This should be done in schools?

Yes, already at the school.

- I have also found a proposal of yours to establish a new institution – an Information Policy Council. There seem to already be separate institutions in Lithuania which monitor our information environment, see and recognise Russian propaganda and its threats, but as I understand there is no common state stance, is that why the council is needed?

Yes. We see a clear gap – there is a lack of inter-institutional coordination. The government should make this decision based on common sense and currently available resources. In no way should this be viewed as structures intended for counter-propaganda. That would be ineffective.

It has long been proven that counter-propaganda means during peace are not only ineffective, but also harmful. This would be a mistake. And it is already discernible, what Russian propaganda is, reactions occur, but we have to keep in mind that we react when states and politicians with experience react – be it Georgians, be it Poles or Lithuanians. They are forcing Europe to wake up.

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