It is obvious that the current divide between Russia and the West is much wider, deeper and more resilient than it has ever been in the past – whether during the Cold War era or at any point in history before February 24, 2022. If earlier, its foundation determined the geopolitical confrontation and the ever-increasing value gap, now all this has been transformed into concrete actions. A direct military-political challenge to the West from Russia and the hard line of the West, openly and brazenly aimed at the military defeat of Russia, are backed up by almost total sanctions pressure, as well as a pronounced strategy to demonise the enemy. Remembering the old Marxist terms, one can ascertain that there has been a transition from quantitative changes to qualitative ones.
This value gap, amid a direct military-political confrontation, has quite naturally found its expression in information and media politics. Here we can talk about the final design of the so-called information bubbles with a unidirectional flow of information and a lack of the views and motives of the other side. This evolution of the information space, which began to take place in the global media in relation to the confrontation between Russia and the West in the previous period, has now reached its logical result in the conditions of a military conflict. The demonization of Russia has become a fait accompli.
We note that there is nothing fundamentally new in this approach, in itself, or unknown in theory. The task of demonizing the enemy in a military conflict is objectively important; it serves the key political goals of rallying the society in the face of hostilities and supporting the activities of the state in the conflict. There are many examples of this kind in the history of war and conflict. Moreover, they certainly predate the 20th century, with its specific features: total world wars and an all-pervasive media. In Russian military history, one can come across assertions that the first example of this kind of demonization of Russia during a war was the campaign in British newspapers during the Crimean War in 1853-1856.
Incidentally, that Crimean War in the middle of the XIX century in the context of large-scale industrialisation in Europe at that time, the development of new energy sources and the social modernisation associated with them, became a true milestone in the development of new forms of state influence on society in media politics during war. It was this war that left the first mass examples of fixing the symbolic victorious results of the war in the public mind.
To this day, in many cities in England, France and Northern Italy, one can find streets and squares named after Sevastopol, Balaklava, Alma and other battlefields of that war. From the metropolises, this campaign of victorious renaming was transferred to their colonies around the world (including Malakoff Street, named in honour of Malakhov Kurgan in Victoria in the Seychelles). Single examples of this kind could be found before, such as the Pont d'Austerlitz in Paris, named so by Napoleon in honour of his victory. But it was the Crimean War that first demonstrated the high-priority of the mobilisation of the public consciousness as a key factor in the "modernised" war, which we then observe in relation to very many, if not almost all military conflicts. And the most important element of this socio-psychological mobilisation was the demonization of the enemy.
Therefore, we repeat, there is nothing new in the media strategy of demonizing the enemy. But its distinctly new feature now, in our opinion, has become the total nature of demonization that we can observe in relation to Russia in global media and social networks, which is thereby fixed in public consciousness and public behaviour. The essence of this totality is that it is directed not only at the Russian state and Vladimir Putin personally, but at the entire Russian society as a whole.