Reflections on Berlin Revisited by Daniel Naftel
Have you wondered who decides what makes it into the newspaper? Who influences the news within a country? How is it influenced from outside of a country? Daniel Naftel’s honors thesis investigated whether public statements by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev influenced how the Berlin Crisis of 1958-1961 was covered in the United States media. Daniel reflects here about the current media and political landscape in light of his thesis research.
Russia has been in the news a lot lately, with worrying reports suggesting Putin has been “weaponizing misinformation” in a coordinated effort to destabilize the West. While this might conjure specters of the Cold War, forces of technology and the rise of the populist far right in Europe and the United States make this a very different world from the one that faced world leaders, and the press, in the late 1950s.
My research was based on the assumption that Soviet leaders would have an interest in drawing attention to issues sensitive to their American rivals; however, they were ultimately limited by the fact that the American press only listened to them in times of crisis. Even now, mainstream news articles almost always feature Western experts talking about Russia, not from the Russians themselves. This makes it exceedingly difficult for a foreign power to influence domestic media narratives.
Yet the game seems to have changed. Fake news and misinformation are rampant on social media, playing on hyper-partisan divides and heavily influencing Americans’ view of reality. Through the use of hacking and the spread of fake news, Putin doesn’t even have to open his mouth to propagandize. Whether you think our current President is a vile demagogue or a conservative savior, this should concern you.
Read Daniel’s honors thesis in the 2016 Honors Journal, where the thesis was published http://www.colorado.edu/honorsjournal/archives/2016/social-science-2016#berlin
Or, read it in the online honors thesis repository on CU Scholar http://scholar.colorado.edu/honr_theses/1009/