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Pravda: inside the Soviet news machine.

Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine.

Angus Roxburgh. George Braziller, $19.95. In this scholarly study, Roxburgh puts aside Western rhetoric and portrays Pravda not as a masterful manipulator of information and disinformation, but as sometimes pathetic, and often comic.

The paper's problems start with its prose. The internal affairs and "Party Life' departments are so overwhelmingly dull only the active party members and, ironically, American Kremlinologists read them. Sure, plenty of American papers are dull and boring, but Pravda takes it one step further by combining its somnolent story topics with obsolete words and convoluted Russian grammar. A full 85 percent of its readership, according to a "secret survey,' doesn't understand Pravda at all.

What sections of Pravda do Russians like? Foreign news, even though it extensively borrows and twists clippings from Western newspapers, is the unqualified favorite. By filling the section with these clippings, Pravda tries to give its propaganda a "stamp of approval' from the western media. In 1983, for example, when the shooting down of KAL 007 elicited a virtually unified condemnation from the west, the Soviets managed to piece together enough selections of western coverage that they convincingly corroborated their version of the incident. Roxburgh, however, does not interpret the public's interest in the foreign news page as approval but as evidence of its thirst for information about the West.

After foreign news, readers most enjoy the crime reports. Written like two-minute mysteries, they detail the exploits of Soviet antiheroes who take on the system and, of course, lose. Even deadly serious punishments are treated lightly. One report explained that an offender was sentenced to time "in places with an unfavorable climate.'

Roxburgh does not, however, completely dismiss Pravda as harmless. Certain attitudes, such as anti-Israeli sentiment and distrust of the West, may have been built up by the newspaper. But the roots of these attitudes lie in long-standing Russian traditions and patriotism, which the propaganda merely reinforces.
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Author:Frankel, Jonathan
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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