Several years ago, I took part in a lecture by a Polish sociolinguistics professor. He was talking about the age-old strategy of divide and rule. The phrases and labels that were used to divide society were a vital part of the “divide and rule” strategy used by the communists in Poland.

I raised my hand and asked, ‘’Who comes up with these phrases and labels?’’

The professor smiled and said, ‘’Good question. Maybe the secret police.’’

That wasn’t enough for me. As a linguist, I am fascinated by language. The words we use tell a story about us. What matters to us. Who and what influences us. There are smart (yes, they are smart, underestimate them at your own peril!) people in every regime that are tasked with shaping the minds of the population. Russian propagandists keep calling Ukrainians Nazis because they want to hypnotize not so much their own population, but that of the West. They are using Goebbelsian tactics while claiming to be anti-Nazis.

Propagandists work for the regime. Let’s start off by looking at how regimes work.

Regimes – different dictators, same playbook

French philosopher Voltaire said that those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. In Russia’s case, Aleksandr Dugin comes to mind. Luckily, Dugin’s esoteric end-times word salad, disguised as philosophy, has little influence on the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin barely knows his name.

So how can you make a population believe absurdities, which ― in time ― will lead to atrocities?

You need to control the language by ensuring the population is indoctrinated into your way of thinking. You need to form a narrative by weaponizing the language. No government system is more skilled at weaponizing language than a psychopathic regime. In every regime control structure, there are four layers of linguistic and perceptual brainwashing.

  1. The domestic layer ― the isolated population is subjected to a barrage of words, phrases, slogans, rituals and chants. The regime wants each sentence to evoke a set of specific emotions and images in the population. Clearly, the ever-present letter ‘’Z’’ serves that purpose in Russia. Zelensky? Zapad? Zombies? Who knows what’s lurking in Russian minds…
  2. The elite layer ― the elites are in charge of forming the narrative, which often involves a cult of superhuman personality. The elites ensure there is only one acceptable narrative in a country they control. No regime can survive without an imposed narrative uniting the military, the economy, intelligence networks, science, and whatever else is critical to a regime’s survival, under a single rule.
  3. The international layer ― as the regime elite interacts with the outside world, they will denounce any initiative exposing human rights abuses in their country as enemy propaganda (globalism, Nazi, take your pick). The elite will always deflect accusations leveled against them. The way the elite communicate with the outside world is dramatically different from the domestic dialogue. In fact ― as a result of brainwashing ― the domestic population can’t conceptualize alternatives to the official narrative. Drive outside Moscow to the dystopian Russian countryside if you want to see an example of this.
  4. The charm offensive layer ― a pretty face is an extremely effective propaganda tool. Daria Platonova and other Russian female propagandists are there to charm Western audiences. Westerners with good cognitive function are not, of course, the target. The propagandists know that smart Westerners have incisive intellects that cut through the nonsense with merciless precision.

Profiling the Russian propagandist Dugina

Let’s go back to Daria Dugina, aka Platonova. Even the name, Platonova, screams of pomposity. I doubt Plato would have been pleased with a Russian brainwasher using his name.

So, did Dugina believe her own lies? Here’s how I see it.

  1. Dugina was a total believer. Just like jihadis, she was brainwashed from birth. Her mind was gone. She was her father’s puppet, his “daddy’s girl”, who would have done anything to please him. She had no mind of her own, her thinking was a reflection of her father’s thinking. For all intents and purposes, she was there to gain more followers for Aleksandr Dugin. His love for her was conditional and she knew it. She was damaged beyond repair.
  2. Platonova knew full well she was selling propaganda. She loved it. Psychopaths love fooling others. When they do it, they often smile. Guilt? Forget it. Not with psychopaths. And no, you can’t fix psychopaths. They love bloodshed and power. They are often charming and excellent conversationalists. Clearly, Platonova was both. Was she a psychopath? We’ll never know. Only a mental health professional, after careful observation, can diagnose people.
  3. She didn’t believe a word of what she was selling, but she had no choice since she lived in a cultic, misogynistic, society. Playing a rabid propagandist was her survival strategy. Regimes are fiercely patriarchal. The enemy is to be feminized, collectively and individually. To the totalitarian mind, there’s nothing worse than being a woman. No wonder the men who were raped in Chechnya by the Russian invaders were given female names. This is the kind of Russkiy Mir (Russian world) society that Platonova lived in.
  4. She was playing the oldest game in the world: pretend to be a staunch believer, hoodwink your followers and get your money. She needed a job that paid the bills. Simple as that. Except, in her case, it was encouraging the committing of genocide for money. No words can convey my disgust.

I believe she never had an original thought in her mind. Why? She studied philosophy for a year in France. That would point to her being a total believer. There was no way she would have been allowed to study in France had she been seen as a security risk by the Russian regime. Only the most loyal followers of the regime get to go abroad. Then again, maybe she had another plan and was playing the long game? Sheer speculation.

Elite defectors – a valuable resource

Elite defectors often speak several languages and understand the inner workings of the regime they worked for. That’s why elite defectors are absolutely despised by any regime. If the top echelons of society aren’t loyal, then nobody is safe. After all, anyone who would want to leave the paradise must be mentally ill! Case in point ― the Soviets would place dissidents in a psychiatric hospital called psykhushka. Talk about Kafkaesque and Orwellian combined into a phantasmagoric existence.

Case in point, Thae Yong-ho. He played the part of a loyal North Korean member of the elite expertly. When North Korean diplomats go abroad, the regime keeps their family members in the country as hostages to prevent defections. But when his family was safe in London, Mr. Thae decided to defect. People like Thae yong-ho understand what we are up against, be it in North Korea or Russia.

Three forces governing humanity

I believe that humanity is governed by three forces: psychopaths, geniuses and unexpected events which have a major effect on societies (black swan events). Societies then adjust to whatever world is created by these three forces. Whether it’s Russkiy Mir, Nazi Germany or North Korea, the ‘’three-force’’ model applies. Psychopaths control regimes, geniuses push our world forward (not always in a good way) and black swan events change civilizations. A pandemic, revolution or war can be a civilization-changing black swan event. Anything unexpected and affecting a large portion of humanity.

While it didn’t cause the Russian Empire to collapse, the death of Tsar Alexander II of Russia is an example of a black swan event. Ignacy Hryniewiecki, a Polish member of the Russian revolutionary society Narodnaya Volya, blew himself up next to the Tsar. Hryniewiecki’s heroic act is sometimes cited as the earliest case of suicide bombing.

In essence, let’s not dwell too much on how our enemies think. As Nietzsche said, ‘’Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.’’

Based in Warsaw, Adam Borowski is a journalist specializing in international relations. He has written articles for major South Korean and Taiwanese news outlets and is the author of a yet-to-be-published novel set in an alternate reality, ‘’Euthanizers.’’ Adam is a global traveler who has worked in Chengdu, China.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.

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