Russia's second-largest TV channel, the state-owned Rossiya-1, has aired a special news report alleging that Western society is indoctrinating its children with homosexual propaganda. While this sort of accusation is nothing new from Russian state media, Rossiya-1 presents, as its proof, a video that it says shows an American father covering his young son's bedroom wall with gay pornography as a way to force the child into homosexuality, purportedly a widespread Western practice.
In fact, however, the video that Rossiya-1 shows is not documentary news footage, but a satirical and obviously fake viral video taken from the American social media site, 4chan. Here's the relevant clip:
The Rossiya-1 program, which aired on Friday, November 28, (you can watch the full 90-minute program here) reports that American homosexual propaganda is now perverting Europe as well, destroying traditional gender roles and weakening European society.
The segment presents, as evidence, a Western grade-school biology textbook, which includes diagrams of human reproductive organs. As foreboding music plays in the background, the Rossiya-1 news anchor states that Western children are "forced to learn everything there is to know about sexual intercourse and are told to pick which gender they would like to be," according to a translation by Julia Davis.
The segment then cuts to a video that it says shows a typical American family at home. A father leads his young son into his bedroom to show him a surprise: he has covered the child's bedroom wall with explicit gay pornography. The child shouts in joy at the present. (This appears 30 seconds in to the above clip.) The Rossiya-1 host, disgusted at the display, sternly asks, "Is it appropriate for a child's bedroom to look this way?"
The video that Rossiya-1 presents as real is of course an obvious fake, created as a joke by the users of 4chan. The video is a satirical re-cut of this much-mocked commercial by Fathead, a sports paraphernalia company. The original shows a father showing his son that he has covered his bedroom wall with a giant photo of a monster truck. 4chan users changed out the monster truck with gay pornography as a way to mock the commercial. Rossiya-1 either mistook or willfully misrepresented the satire as documentary news footage.
Russian state media has increasingly smothered Russians with the idea that Americans and Western Europeans are sexual perverts and weaklings out to destroy families. In 2012, when Vladimir Putin's government passed a law forbidding American families from adopting Russian orphans, one of the justifications was that American parents were sexually exploiting the children or forcing them into homosexuality. The Rossiya-1 host refers to this as America's "gender fascism."
This is all meant to contrast with Russia, and to show the virtue of Putin's state. At one point in the Rossiya-1 segment, the video cuts away from the gay Western depravity to a Russian citizen who "tearfully rejoices that only Russia has real democracy," according to Davis.
The real reason Russian state media is obsessed with Western "homosexual propaganda"
These ideas might sound silly to an American, but within Russia they are presented — and widely received — as proof of the deadly serious moral corruption and threat of the West. This is meant to bolster the idea of a perilous clash of civilizations between Russia and the West. It is also meant to convey the idea that only the Russian state stands for and protects strong, traditional family values. Both of these are carefully designed political tactics to foster fear and hatred of the West and a subsequent, nationalistic loyalty to Putin's government.
Putin, since the Russian economy began declining, has increasingly based his regime on nationalism at home and by cultivating the idea that he is protecting strong Russian values from a decadent and corrupt West. This is part of why you see so many photos of Putin shirtless and macho. This is also part of why Russia so persecutes its LGBT citizens. It's all part of a deliberate propaganda campaign, and it's working. Putin's popularity is sky-high, Russians increasingly believe that they are locked into conflict with the West, and that only the virtuous Russian state can save them.
The fact that this video is so clearly fake and its premise so blatantly absurd, and yet believed, just goes to show how successful Putin's Russia has been in one of the most nefarious projects of his reign: to seal off Russia's 144 million citizens within a propaganda bubble, a world in which Putin can shape reality how he wishes. This is how Russians can come to believe that American families want to adopt Russian orphans to harvest their organs, or that the CIA faked the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 shoot-down after filling the plane with corpses so as to embarrass Russia.
These incidents seem silly, but they are in fact a product of the information control that is increasingly the basis of Putin's rule. As Peter Pomerantsev puts it in his new book on life in Putin's Russia, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, "TV is the only force that can unify and rule and bind this country. It's the central mechanism of a new type of authoritarianism, one far subtler than twentieth-century strains."