Human rights activists are concerned
The bill on punishment for the propaganda of separatism was submitted to the State Duma by deputies from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in early December and quickly passed all three readings. According to him, the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation includes article 280.1 - “public calls for the implementation of actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”. Such actions will be punished with a fine of up to 300 thousand rubles, or in the amount of a two-year income of the convicted person, compulsory work for up to 300 hours, or up to three years in prison. If such appeals were carried out with the help of the media, then the punishment may be up to 480 hours of mandatory work or up to 5 years of the colony. Now the president has the last word, and if he approves the law, it will come into force on May 9 of 2014.
Human rights activists are excited and buzzing on blogs.
“Experts perceive this legislative initiative with great concern, primarily because in this way any, including scientific, discussions about regional policy, about secession or annexation of territories of the Russian Federation, and even about border adjustments are criminalized. At the same time, the use of the media and the Internet is considered by the authors of the bill as an aggravating circumstance, and, for example, a public skepticism about the legitimacy of the Kuril Islands can be interpreted as a “doubt in the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation” and entail punishment ”.
They are worried, of course, not about the impossibility of conducting scientific discussions, but about the rapidly escaping monopoly right to dispose of human minds through the media. Indeed, the prohibition of propaganda of homosexuality, separatism, the elimination of the RIA "News“, The general strengthening of patriotic rhetoric on the Internet - all this looks extremely alarming for them.
However, some neutral readers may be bitten by a worm of doubt - is it not the bend, will not the “servants of the regime” now rush into the intelligent Moscow kitchens and punish them for “scientific discussions”? Maybe it’s not worthwhile to pinch minorities, maybe, let them discuss in their microscopic circle what they want, and the majority are still indifferent to their ideas and respects for kindly eccentrics?
Let us turn to the results of a curious study of American scientists.
Science to persuade
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, commissioned by the US Department of Defense, conducts a study of social networks. With their rapid development, it is actually possible to talk about a separate area of science, which is of great interest to any state that cares about its national security. One of the institute's studies, commissioned by the US Army Laboratory, revealed a curious pattern - as soon as the percentage of people who are firmly convinced that a certain conviction is right reaches 10, their idea is inevitably accepted by the majority.
In general, we knew it without any research and repeatedly observed in practice. However, in this case, our assumptions are confirmed by the data of scientific research, and the 10% figure will be useful to us for further understanding of many processes in the information environment.
To demonstrate the mechanism, let's turn to the fresh example of information support for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi.
Imagine a user of a social network of moderate (or no) political views. Initially, it is neutral to the fact of the Olympics. On the one hand, he is pleased with the emergence of new sports facilities in the country and the growth of its international prestige, but on the other hand he fears that many budget funds will be stolen during the preparation of the event. As a result, these considerations balance each other, and he remains in a neutral position. Public opinion as a whole is also neutral.
However, a neutral user accidentally meets another user who unexpectedly sharply negative comments about the Olympics. He argues his position with a variety of facts - from Boris Nemtsov’s statements about large-scale theft at construction sites to horrific stories about how the roof of a bobsled track "collapsed" or "hachi killed while descending on it at dinner." The quality of the facts in this case does not matter. It matters only the degree of fanatical conviction of the character.
The “neutral” has doubts, and he, trying to resolve them, turns to another user. If another user has the same opinion as “fanatic”, then “neutral” changes his own, so as not to be torn off from the majority. The truth of the belief itself is irrelevant in this case.
The likelihood that a “neutral” will be overlaid by “fanatics” increases as the frequency and professionalism of “stuffing” and the credibility of the sources that distribute them. The more fully these conditions are observed, the faster the point of no return approaches, after which public opinion changes in the direction of minority ideas. Recall that according to the research of Americans, this threshold is only 10%.
Another aspect that we observe regularly is the “self-feeding” of the persuaded public. Converted to the faith of "fanatics", users begin to independently search for her confirmation and violently distribute them, so as not to become a minority again. From here, in our case, there are numerous tastes of "extinguished torches" and hurricane reposts in the style of "look, another president refused to attend the Olympics."
Thus, it is confirmed that in closed systems to influence public opinion is not so difficult, as it seems at first glance. For this we need several specialists, a pool of paid “leaders of public opinion”, and knowledge of the elementary laws of information dissemination. Plus, of course, money for a massive media bombing - but our opponents, who are driving the Russian media class as they want, certainly have such funds.
Why research of this kind was required by the US military, no secret. The authors themselves refer to the experience of Egypt and Libya:
“In these countries, dictators who have been in power for decades have been suddenly overthrown in just a few weeks.”
It can be argued that this overthrow was helped not only by moderation of public opinion, but also by rocket-bomb strikes, although military assistance would have been far less effective without information training.
Looking for your own 10%
Let us return to our ban on the promotion of all kinds of indecencies. On the one hand, it is very good that the legislators have finally paid attention to the information front. It is bad that only now.
On the other hand, it is obvious that we cannot cope with bans alone. Moreover, bans, if not supported by counter-propaganda, will cause more harm than good. After all, by themselves, they contribute to the planting in the society of the myth of a “police state that silences people”. You will see that this trend will prevail in the information space of the next year.
Therefore, along with bans, you need to play your own game. Yes, by the same methods as our opponents, for there are no others on this front. After all, the “10% rule” works in any direction, no matter who uses it for what purpose.
Finally, I’ll share my personal observations of the Russian segment of social networks. Over the past two years, their "patriotic" segment has grown and strengthened, gradually getting rid of the marginal image. According to personal feelings, we are still far away from the cherished 10%, but we are moving towards this bar at quite a vigorous pace. This year, almost everyone who friended me on the social network already had mutual friends with me from 1 to 15. This means that our circle is expanding, we ourselves find each other for “self-feeding”, and therefore, we inevitably acquaint the “neutral” with our ideas. And if we remain as true to our positions, they will sooner or later become natural for the general public. According to the law of dissemination of information.