Q: Does the term “fake news” have a Russian equivalent, and if so, what is it, who uses it and, in your experience, why?
Kasparov: My honest reply to this is that the word for “fake news” in Putin’s Russia is simply “news.” There isn’t a syllable uttered or printed in Russia without its author being very much aware of what the regime thinks of it and what would happen to him if he crosses a certain line–except perhaps the weather! Often those lines are explicit, sent out in memos about new topics and how to promote or spin them. But by now, after 17 years of Putin, everyone knows where the lines are. Under those conditions, what can news be except fake? Even if nearly everything that is published is, in and of itself, true, there is an ocean of falsity in what isn’t said, what isn’t asked, and how basic facts are presented. This is the story of the media in a modern dictatorship. It’s not like Pravda, with one official storyline that everyone knows is probably BS. There are hundreds of layers of carefully calibrated propaganda and censorship in Putin’s Russia, creating the illusion of freedom. One outlet says Putin is great 100 percent of the time about everything. Another only 80 percent, about, say, the economy or security. One writer can complain a little about education, while another is allowed to criticize the regime on one or two specific things, etc. It’s like the Matrix, a complex illusion. And since almost all Russians still depend on television news, it’s very effective.