How much is that democracy in the window?

During last year’s war between Russia and Georgia, conflicting narratives were flying around the world, something I wrote about in the Guardian.

One year on, it now appears that Western-led, PR companies are leading the way to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of the global elite (via the Guardian):

The war between Moscow and Tbilisi is now largely being waged in the western media. In conflicts gone by, it might have been called propaganda, but it is now carefully co-ordinated public relations, devised by agencies in London, Washington and Brussels. Russia hired Ketchum three years ago, to work on burnishing its image ahead of its chairing of the G8 in St Petersburg, and it has continued to use the New York-based PR agency ever since. The hiring of the company, thought to be the first time Moscow had engaged a western PR firm, was seen by many as a sign of Russia’s changing relationship with the west.

Ketchum has around 50 people working on the account in the G8 countries, and uses its fellow Omnicom agency GPlus in Brussels. In London, GPlus subcontracts to Portland, which is run by Tim Allan, the former No 10 spin doctor, and the BBC’s former Moscow correspondent Angus Roxburgh, although the work is largely implementing US strategy, monitoring media coverage and dealing with the Russian embassy.

During the conflict, the Georgians used a Brussels-based agency, Aspect, run by a British expatriate, James Hunt, but have switched to Project Associates, a loose-knit London firm where David Cracknell, the former political editor of the Sunday Times, works on the account.

So here’s a lesson to journalists everywhere in these tough times. If earning an honest living isn’t possible, you can always move across to “selling democracy” to the highest bidder.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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