By request of the Latvian Ministry of Defense, courtesy of NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre for Excellence, and in all likelihood paid for by your tax dollars, we have the following report: Stratcom Laughs: In Search of a Strategic Framework.
The report states its purpose as being to study humour as a ‘strategic communication tool’. The first part of the report undertakes a long academic analysis of what humour is and what purposes it serves. In later parts it then looks at how the Russian state allegedly uses humour as a propaganda tool and how Ukrainians have countered it with humour of their own.
The basic conclusion of the report is that in Russia, ‘the entire “official humour industry” … is directly Kremlin-controlled’. Working for the Kremlin, Russian comedians use humour to reduce their compatriots’ stress and make them feel more comfortable and thus more accepting of the political system. They provide audiences with a positive sense of social identity, which is contrasted with a negative view of others. The ‘in-group’ – Russia – is portrayed as victimized by the ‘out-group’ – the West. And in the context of Ukraine, through comedy, ‘Russian propaganda has been trying to use and exacerbate a number of differences between social groups so as to create an atmosphere of total distrust and panic.’
Another factor influencing the intensity of joking about a particular state and its leaders, as well as the content of the jokes, is the position of the country in the hierarchical frame of international relations created by the shows’ discourse. Russia and the US are portrayed as the leading actors. Germany, France, and Italy are recognized as less influential, but still important actors, while the images of other Western countries and their political leaders are not featured as regularly as those mentioned. Being ignored here works as another, no less important instrument for underlining the hierarchy built by the discourse.
Donald Trump’s image has been portrayed through his bizarre behaviour. Interestingly, an integral part of the visual presentations of Donald Trump has been his strange hairstyle (as been pointed out several times in Urgant shows). For example, in the 10 December 2015 episode of Vecherniy Urgant, Ivan Urgant described Trump’s hairstyle as the best place for birds to nest.