This is the question asked in one TNR article, and answered, or at least attempted, in an amusing piece by Andrew Biliter over at the new blog for RUSSIA! magazine. Recommended.
We called a source in the Russian PR industry to help put the problem in context. The first problem with most U.S. analysis of the Kremlin’s actions, the source says, is that it views Russia’s executive branch as monolithic, when it’s actually a bunch of bureaucrats competing with one another. In the case of PR, the heads of the various state news outlets — Russia Today, RIA Novosti, Rossisskaya Gazeta — and all are vying to become the leading source of Russian propaganda. Why? “Because in Russia,” our source says, “the main game is not who will do the service, but who will take the money for the service.” If your PR efforts are noticed, you get recognition and your agency gets bigger piece of the federal budget (which often doubles as pocket money). And who decides how the federal budget is allocated? Putin, of course!
So the object here is never to make good or effective propaganda, but to impress Putin with your effort. Just as artists in the ’30s strived to create the kind of art they imagined Stalin would like as opposed to good art, state media moguls today are striving to make the kind of propaganda that they imagine Putin likes. And it is this need to grab the prime minister’s attention, our source argues, that causes each PR effort to be more blatant and outrageous than the last. As a result, most of them are doing a miserable job.