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About the Conference

A Look Back

In 1986, the media personalities Phil Donahue and Vladimir Posner created a watershed moment in the Cold War when they hosted a "space bridge" via satellite to bring the citizens of the United States and the Soviet Union together in an effort to dispel the long-standing misapprehension created by forty years of Cold War between the two superpowers.

Phil Donahue and Vladimir Posner

The Current Narrative

Who could have imagined that less than thirty years later, with the end of the Cold War, collapse of the Soviet Union, and tremendous advances in information technology the chasm would open once again? In both Russia and the West there have been rampant accusations that coverage of the Ukrainian conflict and U.S.-Russian relations in general has been "one sided" and that dissenting voices have been marginalized or suppressed.

The disjunction in media representations has supported opposing narratives that appear as intractable as those sustained by Cold War ideologies and propaganda machines. In the eyes of many American observers, Putin's Russia is the looking glass world of Alice in Wonderland, where everything is reversed and the truth stood on its head. The same holds true for Russian observers of the West.

Conference Goals

The purpose of this conference is to illuminate how national medias with their old and new formats and technologies can, in different political systems (both democratic and authoritarian), create insular, monological, and ideological environments even in the globalized, digitized twenty-first century.

The structure of the conference is intended to critically examine the practices and positions of members of the media by bringing them into dialogue with each other and with the scholarly community. The conference is designed to be an experiment in a mixed (half real, half virtual) format: some of the participants will participate in the discussions via web-conferencing from the Moscow-based Memorial (Gaidar Institute). 

Questions to Consider

The conference will bring together some of the most distinguished journalists, editors, scholars, and policy experts from Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the U.S. to discuss the role of new and traditional media in contributing to the perception and the reality of a "new cold war," especially around the on-going conflict in Ukraine. The questions that concern us include, but are not limited to:

  • How applicable is "new Cold War" to contemporary experience? What insights can be drawn from old paradigms of information, thought, and opinion control?
  • In contrast to the world 30 years ago, today's world is tightly interconnected. The borders are porous, the media are global, but "filter bubbles" still form around entire communities and countries. What factors contribute to this phenomenon?
  • What mechanisms are used to influence perception and opinion? How receptive are diverse audiences to official viewpoints and what factors contribute to audience receptivity?
  • What role do new media play? How are they used to "correct" the shortcomings of old media, or conversely, as powerful weapons in the arsenals of groups waging information wars and wars on information?
  • Given that a political solution is unlikely in the near future, what tools and strategies are available to media agents who seek to create a neutral space for reliable and unbiased information? How could this influence a broader public, rather than just self-selecting groups?