Enemy Mine: A Media-Led Cold War Puts American Students at a Disadvantage


Dozens of Russian and American college students continue their discussions here at the Track Two conference, Whom Do We Trust?, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The topic has turned from how youth view media, to how their countries see ‘the other.’

Although the young people were mixing easily, they acknowledged that their nations are not in a happy place with each other.

Anya, a 20-year-old student at The Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University (the conference co-host), set the stage, asking about American movies: “Is it true,” she wondered, that “the bad guys are always Russian?”

A few people had to admit that, at least sometimes, it is true.

Igor, 18, who attends St. Petersburg State University, assured the gathering that young Russians “don’t believe the lies about the U.S.” But he went on to note that, so far as he could tell, even well-educated Americans appeared to believe wild stories about Russia, while in Russia only those of “low status” would fall for the exaggerated propaganda that is so often on display on Russia’s state-run Channel One.

Indeed, ‘Channel One’ became shorthand throughout the discussion for the Russians when they referred to bald-faced nationalism. These well-educated young people, as described in yesterday's report, are not about to fall for this type of hate-filled propaganda.

Some Russians said that their families did watch Channel One, and Sawyer, a 20-year-old student at the University of Colorado at Boulder who is here studying Russian through The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), said his family watched the American channel Fox News. He disdained it in a manner similar to how the Russians felt about Channel One and explained that “people are angry at Russia for trying to manipulate our media.”