The New Observer All categrories Russian disinformation

Russian disinformation

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There is another round of hysteria in the Western press at the moment about Russian “disinformation” and “meddling” in Brexit.

The Guardian published a survey showing that 49% of voters believe that Russia “meddled” in the Brexit referendum. Strangely, the report doesn’t mention how Russia meddled. In fact it isn’t strange at all. The fact is even when it is mentioned it turns out, invariably – in all cases, not just this one, that the “meddling” amounts to an editorial line on RT and Sputnik – two very obviously Russian state media outlets, and a handful of social media posts or reposts (which can more or less be attributed to “actors close to the Kremlin” – or something like that).  The Guardian article is accidentally revealing. It doesn’t in fact matter what Russia did; all that matters is that people believe that Russia “meddled”. So – people will believe that they are under threat and need to be defended. All this is a campaign by NATO linked actors to sow in Western brains the idea that the West and ‘democracy’ is under attack.

Here is another interesting example, again in the Guardian. The article is headlined “Russia-aligned hackers running anti-Nato fake news campaign – report“.  Interestingly, the only evidence actually mentioned in the article for attributing the alleged hacks (of Baltic news sites) to Russia or “Russia-aligned” actors is that information/misinformation planted was aligned with Russian interests. This doesn’t of course prove Russian involvement at all. And also – the amusing argument that because the hackers haven’t been found they must be well-resourced and therefore it must be a state actor. (If we find it is Russia it is Russia and if we don’t it is Russia).  Note this comment from NATO as reported by the Guardian:

It instead made some more familiar accusations, blaming Russia’s international media – Russia Today and Sputnik – for spreading news stories that blend “true and false elements, which bypass people’s natural filters for detecting disinformation”, and Russian actors for using false social media accounts to spread lies online.

This is not true and is NATO misinformation. I have made a prolonged and serious study of RT and only once in about three years have I seen a factually misleading report; a shot of Nazi protests in Kiev was cropped so as to give an impression of a larger crowd  – a kind of false editing entirely routine in the Western press.  In general RT is very solid and reliable on facts. It is true they have a specific editorial line which does seem to be to promote positive stories about Russia and “fan the flames” of discontent and social division in the West. But misinformation; no. What is slightly sinister here is the way that NATO seems to be claiming that people cannot look at RT and make up their own minds about whether it is propaganda or not. Of course; telling people they can’t be trusted to think for themselves is more than well on the way to a totalitarian state.

But what really makes me laugh about all this is that while denouncing Russian “meddling” and “disinformation” the US State Department pumps out its own divisive and propagandist material into Russia, in Russian, on Radio Liberty. All these people in the West who get agitated about Russian “meddling” and “disinformation” are either unaware of Radio Liberty (in which case they are failing as politicians and journalists) or they are aware but are primitive enough to believe that ‘our propaganda is different’.