Thursday, March 9, 2017

RT in the Cross Hairs as George Orwell's Dystopia Spreads

Total information control is the fantasy of fascists and all other practitioners of totalitarianism.

But communication escapes containment as memes are generated and circulated outside of the machines and apparatuses that seek to control them.

There is no doubt that the pursuit of truth is complicated by the chaos of the Web 2.0 platform but then the pursuit of truth has never been easy.

I've always found Aristotle's scheme of analysis to be quite helpful when discerning truth through the logos of the message (e.g., structure of argument & forms of evidence); the emotional tenor of message appeals (i.e., pathos); and the integrity of the messages  (i.e., ethos).

Using this scheme, I've found few differences in the overall truth value of content produced by "alternative" news media such as RT and Aljazeera when compared to "mainstream" news such as the The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal (which I read daily).

News stories across media reflect the framing influences of their authors, their topics, the paper and its owners, and the various stakeholders whose influences help govern framing.

But I've found that sometimes stories are planted in the mainstream media to cultivate or propagate certain memes or narratives. I've documented such plants here at this blog over the years, particularly with respect to reporting on politically volatile subjects, such as:
BP oil spill
Financial crisis
Role of pesticides in killing off bees
Rising rates of neurological disorders and diabetes in the population (always framed exclusively in relation to "lifestyle" choices)
By deploying Aristotle's scheme, I've demonstrated eruptions of systematic bias in the mainstream news.

These same eruptions of systematic bias occur in alternative news media as well but I've found that the brilliance of RT was its ability to find articulate and compelling critics of the American system (such as Max Keiser and Stacey Herbert) who see themselves as speaking truth to power.

I'm not saying that RT never propagates disinformation but I am saying that I see no systematic difference in its degree of bias when compared to mainstream American media.

However, RT's effectiveness in helping articulate and propagate dissident memes has made the company a target as efforts to control information flows strengthen.

The New York Times offers two alternative narratives of RT, which are embodied in the headline of the story excepted from below. Which narrative do you think The NYT supports?
RT Network: Is It More BBC or K.G.B.? The New York Times,

Even as Russia insists that RT is just another global network like the BBC or France 24, albeit one offering “alternative views” to the Western-dominated news media, many Western countries regard RT as the slickly produced heart of a broad, often covert disinformation campaign designed to sow doubt about democratic institutions and destabilize the West.

…Analysts are sharply divided about the influence of RT. Pointing to its minuscule ratings numbers, many caution against overstating its impact. Yet focusing on ratings may miss the point, says Peter Pomerantsev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of television for propaganda. “Ratings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are campaigns for financial, political and media influence.”

…Afshin Rattansi, who hosts a talk show three times a week called “Going Underground,” came to RT in 2013 after working at the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera and Iran’s Press TV. “Unlike at the BBC and CNN, I was never told what to say at RT,” he said. There have been two cases of RT announcers quitting because of what they said was pressure to toe a Kremlin line, especially on Ukraine, but not in London, Mr. Rattansi said.

Michael McFaul, a Stanford professor who was the United States ambassador to Russia during the Obama years, said that RT should not be lightly dismissed. “There is a demand in certain countries for this alternative view, an appetite, and we arrogant Americans shouldn’t just think that no one cares.”

… But there is a considerably darker view, too. For critics, RT and Sputnik are simply tools of a sophisticated Russian propaganda machine, created by the Kremlin to push its foreign policy, defend its aggression in Ukraine and undermine confidence in democracy, NATO and the world as we have known it.

Robert Pszczel, who ran NATO’s information office in Moscow and watches Russia and the western Balkans for NATO, said that RT and Sputnik were not meant for domestic consumption, unlike the BBC or CNN. Over time, he said, “It’s more about hard power and disinformation.”
The NYT's alternative realities:
RT offers alternative framing in the marketplace of ideas
RT is the propaganda arm of the KGB
Although the NYT article does not endorse a particular interpretation, the mere framing of the headline ensures that the mimetic equivalent between RT and the KGB will circulate, serving the interests of those in the US and western Europe who seek to control information and interpretation.

I deeply fear creeping efforts at information control, a project that spans political parties and is deeply entrenched in the organizing logics of the powerful "security" apparatuses.


1 comment:

  1. The Shady Bunch