Author Topic: The West must dismantle ISIS and Russia’s lie machines  (Read 2906 times)

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Offline J.C

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The West must dismantle ISIS and Russia’s lie machines
« on: April 10, 2015, 23:38:37 PM »
The West must dismantle ISIS and Russia’s lie machines

Lyudmila Savchuk fights on the net for the Kremlin. Source: AFP

You’re in a crowded lift when it stalls. It’s a public holiday, the emergency number doesn’t work and you look around at your companions — a pallid Julian Assange, a puffed-up George Galloway, the hobgoblin Larry King, a crazed former stockbroker, a wad of blogging conspiracy theorists — and you wonder if there’s enough oxygen to go round.

That, in a nutshell, is the experience of watching Russia Today, the stuff of nightmares in which, according to the channel’s logo, we are challenged to “Question More” but receive mainly mendacious answers.

Lavishly funded at $US400 million ($523m) a year, broadcasting to 700 million households, RT is the Kremlin’s battering ram in the information war against the West. It’s a war that we are losing. A South American friend asks why the British are so closed to the Russian point of view. An Egyptian wonders why we don’t give Vladimir Putin a fair chance — as if the Kremlin leader were in some way bound by scruple.

These intelligent people are the target audience for a television station that is trying to convince the billions of non-aligned people who make up the BRIC countries thatRT are truth-tellers in a world dominated by warped Western news values.

The foreign audience is offered competing narratives for any event that risks tarnishing the reputation of the Russian leadership. Compare Western coverage of the A320 disaster — the speed and plausibility of the analysis, the questions raised about the pilot — with the shooting down last summer of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

Since pro-Russian gunmen controlled access to the crash site, time was bought for the full panoply of Kremlin-steered media to obfuscate and camouflage. First version from a Ukrainian air force transport plane had been shot down in a legitimate act of war. By the time RT chipped in, it was a failed attempt to assassinate Putin by Ukraine’s Western backers.

The point of the Babel: to cover the tracks of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, now widely understood to have masterminded the rebel fighting in eastern Ukraine. It’s not just about RT, of course. Russia runs an army of internet trolls who are paid to flood forums with pro-Kremlin comments.

The bloodiest contribution to the global information war is surely being made by the tech-savvy jihadists of Islamic State who produce a steady stream of English-language videos, who started an Arabic-language Twitter app, who have piggybacked on hashtags related to the World Cup and who know how to celebrate themselves on YouTube.

The aim of Islamic State news warriors is to convince all Muslims that establishing a caliphate is a religious duty. We haven’t managed to interrupt or recast this message, relying too heavily on imams to set young Muslims straight. And we’re losing with Russia by failing to make any impact on Putin’s behaviour; we have not diminished his domestic support and we haven’t persuaded the internet community that Moscow’s snatch of Crimea is a real rupture.

In the US and Britain, the call has gone up for more public funding of television and radio stations, from Radio Free Europe to BBC World Service, to counter the surge in anti-Western propaganda. That response is too anchored in Cold War thinking.

Yes, trusted news outlets will eventually win out, but in the meantime there are arguments to be waged and won. Above all we have to persuade young people across the globe that invading countries, breaching frontiers and decapitating prisoners is not part of some spurious “success” story. That demands a fast, authoritative response.

In Russia there should be closer co-operation between the West and local activists who are, for example, monitoring the number of Russian soldiers brought home from Ukraine in body bags. It means publicising financial links between the Russian and disgraced Ukrainian elites, ties between the arms industries of the two countries.

As for Islamic State, if the West is to go on the news offensive then we must show that jihadists are unable to hold territory for long (no land = no caliphate), that their commanders are corrupt, that the fight is largely Muslims killing other Muslims. Young aspiring holy warriors in Britain and the rest of Europe are not getting this message.

There is a role for Western states in this information war. But chiefly, the impetus in standing up for a vibrant, self-confident West should come from private concerns.

The battles swirling around us are not so much about territory as about values. We are letting others win this argument by default.
Assange fears the Pigeon.