Monday, 23 April 2018

Russian bots and disinformation

Russian bots are spreading disinformation, according to the government. The Guardian's Heather Stewart provides an analysis, which purportedly shows how Russian bots are spreading propaganda in the wake of the Skripal and Douma alleged chemical weapons attacks.

The report cites government claims regarding the alleged Russian disinformation campaign as though they are unchallengeable facts. According to her report, experts had identified a four thousand percent increase in Russian propaganda on social media following the Skripal poisonings. As is common with corporate media reports, she does not say what the actual figures are. It is therefore impossible to know (even if it were true) whether this increase is significant or not. A four thousand percent increase from next to nothing is still next to nothing, especially when, as with social media, one is dealing with numbers that are counted in the billions. This statistical illiteracy is far from accidental. It is common practice in the political media elite's propaganda.

However, Stewart does eventually cite some actual evidence. She cites two Russian bots. One is called Ian56 and the other is Partisangirl. These "Russian bots" are neither bots nor Russian. They are both real people, who just happen to express opinions that are critical of the official narratives. It seems that for the Guardian, being critical of the official political media elite narratives constitutes proof that one is a propagandist for Putin.

This attack on people for expressing a lack of credulity when it comes to the elite's narratives is clearly totalitarian. Heather Stewart's article is merely another example of the smearing of all criticism and dissent. Last year, the Washington Post published a piece that labelled two hundred news websites and bloggers as propagandists for Putin. The only thing they had in common was occasional criticism of US foreign policy positions, which given its constant violations of international law is perfectly understandable.

This dehumanisation (reducing people to the status of machines) and smearing (assertions of propagandising for a foreign power) of dissent has become normalised in the corporate media. The BBC's Annita McVeigh rebuked Admiral West for daring to cast doubt on the accusation that President Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Douma. She told him: "We are in an information war with Russia." The assertion is highly significant and revealing. It shows precisely who is engaged in disinformation and propaganda: the BBC and the rest of the political media elite. It is then ironic that they should choose to label anyone who questions their propaganda as a propagandist. But it is an irony they appear to be blissfully unaware of. As psychologists have long been aware, projection (the projecting on to others of one's own faults) is an unconscious process.

Heather Stewart's article has been criticised for its factual inaccuracies. Yet four days later, it has neither been corrected nor retracted. The fact that neither Ian56 nor Partisangirl are bots nor Russians does not seem to matter to the Guardian. Apparently, for the Guardian (and the rest) in the battle against so called fake news, it is more important to push the official line than publish accurate information.

1 comment:

  1. When I see that viewership rates for these programs and subscriptions to MSM online media sources is incredibly low, I realize they mainly cater to those who already want to believe them. For a long time in the United States, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC were the only sources of information on TV while maybe ten newspapers were the others. And this continued with the creation on the Internet, but in the last five years or so, nobody really tunes into these sources, and when they do, they know they've seen a lot of counter-information online. When a CNN program only reaches 800,000 households, that means it is barely affecting anything. People get far more news from Twitter and Facebook and Reddit. So it is no wonder there is a huge disconnect for Main Stream Media when it comes to what they think their impact is, what their credibility is, and what the population actually believes. I think the older someone is, the more likely they are to turn to television and older sources for their news, while everyone else finds online sources. So when people express skepticism in what they've been told by government sources, which Main Stream Media is, they can't understand why. And the reason is that they are only a part of the information sources people go to, not the only source.