Agents of disinformation
PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY is a strategy of governments which use non-state actors to do their surreptitious work so they can deny responsibility. Russian media business, RT, is an example.
RT has been implicated in foreign interference in the US election. An agency of Russia’s information warfare program, RT has a presence in the EU as is also available online in Australia.
A recent article in the New York Times, headlined RT America, a network known for sowing disinformation, has a new alarm: the coming ‘5G Apocalypse’ highlights the way RT deliberately sows social and political discord in Western nations through fear campaigns, such as that around 5G telecommunications networks.
“RT successfully feeds the conspiracy-oriented ecosystem,” said John Kelly, chief executive of Graphika, a network analytics firm. “This effort is having a real impact. It’s bearing fruit,” the article states.
5G is currently being rolled out in a number of countries. It is the successor to our current 4G networks used by the mobile phone system.
Sowing confusion through health scares
RT reporting focuses on alleged health impacts of the 5G frequencies. Playing-up health concerns confuses the conversation and feeds on justifiable concerns the public has. It feeds conspiracy theorists and, if there are any authentic health concerns, potentially exacerbates them by confusing the issue. If 5G really does impact human health, then that could be overlooked as claims by RT are dismissed.
That, of course, is exactly what RT wants to do because it promises to delay the deployment of 5G in the US so Russia (and China) gain the technological lead in the new network technologies and their deployment. China already has a lead in 5G, however was recently blunted by the US and Australia shutting out, and the EU being reticent to allow in, Chinese corporation, Huawei, to install the network because of the corporation’s closeness to the Chinese government and fear of cyberespionage.
The New York Times article reports that at the same time RT is rumour mongering in the US, Russia is going ahead with its own 5G network. It is difficult not to see a little hypocrisy here and perhaps more than a little deception.
The real agenda
RT’s reporting, news agencies that pick it up and republish it unquestioningly, and conspiracy theorists in Western nations which unquestioningly do the Kremlin’s work by spreading the rumours and allegations, use the tools of democracy to weaken democracy.
Weakening democratic nations serves Russia’s strategic interests in spreading its influence and control. Russia supports European far-right groups and political parties in France and elsewhere, effectively indicating the direction of its politics and, again, using the tools of democracy to weaken it by sowing social discord.
What do citizen journalists do in these circumstances?
We assess alleged issues like the health impacts of 5G by reporting what authentic and respected science and health organisations say about it. We ask about the ideological, political, economic and social agenda of organisations, like RT, that report it and ask about their track record in similar instances. Who do they serve and why? Who controls them?
Do we take any notice of conspiracy theorists? Yes, we read what they say, however we read it critically. Where do they get their information? Are their sources credible? Are scientific reports they cite scientific consensus rather than the ideas of one or a small number of scientists? Have they been peer reviewed? How are their sources regarded within the scientific community?
Information warfare is a theatre of warfare that governments, including those of the West, are currently engage in. Australia and the US is actively engaged in such warfare with China and, more for the US, with Russia. Much of the engagement is defensive, some of it offensive. When it comes to warfare tactics, one blends into the other.
Citizen journalists should look to their local media neighbourhood as well as being aware of how governments use puppet news agencies like RT for their political purposes and to weaken Western democracies. Some Western media organisations have betrayed the traditions of journalism and media by becoming agents of the far-right and by failing to report news of vital interest to the public. The Murdoch media is a fine example which engages in its own form of information warfare within nations by misleading the public for political ends.
Media manipulation by government, economic or social agencies with a political agenda designed to weaken the democracies weakens the practice of journalism, which is one of the pillars of democracy. It is something citizen journalists can do something about, even if what they can do is limited.
Read the New York Times story.
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