Many things which might come as a surprise to foreigners are taken for granted in Russia. There’s the idea that BRICS represents some kind of anti-American alliance, like a 21st century Warsaw Pact. There’s the idea that the Crimea was always Russian and thus the annexation justified, though Russia hadn’t even raised the issue in the international arena until after their coup de main in March of this year. Then of course there’s the idea of the “information war.” The information war is the justification for consolidating the media under state control and using ever-increasing regulations to censor or seriously hamper any independent media source.
For some unknown reason, the degenerate, near-death USA doesn’t really act like it’s fighting the information war, at least within its own borders. After all, there’s RT, the propaganda service of Russia, which has its own offices in the US. No attempt has been made to block Voice of Russia, or any of the American-based Russia fans such as “the Saker”(there’s a piece of work, let me tell ya). As far as anti-government media goes in the US, most of AM talk radio and a massive portion of internet media are dedicated to accusing the president of everything from being born in a foreign country to being the instrument of a global Communist conspiracy to destroy the United States. That’s in addition to a left wing media which still reminds millions of Americans about things such as drone strikes, Snowden’s revelations, torture, and the country’s failure to reign in police brutality. America’s information warriors must be incompetent because they have failed to implement anything like the kind of measures Russia’s government routinely approves. In fact America’s information war specialists are so incompetent, so obviously asleep at the switch, that it’s a miracle Russia’s propaganda, in conjunction with local fifth column organs have somehow thus far failed to incite mass unrest throughout America’s major cities. How couldn’t there be a real American maidan, given the lackadaisical attitude shown by America’s government when it comes to the information war?
All joking aside, like most Kremlin memes the information war really only makes sense within one of the various fantastical narratives which exist in Russia. This “war” is being waged mostly by one side- Russia. Oh, does that raise the hairs on the back of your neck? Allow me to explain then.
Recently I wrote about an incident where a Russian TV channel falsified a video so as to make it appear that a father had painted the walls of his 11-year-old son’s room with cartoon drawings of naked men. In reality, the home video was used in a commercial for a graphics company called Fathead, and the real image the kid was gasping at was in fact a giant picture of a monster truck. I was happy to learn that Fathead is suing the Russian TV channel shortly after the story broke. Thus far, the TV channel’s response was that it was an “accident.” They accidentally edited an altered a video so as to insert cartoons of naked men, aired in a news piece about how sexually degenerate the West supposedly is. Sounds plausible.
This particular episode was amusing, but far less entertaining was a piece that ran on Russian TV a short time earlier. Airing on the Russian show “However” was Russia’s 67th alternate explanation as to the destruction of Malaysian passenger airliner MH17 over Eastern Ukraine. Supposedly a “graduate of MIT,” named George Bilt, provided Russian intelligence with photos from a “foreign satellite.” Lucky for Putin, the satellite just happened to catch a Ukrainian Mig-29 fighter firing a missile at MH-17. Naturally the photo was quickly busted as a fake, and the mysterious George Bilt has never been found. I’m sure he must have been hanging out with that Spanish air traffic controller who happened to be working in Kyiv’s Boryspil airport that fateful day, i.e. the subject of one of the Russian media’s earlier bullshit claims about the disaster.
Neither of these incidents are even remotely isolated. Stopfake.org documents dozens of fake stories, videos, and photographs from Russia’s media every week. These usually involve photoshopped pictures, misrepresented videos, or photographs from other conflicts presented as being from Ukraine. It is important to note that to date, I’ve yet to see any effort from Russia’s side to defend these phony photos and stories. Instead of answering, they just put out more. Which country is waging an information war again?
Now I ask a very simple question: Where is the Western equivalent to this? If Russia has to do this because of the information war, where is America’s ridiculously fake video that justifies this? Commentators, don’t be shy. Please show me how the Western media has faked satellite photos, cited Russians who don’t exist, or deliberately altered videos to show how degenerate Russia is. This is and information war, is it not? That means we should see this kind of thing coming from both sides.
Off the top of my head, the closest I can come to finding anything approaching Russia’s propaganda consists of two examples. First, there’s Timothy Snyder, who really makes no attempt to sound objective or even accurate in his prosaic defense of Maidan. Objective facts already condemn Russia, there is no need to weave a fairy tale as Snyder did in his ridiculous coverage of the event. Plenty of other Western journalists were far more objective, noting the presence of far right-wing extremists, and soberly pointing out that the EU association agreement wasn’t an automatic way out of Ukraine’s troubles. Even in the case of Snyder’s work, however, there was concrete truth in some of his conclusions. His allegation that Putin was afraid of having democracy so close to his borders is definitely a sound argument. It’s even more threatening to him that this theoretical democracy would inevitably encompass millions of Russians. His regime depends on the idea that the Russian people are different, and the form of government they have suits them. A successful Ukraine with democratic norms and a developing economy would seriously challenge that narrative. Even a hack like Snyder can see that.
The second example I thought of was the alleged radio intercepts that supposedly revealed two pro-Russian rebels panicking over the realization that they’d shot down a civilian plane. If any Western media sources aired that without using words like “allegedly,” they would be guilty of potentially passing on Ukrainian propaganda. Obviously even a Russian-speaking person such as myself could not accurately identify the two men on the recording. Even if that recording was faked, that’s on the Ukrainian government, and any news editor who didn’t make sure his reporters used terms like “alleged” or “supposed” when reporting on the matter.
Both of those examples are quite mild. We have a delusional, romantic professor embellishing a protest movement, and we have a voice recording that could have been faked, but which is ultimately irrelevant due to the overwhelming amount of other, more concrete evidence implicating the rebels in the destruction of the Malaysian airplane.
Thus again do I repeat my demand: Show me America’s equivalent to the video with the phony wall paintings. Show me the video where we see a phony satellite photo shooting down MH17. Show us a Ukrainian woman talking about how Donbass rebels crucified a small boy. Show us scenes from the set of a film being presented as evidence of rebel atrocities. Is this not an information war? Does this war not entail offensives on both sides?
Of course the information war is just another example of Russian projection. They tell themselves there’s an information war, and therefore they are justified in lying and fabricating videos and photo, just as they are justified in clamping down on media organs or journalists who get too troublesome. Since there is no objective truth, there’s no way anyone opposing the government could possibly claim that they deserve to be heard simply because they are presenting facts or they are able to back their claims with evidence. There is no need to back up things with evidence because truth doesn’t matter. Only winning the information war matters.
Has the US media falsely reported information in the past? Absolutely. Has it skewed stories, displayed bias, and helped sell bad policy to the American people? Yes, numerous times. Usually the problem with the American media stems from the desire for access, ratings, circulation, profits, etc., as well as laziness, reliance on experts without digging deeper, and so on. What you don’t generally see are major American media outlets deliberately producing and airing specially-faked videos as true stories on a regular basis. Disagree? Again, there’s the comments section. Give me the American equivalent of the satellite image story, or the wall with naked men story, or the woman who claimed to see Ukrainian soldiers crucify a little boy. All media lies, right? It’s all the same, right?