In a couple of articles this week, for the CIPS blog and RT, I examined a new report produced by the US State Department’s anti-disinformation outfit, the Global Engagement Center. Entitled RT and Sputnik’s Role in Russia Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem, the report is, as the title suggests, a long denunciation of RT and Sputnik for being source of “fake news.” But as I point out in my articles, the report itself includes a number of false statements. These include a claim that the OSCE stated that a boy in Donbass was not killed by a Ukrainian drone (it said no such thing), and the assertion that RT was spreading the “false narrative” that Ukraine was a fascist state, an assertion backed by a link to an article I had written which specifically said that “Ukraine remains a relatively free and open society. It’s not remotely fascist.” (See my articles for CIPS blog and RT for full details.)
In short, once again, we see an organization ostensibly devoted to fighting disinformation engaging in it itself. As I have said on multiple occasions, this is a regular problem with the “disinformation industry” – that network of institutions and individuals set up to “counter” alleged foreign “influence operations.”
The problem goes beyond that, though. As noted in my RT article, “RT is a news outlet, and sometimes it makes mistakes – they are unavoidable. The problem is that the disinformation racket is trying to present this as – uniquely among major media outlets – a form of organised deception.” And so it is that the information warriors make absolutely no effort to expose “fake news” emanating from domestic mainstream Western media, and certainly fails to label deceptive stories as deliberated “disinformation.”
But yet, such deceptive stories are all around us.
As an example, I bring to your attention this extraordinary interview conducted on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) regarding the truckers’ convoy that has arrived here in Ottawa and is said to be blocking off parts of downtown (I haven’t actually wandered over to check but can hear the honking of horns).
The convoy, consisting of several hundred trucks, has driven across Canada to protest vaccine mandates imposed on the trucking industry by the Canadian government. Personally, I can’t say that I have any sympathy for their cause. Apparently, 90% of Canadian truck drivers are double vaccinated, and even the truck drivers’ own professional association is against the protest. But be that as it may. The convoy has mightily annoyed a section of our governing elite, who are going beyond saying that the truckers’ are being silly and alleging that there are possible links with “extremist” groups.
And where you have “extremist” groups, inevitably you have “Russians.”
Or at least, that’s what CBC host Nik Koksal thinks. Interviewing Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino, she put on her conspiracy theorist hat. “We’ve heard references to potential outside actors. Who could these outside actors be? Where might they be from?” she asked the minister. Not satisfied with Mendicino’s answer, she then pointed him firmly in the desired direction, saying:
“I do ask that because given Canada’s support of Ukraine, in this current crisis with Russia, I don’t know if it’s far fetched to ask [YES IT IS!!] but there is concern that Russian actors could be continuing to fuel things, as this, as this protest grows, but perhaps even instigating it from, from the outset.”
Mendicino ducked the question. “I’m going to defer to our partners in the public safety the of trained officials and experts in that area,” he replied. Koksal wasn’t too happy with this. Clearly, Russians were to blame. So she pressed the point further. “I certainly understand the need, or the interest in deferring the question to others who are involved, but I have to assume that you are being briefed on these concerns and on these issues, so what kind of conversations are happening on the kind of things that I’ve just asked about?” she asked.
Again, Mendicino avoided a direct answer. “Yes, we’re being briefed and we’re obviously looking very closely at the underlying motivations that we’ve seen from some of the organizers,” was all he was prepared to say.
So let me ask the question I always ask when such allegations of Russian involvement are made: “What’s the evidence?” And as always, the answer is “There is none.” One imagines that if Mendicino had any, he’d have seized upon the opportunity to provide it. Indeed, before Koksal brought up the possibility of a Russian link, nothing of the sort had ever been publicly suggested (or if it had, I can’t find it on the internet). In short, it’s misinformation.
Koksal’s line of questioning reveals the extent to which a deeply paranoid understanding of the world has seized control of much of the Western media. Underlying this is a view of Russia as a master puppeteer whose strings extend into every nook and cranny of our society, manipulating every act of political protest. But if you stop and think about it for a while, it’s an absurd idea, which exaggerates Russia’s potential to an extraordinary degree. It also reveals another negative consequence of the disinformation industry, which is that all the talk of ‘foreign influence operations’ ends up creating a conspiratorial mindset that in turns makes it much more difficult to undertake a serious analysis of our domestic problems.
But as they say, mud sticks. Although Mendicino failed to confirm the Russian connection, he didn’t tell Koksal that her question was nonsense either. Consequently, the allegation was left hanging in the air, and no doubt some viewers will have gone away thinking that a Russian link to the truckers’ convoy was a real possibility.
Apart from me, will anybody call the CBC to account for this shockingly poor piece of journalism? Will the well-funded disinformation industry produce reports about the fake Russia news coming out of mainstream media? Of course not. Such things are allowed to pass without comment, let alone condemnation.
And yet they complain about Russian disinformation and wonder why people tune into RT. If they really want to know the answer, I suggest that they just take a good long look in the mirror.