26 March 2014, 12:57

Washington declares information war on Russia and world

Washington declares information war on Russia and world

The popularity of the internet and the explosion of social media networks have brought about the migration of war from the physical to the virtual realm. Images, ideas, and perceptions are sometimes more important in winning and retaining a victory than tanks, bombers, and machine guns. 

Since a direct conventional conflict between the US and Russia is nearly unthinkable as a result of nuclear parity (at least until the US' missile defense program is completed), Washington has settled for more unconventional means.

The US prefers to fuse together proxy and information wars to forge a deadly and destabilizing combination for use against any targeted adversary. As America's proxy wars have been explored in an earlier article, this one will focus on the information component, explaining the alternative and non-Western media's Responsibility to Inform the world and Washington's declaration of global media warfare.

Most information networks have a very similar structure. It can be visualized as follows:

 infowars

Government : This level crafts the grand strategic objectives of the entire information network. It is composed of the nation’s authorities and military leaders. 

Information Companies (IC): These can be transnational (CNN) or national (Fox News). They broadcast the information and lend a level of credibility by the very being of their existence. On TV, they are represented by a handful of individuals called "anchors". 

Institutions/NGOs: These may be government affiliated or "non-governmental” organizations. Academia can also be included in this category. Although they are supposed to be presented as non-biased and not under the government's influence, this is not always the case. On the informational front, their transgressions occur when they are engaged in spreading a misleading or false narrative among the IC or Social Media (e.g. the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in and controlled by the West). Sometimes they are even called upon as "experts" by the IC to "corroborate" a misleading story. More often than not, however, institutions/NGOs largely keep to the shadows and are typically the least vocal actors in a country"s Information Network. 

Social Media: Examples of this include Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking mediums. They can be used as the official outlet of governments, information companies, or institutions/NGOs, as well as private citizens. If managed "properly" by design, social media can be a force multiplier in making something "go viral", thereby necessitating an IC response. Once an IC addresses the "viral" issue, it becomes legitimized in the minds of most Information War recipients.

In dynamic and complex ways, ICs, institutions/NGOs, and social media may all interact with one another and influence the other's activities, especially when it comes to "boosting" a story that has the support of the government. Social media can misleadingly give the idea of "grassroots" support and/or legitimate popularity behind a news story. 

The only three instruments outside the official Information Network are the responsible (international) alternative media, blogs, and word-of-mouth reporting. 

"The Rules of the Game"

In a democracy, all parts of a country's Information Network are supposed to be free and fair, not stage managed. They are (sometimes falsely) assumed to retain a degree of distance and independence from the government. A proper example of this in practice can be seen by RT's Abby Martin and her opposition to Russia's humanitarian efforts in the Crimea. Each country, while making outreaches to the audience of others, has an unwritten "code" of keeping to itself and not directly interfering with the sovereign management of the other's network. How a nation's Information Network internally manages itself is the responsibility of the state itself and its citizens, and no foreign Information Network should try to infiltrate it and make covert changes from within. 

In this way, the code resembles that of international law, where states are generally prohibited from interfering in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state. And just like international law, there are cases when a certain country refuses to abide by the rules, but this will be addressed in the section on American Exceptionalism. 

Responsibility to Inform (R2I) 

If instances of democratic inconsistency occur within nominally democratic states like the US, then it is the responsibility of other Information Networks to inform these countries' citizens of the unfair and undemocratic happenings taking place. The citizens themselves may not even be aware of it, so used are they to thinking that their government is only feeding them the "truth". This makes R2I even more difficult to carry out. 

Hillary Clinton announced an international information war in 2011 when speaking in front of Congress. She notably said the following: 

"We are in an information war and we are losing that war. Al Jazeera is winning, the Chinese have opened a global multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive." 

Although many observers took this to mean an international information war, it could also just as accurately be about information dissemination within the US. Whenever there is biased and misleading coverage about a major event, it is the responsibility of other domestic news outlets to fill this gap and rectify the truth. However, if the domestic Information Network is failing, unwilling, or unable to illustrate this to the public, then it is the responsibility of the international news networks (RT/Press TV/CCTV) to do this for them.

The Thin "Propaganda" Line 

Hecklers would be quick to label Russian media reporting on the US and international events as naked "propaganda", but they likely never opened a dictionary to see what their favorite slur even means. Merriam-Webster defines the word as such: "ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc."

What RT and other leading Russian information outlets do is expose inconsistencies and politically inconvenient facts about the West and its policies, abetted by insightful analysis from accredited experts. An exposé is different from propaganda in the sense that it is not purposely distorted for political purposes. Defending Russia's position on Crimea, for example, does not have to be composed of lies, misleading statements, and contortions of reality, unlike the American positions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. In this sense, Russian coverage about American and international affairs can be described as an exposé, whereas the West's coverage of Russia and the world is largely propaganda.

The Informational Application of American Exceptionalism 

The United States' approach to information warfare, just like its take on physical warfare, tends to contrast with established international norms and understandings. Instead of a hands-off approach to how rivals run their domestic Information Network, the US takes to undermining other’s efforts through covert infiltration. As with most of America's wrongdoings, this is also motivated by American Exceptionalism. 

Recently, the secretive neo-conservative Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) 'NGO' targeted RT anchor Liz Wahl in order to bring about what they viewed to be an 'informational coup'. ICs do not typically have many news anchors, thus making them highly valued and somewhat of an 'endangered species'. In this sense, the FPI's actions can be equated with 'poaching' the resource of another Information Network, in flagrant violation of the unwritten code keeping some semblance of stability and civility between them. 

Much like the CIA has done countless times in innumerable countries, the US' Information Network used the one of its tools, the FDI, to 'flip'Wahl into an 'asset' (to use CIA parlance). Chris Kirchick took on the role of CIA case officer by 'handling' Liz Wahl and working to 'turn her' against her employers. The full expose by truthdig.com (an alternative media outlet outside of Washington's control) illustrates this in-depth, but in brief, the FPI, which has governmental policy affiliations, staged a 'slow seduction' (likely with the temptation of instant fame and a career turnaround) to bring about a highly publicized 'defection' right out of the Cold War playbook. Wahl told The Hollywood Reporter that her decision to resign on-air was on the spur of the moment that day, but Truthdig's piece on the matter elegantly proves this to be another lie in America's information arsenal by exposing FPI's tantalizing tweets immediately before Wahl's attention-thirsty action.

The Purpose of Information Network Sabotage 

It is likely that the US government, acting through the treachery of the FPI, sought to damage the credibility of RT through Wahl's "defection". After applying strenuous pressure on RT's staff day in and day out, it was probably thought that the defection of an anchor (an 'endangered species' of value to an IC) would sow the seeds of distrust within the ranks and weaken organizational unity. By increasing doubt and stress among Wahl's colleagues, RT's message might become weakened, thereby also indirectly harming Russia. Thankfully, Margarita Simonyan had already identified the threatening objective of this media war and took steps to reassure and thank her team for all of their hard work and dedication towards spreading the truth. 

A Declaration of Media War 

Liz Wahl by herself is not important, but the significance of her covertly influenced defection ('poaching') is. This symbolizes that elements of the US' Information Network are dedicated towards smashing "the rules of the game" and taking the offensive in their informational operations. It's yet another dampening of trust between the US and Russia, and it adds proof to the claim that the 'Reset' was nothing more than a misleading American slogan to disarm Russia's soft power defenses while it prepared the way for a fifth column. It cannot be excluded that there will be, or are in the process of being, more "Liz Wahls" all across the spectrum of alternative non-Western media. Where there is one, there will be more, and this frighteningly appears to be the beginning of a structured covert approach in attacking media outlets that do not agree with American foreign policy. In this case, all professionals operating in this field and disseminating such ideas need to be made aware that they too are covert targets, just like Liz Wahl was. 

In essence, "Liz Wahl" amounts to a declaration of media war by the US against the entire alternative and non-Western media stratum. The US, as a result of its own Exceptionalism, has taken upon itself not only to disseminate loads of propaganda, but also to actively sabotage the counter-propaganda initiatives of other countries. This demonstrates its insecurity in its own information initiatives, as it has to resort to subterfuge to undermine the other's message. It may possibly be that the US is nervous about the influence that RT has among the American population, and has thus decided to aggressively target the company. 

Forward, March! 

RT must be doing something right to be targeted like this, and it should look at this attack as a badge of honor showcasing all of its previous successes in spreading informational awareness. It will continue to marching on with the same high-quality reporting that earned it the position of the top-viewed foreign news network in five American cities in 2011. Americans understand that they are being lied to and misled by their governmental and informational leaders, hence why they have sought out alternative mediums like RT by the millions. To channel Alex Jones of infowars.com, "there is a war on for your mind", and the world needs to fight back against America’s informational aggression.

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