Well done to Stewart McDonald, the SNP MP for Glasgow South, who has spoken out against Russian state-backed broadcasters who use crude propaganda and disinformation to undermine liberal democracies in the west.
If you ask me, Russia Today presenters like Alex Salmond are just 'useful idiots' and should be ashamed of themselves for working with this Kremlin controlled TV channel.
Russia is infecting the planet with disinformation
By Stewart McDonald - The Times
Sherlock Holmes gifted us no end of wisdom. A favourite dose of mine comes from the book A Scandal in Bohemia : “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” The coronavirus pandemic has seen no end of this.
Conspiracy theories, fake news and disinformation are nothing new and have found breeding grounds aplenty as the internet tightens its relentless grip on daily life. Gone are the days when these were the preserve of curious subscription magazines and puce-faced men claiming that Gaddafi was responsible for the disappearance of Shergar.
The modern conspiracy theory is far more subtle. It comes not just from those in tinfoil hats, bashing keyboards about the latest deep state conspiracy, motivated by a need for clicks, subscribers and the cash that follows, but often from those you trust: friends and family who, in a miasma of panic, haven’t taken the time to verify information before passing it on. They are gullible, rather than manipulative.
We should learn from some recent examples. Remember Russia’s interference in the last US election? What sometimes started as community Facebook groups for football fans or gardening hobbyists was found to be a Russian state effort, via its notorious Internet Research Agency, to slowly build an audience ripe for manipulation.
And so it is with some outlets that present themselves as legitimate news sources, such as Sputnik and RT — described by Putin’s former economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, as “the best Russian propaganda machine targeted at the outside world”. They do so by sharing news content that you can easily find elsewhere, along with talk shows and columnists you that won’t, but all with the aim of building a false relationship of trust.
These outlets care little about the impact of their actions on public health. They exist within a greater state architecture to legitimise and proselytise for the oppressive government in Moscow. Don’t be taken in by it.
We cannot allow the information space to be weaponised as an attack surface against our fellow citizens. We need an international coalition to defeat the virus of disinformation.
Stewart McDonald is the SNP spokesman for defence and a member of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee