Information operations

US – Russia Information War Roils

In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov famously pushed a “reset” button, to refresh the relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation.

Since then the world has changed.  In my opinion the relationship between our two countries has become often adversarial, many events have acted as a catalyst for negative relations.  The Snowden affair is one of the more damaging events in United States’ intelligence and diplomatic relations, and Russia did not help by offering Edward Snowden continued refuge.

The uprising in Kiev, oops, Kyiv, Ukraine has served as a tinderbox bereft of positive outcome, with Russia backing the eastern part of the country and the western part wanting to align with the European Union.  Accusations by Russian media accuse the West, and especially the United States, of backing Western Ukraine and stoking the flames of opposition.  Without disclosing his name, a Russian friend in a senior governmental position, has repeatedly posted links to Russian websites outright accusing the US of supplying ammunition and other support to the rebels.  I asked a friend in a position within the US, that might know more about this, he claims it is a private initiative of US citizens.   This I like…

In a more recent double edged release, apparently Russia intelligence released a damning audio clip of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland saying on her cellphone, “*F* the EU”, a charge the Russians deny (releasing the audio).   The European Union, of course, is not pleased about Nuland’s utterance. The United States is not pleased of this abuse of an intelligence disclosure. Russian media is beaming with glee at the US’ discomfort.

The Winter Olympics of 2014, held in Sochi, Russia, is an event designed to bring all nations of the world together in sports as a uniting venue.  In this more modern era, accusations of Russian corruption and supporting newscasts showing shoddy construction preceded the ceremony, casting a largely negative light on the construction.  “The Hill”, a product of Congressional Quarterly, outright states that the rift between the US and Russia is widening as a result of the Sochi Olympic Games, here.

The US’ Broadcasting Board of Governors released a study, citing an increasing number of Russians are turning to alternative news sources, here.

This prompted me to ask some of my colleagues in Russia for their perspective.  Again, without disclosing names, here is one PhD’s opinion of the coverage and where she gets reliable information.

I find Western media outrageously biased (not on Russia only, and, mind, I was married to a Canadian journalist, I saw how your news are made). If I look for the news I go to the RT, ITAR-TASS or RBC – all Russian sites, plus the Reuters and BBC for the other side’s perspective. Also I get analytics at work on all main political issues, and I don’t watch any TV in principle, be it ours or yours. I saw Western reports on Sochi because it was all over FB with different feelings of people about it, and I am not interested in watching sports so I did not follow the Olympic news myself.

However,  a FB friend today gave a link to a blog of Sochi’s volonteer (a Moscovite) (Big City) is a liberal resource, even slightly anti-governmental, their editor-in-chief was a well-known supporter of Bolotnaya meetings, but the girl is quite happy with the way things are despite some troubles with only some hotels and her main negative is about Western journalists who came already biased against Putin, corruption, etc. and write only about what was wrong.

After viewing the Sochi opening ceremony as well as much of the lead up to the games, I am clearly alarmed at the anti-Russian bias of the news.  I am neither a Russophobe or a Russophile, but my view is that the media is so negatively biased against Russia that I find it distasteful.

One thing I found almost hilarious was the Russian Police Force choir, almost certainly autotuned, here (original here).  The funniest part is the grim faced man between the two featured singers, I think he’s barely alive (link to .gif featured).  Unfortunately Pussy Riot could not perform.

Bottom line, the broadsides are being fired from both sides, in this information battle.  We, the information consumers (and many of you here are generators as well), are inextricably besieged by content thrust upon us, through our preferred information sources.  A cheaper version of the cold war is upon us.

PS. On a side note, United Airlines brought together 12 of the Team USA athletes and made a patriotic and stirring advertisement titled “Athletes Aboard”, complete with Gershwin in the background, here.

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