Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: With the world relapsing into old rivalries, disinformation is emerging as the continuation of war by other means. Propaganda has always been used by authoritarian states to control populations at home — but technological advances are allowing them to also neutralize enemies abroad. None has been more aggressive and resourceful in this regard than Russia. And nowhere has this weaponized information been more lethal than in its coverage of Syria — vividly exemplified by RT, the Kremlin’s international broadcaster.
There is a virtual consensus among multinational bodies and human rights organizations that together, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russia hold the balance of responsibility for the killing and displacement in Syria. But hewing to the official Kremlin line, RT has cast Assad as the victim, his opponents as jihadists and his repression as a “war on terror.” The aim is less to persuade than to obfuscate. RT doesn’t have to tell a credible or coherent story as long as it can cast doubt on competing ones.
“There is no objectivity,” says RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, “only approximations of the truth.” Complete objectivity is indeed unachievable — yet it is a standard to which most journalists aspire. RT’s innovation is to dispense with objectivity altogether and make approximation of the truth its aspiration. News doesn’t have to be true as long as it feels true — and with truth thus relativized, fact becomes one with alternative fact. [Continue reading…]