With so much attention being paid to the Russian attack of our political infrastructure, we seemed to have forgotten that there is a second offensive coming from Moscow.
Through the inauguration of trendy, and well funded propaganda channels, the Kremlin has inched ever closer to their most sought objective: destabilizing and dividing Western society. This means instigating whatever chaos necessary to cause serious rifts within the EU, NATO, and the States.
The rise of the internet and social media have all but obliterated traditional efforts at spinning the truth. As a result of these modern campaigns being both cheaper, and more effective, the threat faced by Western ideals has not only been turbocharged, but is actually already recognizable:
It was the Kremlin’s toxic propaganda, with R.T at the forefront, that for years instigated the unprecedented anti-European sentiment which lead to Brexit.
It was fake articles, sponsored by the Kremlin, that prompted the rise of radical groups throughout Europe by purposely brewing hatred towards immigrant communities.
And it was due to this brazen campaign, that approval numbers for the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, have been steadily rising in the US
It’s not only conservative voters who seem to be collectively flinging their panties at Putin. During the 2016 election, Kremlin media targeted and exploited the grief felt by those on the fringes of the left as well, by shamelessly promoting Green party candidate Jill Stein as the only ethical choice. Although she did not win, Stein served her purpose by helping Russia achieve its aims. Her vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory.
We are in the midst of an information war, yet the shots are only coming from one direction.
This hypocritical disparity was exemplified recently when Sputnik, Moscow’s main radio propaganda outlet, took over a bandwidth on the Washington DC’s radio dial, 105.5 FM. The former bluegrass station, began airing broadcasts July 1 from offices in downtown Washington.
You read that right…Through an ironic exploitation of our own press freedoms, Kremlin talking points are being peddled a mere three blocks away from the White House.
It is finally time for some reciprocity.
The U.S. could launch a counter-propaganda campaign and hit the Kremlin where it hurts most by sowing dissent and distrust between Putin and his small but loyal oligarchy.
For this purpose we can recruit networks like Current Time, a 24/7 Russian-language television venture produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, that has been up and running for several months, producing high-quality news. Unsurprisingly, the network was banned in Russia by a 2012 law due to its critical coverage of Putin’s regime, making it only available online.
U.S. leaders should demand parallel treatment for these outlets, and if Mr. Putin, truly believes in equivalent reciprocity, we should be prepared to call him out on his bluff.
Yet reciprocity seems absent from the current administration’s vocabulary. Donald Trump, who has constantly boasted about his ability to “punch back harder” than any his opponents, has inexplicably surrendered to Putin. His blatant affinity towards the Russian dictator has been so transparent, that it has literally compelled lawmakers on the US Senate to unanimously strip the president of his ability to remove Russian sanctions on his own. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.
Trump’s lack of leadership on this front, has also led to bipartisan efforts to fight propaganda state actors through a little-known State Department inter-agency office called the Global Engagement Center (GEC). The GEC and others, are to be tasked with missions such as producing Russian-language journalism, countering fake news, and supporting research on the effects of information warfare. If successful, this initiative will mark the first centralized counter-propaganda push-back against the Russians since the 1990s.
Yet as grim at it might all seem, there is a silver lining to our new commander in chief . Before the Trump phenomenon, this ever-encroaching Russian propaganda was receiving nowhere close to the attention it deserved. In the US that meant none at all. The recent election of a suspected Kremlin puppet however, is bringing a new level of awareness to this issue. This is key because merely recognizing the networks used to peddle Russian falsehoods is half of the battle, and right now more Westerners understand that RT stands for Russia Today. And for that we thank you Mr. President.
When I say we are fighting a war I don’t mean that as some sort of figure of speech. The threat is real and the stakes couldn’t be higher. And they should, as the eventual victor will decide which values are preserved, and whose ideology ends up on the wrong side of history
The good news is that we’ve faced this same opponent before and won. The bad news is that we seemed much more united when we did so.