NYT – How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century

beSpacific 2017-09-13

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop. Jim Rutenberg. September 13, 2017.

“…After RT [Russia’s state-financed international cable network] and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum. Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.” When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, at the palace of Versailles in May, Macron spoke out about such influence campaigns at a news conference. Having prevailed weeks earlier in the election over Marine Le Pen — a far-right politician who had backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea and met with him in the Kremlin a month before the election — Macron complained that “Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign….RT might not have amassed an audience that remotely rivals CNN’s in conventional terms, but in the new, “democratized” media landscape, it doesn’t need to. Over the past several years, the network has come to form the hub of a new kind of state media operation: one that travels through the same diffuse online channels, chasing the same viral hits and memes, as the rest of the Twitter-and-Facebook-age media. In the process, Russia has built the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far, one that thrives in the feverish political climates that have descended on many Western publics…”