Theresa May, Russia, and Fake News

Yesterday Theresa May addressed one of main issues concerning everyday British citizens. Immigration? Brexit? House prices? Terrorism?

Alas no, she instead spoke about fake news being spread by Russians:

Theresa May has accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in an extraordinary attack on its attempts to “weaponise information” in order to sow discord in the west.

The prime minister spoke out against “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions during an address at the lord mayor’s banquet, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.

If the international order can be upset by fake news being planted in the media, it doesn’t say much about the international order, does it? But the reason fake news gains so much traction in the west is twofold: firstly, major news organisations are flatly refusing to cover serious issues affecting millions of ordinary people, thus giving the (correct) impression that the news is carefully managed by the political establishment. This then leaves the floor clear for nefarious parties to come in and talk about these issues unopposed. Secondly, trust in the mainstream media has fallen to rock-bottom because people have finally realised they are also in the business of peddling fake news, and now consider the difference between them and the likes of RT to be one of degree not form. The mainstream media and the politicians they pander to have only themselves to blame, but they are so lacking in self-awareness they can’t see how much they’re projecting. Consider this statement for example:

“It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the west and undermine our institutions.”

How many fake news stories regarding Donald Trump does the BBC peddle, then? Just last week it was complicit in the fake story about Trump dumping the fish-food into the pond all at once, and relies mainly on unsubstantiated Twitter posts in its initial reporting of a story. And how much airtime did the BBC give to the non-story that was the Paradise Papers? Consider too this post from Rob Fisher at Samizdata:

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are political I have marked in italics, and neutral stories I have omitted):

– Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.

– Tax avoidance is wrong.

– Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.

– Bono should pay more tax.

– Rich people should pay more tax.

– The state should control who has guns.

– Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.

– Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.

– Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.

– Trump is being mean to Turkish people.

– Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.

– People were kidnapped in Nigeria.

– A writer used politically incorrect language.

– A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.

– People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

The idea that the BBC is an impartial reporter of the news contrasting with RT’s politically-motivated propaganda is laughable. So is this:

Listing Russia’s attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years, she said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.

Whatever damage Russia has done to western institutions is eclipsed by that carried out by the political establishment of which Theresa May is very much part. True, the Russians might not succeed in destroying western society but they won’t have to: the likes of Theresa May will manage that all on their own, cheered on by the mainstream media while ordinary people are ignored, belittled, insulted, threatened, and imprisoned.

If the western democracies were as resilient as May is making out, RT’s output wouldn’t matter. Russia presented far more of a threat during the Cold War, and there were more than enough people in the west working in Moscow’s interests, and yet we survived intact. May knows this, and so does the entire political and media establishment. Politicians want someone to blame for the divisions in society that they have caused, and the media want to silence a rival outlet that doesn’t play by the same rules as they do, i.e. by refusing to cover stories that are politically inconvenient. The sooner May is booted out and the mainstream media goes bankrupt, the better. RT might peddle crap, but they are not the biggest problem Britain faces, not by a long shot.

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16 thoughts on “Theresa May, Russia, and Fake News

  1. As usual Tim you’ve hit the nail on the head. She’s absolutely useless – and always was.

    On other matters, you’ve reversed the italicisation of the Samizdata article which I’m sure wasn’t your intention

  2. On other matters, you’ve reversed the italicisation of the Samizdata article which I’m sure wasn’t your intention.

    Ah thanks: it’s the blockquote function that reversed them!

  3. All perfectly true. But I’m left wondering why she made that speech. Trump has just given Putin one of his endorsements and said that there is no evidence of him meddling in US politics. Russia have not done anything to provoke us, as far as we know, so there is no need to give them even such an awkward and futile slap. She certainly has enough on her plate without raising this one.

    Is there something big coming up that she wants to talk down and discredit? Have the Russians got something on her or her team members? Is she just pointing to a diversion? The timing doesn’t make sense.

    And the content. I haven’t seen more than the headlines, but did she give any details at all? Of course, she doesn’t want to get drawn into disputes about the minutiae of who said what and what they meant, but what on earth was she talking about? To say that Russia “interferes” is a bit like saying it’s cold there.

    Perhaps it’s an attempt to create a new cold war because the war on terror is being lost…

  4. @Sam Vara

    Selling Britain’s security credentials to European partners, particularly in the East, with the implication that Britain will be a capable and reliable ally post-Brexit (unlike one of the EU’s more troubling neighbours) provided some sensible deal can be agreed to?

    It is a line she’s tried out before.

  5. All perfectly true. But I’m left wondering why she made that speech.

    I’d say she’s flapping around and looking to deflect attention. She’s just jumping on a bandwagon, making herself look tough on vague things outside her control she won’t be measured on.

    To say that Russia “interferes” is a bit like saying it’s cold there.

    That’s why it’s so useful: they don’t need to go into details, just like with any bogeyman.

  6. I haven’t seen more than the headlines, but did she give any details at all?

    The Spectator reports that:

    ‘She listed the actions of Russia which threaten the international order, including annexing Crimea, fomenting conflict in the Donbas and cyber espionage and disruption’

    and also notes, perceptively, that:

    ‘taking a strong stance on Russia works well when your opposition is at best ambivalent about the way the country behaves and at worst supportive of some of its territorial ambitions.’

  7. ‘She listed the actions of Russia which threaten the international order, including annexing Crimea, fomenting conflict in the Donbas and cyber espionage and disruption’

    I actually agree with that. The problem is, the Crimea and Donbas stuff should have been dealt with properly at the time and now it’s way too late, even assuming people like the Germans wouldn’t say they want one thing while doing something else; and none of this really has much to do with Britain’s current predicaments which are a lot closer to home. She might as well complain about the Chinese in Tibet and their counterfeiting.

  8. Pretty much the business of governments (apart from bossing their own citizens around and extorting what taxes they can from them) is to influence — or interfere — in other countries. Russia does it? Wow, in the same amount that ourselves, China and even Liechtenstein does it, thought the latter on a smaller scale most probably.

    I am led to believe that Saudi Arabia interfered hugely in Hillary’s attempt to rule the world, mostly by pumping in gazillions in cash to fund her campaign. Reasonably the Saudis were expecting their interference/assistance to be handsomely rewarded by return post once she got to hang her knickers out on the White House washing line.

    Of course, that effort isn’t mentioned much, possibly because a) Hillary blew it, b) the MSM has little idea of what’s happening in the world and c) numerous Saudi head honchos seem to be in line for, er, not having heads, so it doesn’t matter much now.

  9. Blimey Watcher, where have you been hiding?! I was just about to call out a search party: helicopters, human chains, Saint Bernards, the lot!

  10. If one accepts that the BBC is a purveyor of fake news and, further, that the BBC has a broader reach in the UK than Russia Today or a myriad social media accounts sponsored by the Kremlin, May’s decision to go after the lesser and distant source over which she has little or no control rather than the home-grown one is pretty unimpressive tokenism.

  11. @Tim

    “Russia presented far more of a threat during the Cold War … and yet we survived intact” –

    And yet, because the western political classes are asleep at the wheel as far as Russia goes, the far lesser threat it presents today might just turn out to be lethal.

  12. “Whatever damage Russia has done to western institutions is eclipsed by that carried out by the political establishment of which Theresa May is very much part.”

    The only reason Russia can damage western institutions is that they are now so weak and hollowed out, they can be damage by a light breeze.

    Much like a rusty Congolese cargo vessel, it’s only the pain holding them together, all you need is a sharp stick to smash it to pieces.

  13. “I was just about to call out a search party: helicopters, human chains, Saint Bernards, the lot!”

    Thanks Mr Tim. The St Bernards would have been welcome, human chains less so but helicopters verboten.

    Hope the book’s going well. (I’ve been busy writing junk: steampunk novels really take the lead out of one’s pencil, as it were)

  14. Adam Curtis long pointed out that old Cold War Russian intelligence didn’t actually have that much influence and penetration in the west but pretended it did and the suckers in the west swallowed it whole.

    Better to be thought of powerful and dasterly than be found out to be of no large concern

  15. Hope the book’s going well.

    It is, thanks! And I hope you’re well.

    I’ve called off the helicopters and search party, told the Saint Bernards to proceed.

  16. Re: The Wicked Wussians

    https://order-order.com/2017/11/15/byline-outs-russian-troll-turns-glasgow-security-guard/

    1. Russia and Brexit: a chattering-class conspiracy theory

    Imagine how entitled you would have to be, how utterly used to getting your own way on every political and social matter, to think that the only possible explanation for a large number of people disagreeing with you is that they’d been got at by Russia and its mind-meddling invaders of the internet.

    Yes, this is the latest elite Remainer cry. Blissfully unaware of how much they sound like political Veruca Salts, having spent 18 months boring the good people of Britain rigid with their foot-stomping and weeping…

    .
    Tardis Reqired

    2. “Russian Interference” Now Being Blamed For Swaying Vote In Favor Of Brexit

    The simmering anti-Russia hysteria that has emerged in the UK recently has finally boiled over, and it appears last night’s story in the Times of London claiming that a swarm of Twitter bots reportedly created by a troll farm possibly linked to Russian intelligene (sound familiar?) posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during last year’s referendum to try and “so discord” among the public was the grain of rice that tipped the scale.

    The researchers said Russian activity spiked on June 23, the day of the referendum, and on June 24 when the result was announced. …the suspicious accounts posted 39,000 tweets on June 24 before dropping off almost entirely.

    Of course, the Times report neglected to explain the Swansea researchers methodology. Facebook, Twitter and Google used the inadequate standard of having one’s browser language set to Russian. It’s unclear whether these researchers something that, like browser language, can be easily changed or mimicked by other groups…

    .
    Meanwhile Democrats in USA grow ever crazier

    3. Democrat Lawmaker Supports Call To Ban “Racist” National Anthem

    …In possibly the greatest ‘virtue signal’ yet, the organization last week began circulating among legislative offices two resolutions that passed at its state conference in October: one urging Congress to rescind “one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon” as the national anthem…

    4Chan should start a T-Shirts – Black vs White – are racist scit.

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