Saturday, December 14, 2013

About twitter, propaganda & following/unfollowing

There was a time when I discovered Twitter. It was very romantic time when bloggers in Middle East incited crowds to depose autocratic governments. I followed @acarvin and believed everything in his feed, voices, pictures, there was a sense of witnessing first hand what's going on Tahrir square. Then I noticed how @acarvin consiously avoided tweeting about Bahrain's protests which were ruthlessly put down by military intervention of Saudi Arabia & other Gulf states.I asked @acarvin directly whether he takes orders from US government what to report and what not. He laughed off, despite the fact he's working for US state-funded radio NPR.

Link between propaganda & personal opinion of real people is not that obvious, because we are all raised in different societies, had different upbringing, education, we trusted different sources of information. No doubt propaganda exists and flourish in the modern world and I saw many examples of its inner side. Just like in infamous piece on Anderson Cooper's show @ac360 where Syrian Danny was essentially playing the role of citizen journalist angry with Assad's dictatorship when in fact everything was staged, even sounds of bullet shots were fake. 

I am Russian citizen (though not ethnic Russian but minority, Sakha, which lives in the Far East) so I know what's going on here better - and propaganda and disinformation were much used tools in sometimes vicious internal political life. Both Kremlin & radical opposition supported by the West stand accused in practicing disinformation campaign. Examples of such propaganda pieces I gave in my twitter feed (if you have interest, you can order from twitonomy my tweets in single file and find them like case when pro-Putin Nashi movement was exposed in manipulating public discourse in the run up to the last presidential elections or numerous false pieces about presence of Chechen squads near Moscow which was provided by opposition media to stoke up anti-Kremlin feelings).

I had lived almost ten years in India. It was revealed in Radia tapes that Indian media had entered into cosy relationship with power-haves at the cost of objectivity & impartiality. I don't subscribe to Chinese view that Indian media is fully controlled by the state, but heavily influenced are better words to describe the state of affairs there.

Should media be impartial & objective? This is interesting question and answer depends on proclaimed aims by media outlet, who funds it etc. Recently appointed head of Russia Today state-run conglomerate Dmitry Kiselev said to his journalists: "Is BBC impartial? No. Is CNN objective? No. So we won't be impartial & objective replacing these qualities with love to Motherland". Kiselev's appointment was not without controversy & he became known in Russia for anti-gay views though some commentators think he's just opportunist airing views which sound good to power-haves' ears.

But I'd agree with his assessment that there is no 100% objective & impartial media. Editorial decisions in deciding what to air and what not necessarily makes coverage biased, not balanced. This is why BBC & CNN not perceived in Russia as objective media because they air only negative news about Russia (and even were caught cooking news to provide such feed with fodder). Russia Today reversed the trend, putting mirror on Western states, airing mostly negative news about Western wars, torture, surveillance etc.

Susan King, official at National Fund for Democracy (funded by US state department), who followed me for some time, often complained about anti-Western bias of RT. Ambassador @mcfaul irritated by RT coverage most of all as he often writes about it, even on front-pages of Russian papers. That's fine they do it openly, but will Americans heed to complains of Putin or Lavrov about biased coverage of Russia in Western media? I think not.

But I am not media outlet, which funded by somebody to pursue certain agenda. The only fees I get are results of my work. From land where I work hard, from books about India that I wrote for largest Russian publishing houses. I plan to sell my future books & e-books directly via my website so you an buy them if you find them interesting. Or not.

The same with twitter following - I am not a member of #teamfollowback,  I don't promise to follow back any twitterati who stumbled upon my twitter account and clicked "follow". There is no obligation in following me, you can just that easily unfollow me, then maybe follow me back again, I won't hold grudge. In fact I practice it myself all the time. I follow usually people I interact with often or whose tweets are of some interest to me.

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