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Monday, 9 November 2015

On Scaremongering and The Importance of Keeping the Real Agenda From the Masses - By Russell O'Phobe

Rob Slane
The Blog Mire

From Russell O'Phobe to all journalists working on Russia-related stories in the media

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I want to begin this missive by pointing to some of the success stories that we have seen over the past few weeks, before going on to issue what I believe is a necessary warning about some of the challenges that lie ahead.

I must say that it has been particularly pleasing for me personally to see many of the rules I set out for you in my "Primer on the Art of Writing Russian Scare Stories" and in my last letter being followed so judiciously by so many of you. The exercise was clearly valuable and it seems that many of the points I made have been thoroughly imbibed. That is to your credit.

Let me draw your attention to one such example, which I think we can all learn from. The Huffington Post recently ran a wonderful piece entitled "What Would Happen If Russia Cut The Transatlantic Data Cables?" Now that's a great start, is it not? Fear? Check! Disturbing question ungrounded in anything resembling reality? Check! Presupposing that the Russians are so unutterably sinister that they want to shut down the internet? Check! The perfect headline to start a scare story.

The piece itself was a masterpiece in the art. I urged you in my Primer to make good use of submarines in your articles — gives them a very Cold War feel — and I also went on to encourage the use of phrases such as "Fears are growing that...". Well HuffPo really exceeded all my expectations of the sort of thing we can conjure up if we put our minds to it. Here's an excerpt:

"Recent reports have suggested that deep beneath the ocean, something ominous is taking place. According to sources inside the US intelligence community there is an increased fear that Russia could have the power to take down the world's internet...Some have even postured that these deep sea cloak and dagger manoeuvres could be the start of a 'new Cold War'".
Got that? Recent reports! From where? Doesn't say. Why not? Doesn't need to! Are they credible? Who cares! You see how it works? Try making something up off the top of your head — say, Russians have developed technology that can cause mental illnesses at targeted people groups — and then all you have to do is refer to some other "reports" add a few spicy phrases like "cloak and dagger manoeuvres" or "sinister movements" into the mix, and you've got your story.

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