Bloggers, conspiracy theorists and people who challenge establishment narratives on the Internet were all likened to ISIS terrorists during a chilling Congressional hearing which took place yesterday.
The hearing, hosted by the House Foreign Relations Committee, was titled “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” and accused Russian state broadcaster RT of weaponizing “conspiracy theories” to spread propaganda.
One of the speakers giving testimony was former RT host Liz Wahl, who made a public spectacle of quitting Russian state media last year in an incident stage-managed by neo-con James Kirchick, himself a former employee of Radio Free Europe – a state media outlet.
Remarking that the Internet provided a platform for “fringe voices and extremists,” Wahl characterized people who challenge establishment narratives as a “cult”.
“They mobilize and they feel they’re part of some enlightened fight against the establishment….they find a platform to voice their deranged views,” said Wahl.
Referring to comments made in January by US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chief Andrew Lack, who characterized RT as a threat on the same level as ISIS and Boko Haram, Wahl said the comparison was justified.
“By using the Internet to mobilize people that feel displaced, that feel like they’ve been on the outskirts of society, and give them a place where they can find a sense of belonging, and maybe make a difference in their own way, and it’s a problem,” she said.
Wahl went on to bemoan the fact that conspiracy theorists were “shaping the discussion online, on message boards, on Twitter, on social media,” before asserting that the web had become a beacon of “disinformation, false theories, people that are just trying to make a name for themselves, bloggers or whatever, that have absolutely no accountability for the truth, that are able to rile up a mass amount of people online.”