Where does our information come from?

Gordon Neil Ramsay, an associate Professor at the faculty of Social Science at the University of Akureyri, is co-authoring the book Seeing Red.
Where does our information come from?

The book is about how Russian disinformation and propaganda penetrates Western media systems, but also how domestic populist political movements can bolster Russian strategic narratives by following their own authoritarian playbook.

Old Scots words and fascinating culture

Gordon grew up in Glasgow in Scotland where he finished his doctorate in Political Communication at the University of Glasgow in 2011. “I have also lived in London and Ottawa in Canada, but I was attracted to coming to UNAK because of the structure of the Media Studies programme, which I think strikes an excellent balance between journalism, media and communication theory and history, and the political impact of communication.” says Gordon, asked why he decided to move to Akureyri in the year 2021 and start working at UNAK.

"Beyond the professional side, coming to UNAK was a unique opportunity to see Iceland from the inside, and to better understand the fascinating culture and history of a country that isn't too far from Scotland, but is so different in so many ways. It was also an opportunity to try to learn Icelandic, and while my ability with the language is still embarrassingly bad, I'm finding it fascinating, especially where old Scots words and Icelandic words remain the same” Gordon adds.

Writing the book

Describing what inspired him to write the book, Gordon says that he was inspired by his previous research that found evidence of how Russian propaganda and disinformation was finding its way into news and journalism in Western democracies. “This was the first study to identify the presence of Russian propaganda in Western news, and the evidence suggested that the economic pressures hitting news organizations across the world meant that they were more likely to recycle propaganda that had been designed to appeal to news values, and that Russia had been capitalising on this vulnerability.” he adds.

“Also, the lead author, Professor Sarah Oates, and I have kept in touch with each other’s research since she supervised me in my PhD, and it was obvious that our interests have been converging. So, we decided to investigate how Russian strategic narratives were circulating in American news media, and the role of domestic political actors in pushing anti-democratic narratives that match those promoted by Russia. Sarah is an expert in how the Russian state generates and circulates strategic narratives, using the information space to pursue its goals, including destabilising democracies in Europe and North America.”

The book looks at how economic pressures have weakened American journalism's watchdog role - a process that is occurring across all Western media systems. It investigates how it is that right-wing American politicians use Kremlin talking points to attack domestic political institutions, how respected traditional newspapers recycle Putin's justification for invading Ukraine, and how Russia can justify its international campaign to discredit democracy by drawing on the words and actions of a former U.S. president.

“Though the research focuses on the United States, the findings are relevant for every democracy which faces severe economic pressures on high-quality journalism, and where the media system is open to infiltration by sophisticated and determined disinformation campaigns.” Gordon says in closing.

Here you can find the book.