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About this Event: The phenomenon of “fake news” has become a highly political issue not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. In this talk, we focus on the politics of fighting disinformation in post-communist Central Europe, specifically in the Czech Republic. In the Czech public debate, the problem of disinformation started to be treated by many politicians, journalists, and analysts as an existential threat, as they see the spread of “fake news” as a part of Russia-led hybrid warfare waged against the West, aiming at undermining the trust in the current political system and its elites. We explain the emergence and wide-spread popularity of this military narrative around disinformation and suggest that using the language of war in this context is a highly political move, which changes our way of thinking about the problem of disinformation, gives room for repressive solutions rather than civilian ones, and by itself threatens the fundamental values of a democratic society more than paid Russian “trolls”. We argue instead for understanding the problem of disinformation as a part of a broader condition of “information chaos”, characterized by sociotechnical transformations of news production and consumption, occasional malign interference by state- as well as non-state actors, all this taking place in the context of growing inequalities and cultural backlash against traditional elites in Western societies.
About the Speaker:
Dagmar Rychnovská is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Techno-science and societal transformation group at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna. She holds a PhD in International Relations (Charles University in Prague), an MA in Comparative and International Studies (ETH Zurich and University of Zurich), and an LLM in Law and Politics of International Security (VU University Amsterdam). Her research interests lie at the intersection of international relations, security studies, and science and technology studies. Her current research explores security controversies in research and innovation governance, with a focus on bioweapons, biotechnologies, and biobanks.
Michal Smetana is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University, as well as Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, and Coordinator of the newly established Peace Research Center Prague. He holds a PhD in International Relations from Charles University in Prague, and he was previously a Visiting Research Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). His main research interests lie at the intersection of security studies, international relations, and political psychology, with a specific focus on issues related to nuclear weapons in world politics, arms control and disarmament, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deterrence theory, and norms and deviance in international affairs. His most recent articles have been published in International Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, Journal of International Relations and Development, International Relations, Asia Europe Journal, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, The Nonproliferation Review, and other academic and policy journals. He is the author of Nuclear Deviance: Stigma Politics and the Rules of the Nonproliferation Game (Palgrave Macmillan) and co-editor of Global Nuclear Disarmament: Strategic, Political, and Regional Perspectives (Routledge) and Indirect Coercion: Triangular Strategies and International Conflict (Charles University Press).