Let’s play a game

So I originally had this idea to design a simple test for comparing the so-called “Mainstream media” to the Russian media. I was going to leave it for Monday, but as it turns out a frustrated fellow who described himself as an “American vatnik” and who was sadly alone on Christmas started flooding my email box with long incoherent rants about how I’m a pro-American Soros/State Department-funded “MSM” shill and so on and so forth. Seeing as how every source he provided was from a Russian state-run site or one that depends on them like Russia Insider, I decided I should release my little game early.

It works like this: The UK started bombing ISIS targets in Syria after a vote authorizing the move in parliament. In the run up to this move, there were protests and debates, not only between opposing parties but even within the Labour party itself. The Stop the War Coalition played a visible role.

Just like with Iraq, or any war for that matter, opposition can have different motives. Some people are just pacifists on principle, others think the goals are wrong, while still others might support military action but are concerned that the plan as such could lead to unintended consequences. Here are some pieces from the mainstream media containing arguments against British involvement and airstrikes on ISIS:

NBC talks to former ISIS hostage who called airstrikes a “trap.”

Here’s one about opposition to the measure.

Here’s another Guardian article criticizing Cameron’s claims about airstrikes.

Here’s one showing both sides of the debate.

One from Bloomberg warning against a lack of a coherent strategy.

Here’s the BBC showing both sides of the debate in parliament.

Here’s the Guardian with the “It’s a trap” former hostage. 

Here’s the Independent on the same topic. 

Huffpo on Stephen Fry’s statement against the airstrikes.

Lastly, here’s one from The Daily Mail that actually starts by quoting Assad. If you only read the headline, you could possibly come away with a pro-Assad message.

Now before we play our little game, first a word on how I gathered those links. I had been seeing articles like this from the time the debate started, but I wasn’t following it very closely. When I started writing this article, I fired up some Google tabs and just searched for key words on the topic to find these and many other links in a few minutes. Anyone can do this.

Now it’s time…

The challenge: Go on RT.com, Sputnik, RT’s Youtube channel, or Russia Insider and find an article that opposes Putin’s campaign in Syria. The conditions are as follows…

  • It must have been published before this post, but it can be any time going back to the point where the Russian government acknowledged its campaign in Syria.
  • It must oppose or criticize the Russian president’s decision. It doesn’t matter whether it considers it a mistake or just downright stupid. It just can’t be some concern troll opposition like: “Putin’s decision is pretty great, but he really should send at least a couple divisions and push all the way to Raqqa.”
  • The motivation for the opposition isn’t important. It could be doubts as to the efficacy and wisdom of such a move, particularly in light of Russia’s socio-economic situation at the time. It could be concern for possible civilian casualties or terrorist retaliation against Russia (which has happened). It could even be concern that the dastardly Western media will use this as a way to frame glorious Russia for killing civilians. It doesn’t matter so long as it criticizes the campaign and voices genuine opposition.

If you find a story that you think fits, just post the link in the comments to this entry, along with any explanations you might want to add.

I’m not going to flat out say you won’t find any; I’m genuinely curious and this is about my own research as well. It’s just that I am highly skeptical that you’ll be able to find such an article seeing as how ever since this campaign started the Russian media and its lackeys have done nothing but cheer, as they always do. And this is crucial seeing as how the Russian state media doesn’t operate like the so-called “MSM,” which is really just a term for any media outlet, large or small, which fails to repeat the official position of the Russian government at any given time.

Not convinced that the term “MSM” is bullshit? Check out RT’s “Ultimate Guide to the Mainstream Media.” Let’s see, there’s France, US, Germany, UK, Australia… Hey wait a minute! Something’s missing! Where’s Russia? Does Russia not have a mainstream media? Of course Russia does have a mainstream media, a very rigidly controlled mainstream media which works closely with the presidential administration for its talking points. RT is simply the foreign language mouthpiece of that Russian mainstream media, yet they’d like you to think that they’re some kind of alternative. Meanwhile, Vice is “mainstream” media because they committed the sin of destroying Russia’s claims about the “civil war” in Ukraine.  Also I can’t help but point out the irony of them trying to make the “MSM” more transparent, given that RT is one of the most opaque organs in the Russian state. Only recently have they even started to release partial data on spending because the Ministry of Finance apparently wants to know where all this money is going.

Before closing and turning you loose over the Russian media to find those examples I asked for, I’d like to point out that this type of mentality shouldn’t seem too alien to any informed Americans. The comparison is obvious- Fox News and the American conservative media industry. Back when Bush was in, talking points would originate in the White House and then they’d be disseminated down the pipeline, usually starting with Fox and filtering to the syndicated AM talk show hosts, the local morning hosts, and so on. It still works more or less the same way minus the White House, of course, and you have to include hundreds of blogs and websites that all drink from the same well.

If you have conservative relatives or co-workers who are hooked on Fox or any part of that media machine, you know what happens if you present any material that contradicts what they’re claiming. “Well yeah, that’s just the liberal media for you.” In fact, I’ve noticed over the years that conservative media has also used the term “mainstream media” and “MSM.” Just like with Russian media, the claim is hilarious because conservative media in the US is extremely well funded by huge corporations like Clear Channel and News Corporation. And yet just like Russia’s state run media giants stuffed with cash, Fox News would like you to think that it’s some small guerrilla operation. Sure.

So that’s all I have to say for now. I’ll let those who are interested get on with the game. Happy Hunting.





16 thoughts on “Let’s play a game

  1. LW

    Never heard of the US Convervative term “lamestream media”? It’s all the rage these days. Respectable and totally not crazy conservative outlets like the distinguished outpost of ethical journalism known as the “Birther Report” used it all the time for a while.

    Mind you, you also need to be a touch more principled. For instance, you’ve retweeted an anti-black racist of a rather vicious degree, just because he shares your derision of all these washed-up stars who go to Russia.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Please give me that person’s Twitter handle and I’ll be sure to block them.

      Rest assured I am very principled on this matter and had I known who that individual was I wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

    1. Лина Любовь

      agree with you about how sad this is. as an American, I can not imagine living under such opression that my political beliefs would cause so much grief that suicide is a better option… The problem here, is that when reading it, I wonder if suicide is really what happened….

      1. Asehpe

        Some of the comments to that article speculate about that. The original source, from a RFE/RL reporter who was in contact with Kolesnikov, claims that it was indeed suicide. Here is the link:


        Such things do touch me deeply. I am married to a Russian-Ukrainian (from Kyiv); we speak Russian as our daily language at home, Russian is one of my daughter’s native languages. I have great respect and admiration for Russian culture, especially literature and music. When I see things like this happening in Pushkin’s country, it really makes me sad. I wished there was something a simple individual like me could do to change that state of affairs.

  2. A.I.Schmelzer

    The thing with your challenge is, you narrowed down the allowed Russian media to basically “Russian Fox News”.



    Lots of moderatly informed “people with no problem with Putin” called out that Putins pretty obvious hope to “wash away his Ukrainian adventure with Islamist blood” will not work in practice, because the west cannot be appeased (as appealing as the Idea of appeasing the west by commiting blood sacrifices of people you will eventually have to kill anyway is to some, in theory), and the west is not deterred by Russia placing some of its most combat ready air assets in a place where they could be easily interdicted. To paraphrase a German saying, Todays Vanguard is tomorows hostage.
    The other Putin loyalist pov. who is critical on Syria is that opening a new “adventure” while the old one is “unfinished” is simply bad strategy. Kiev has absolutely no incentive to seek peace, and can and will easily derail an potential benefit Russia could gain diplomatically from Syria by simply making hostilities in Donbass flare up again. The western media will still faithfully parrot the “Russia is evil” line in this case, and it is as if Russia has a usefull response for this.

    Invading Kiev is out, surrendering the seperatists is also out (yeah, repeat Donbass with Crimea. One can argue in good faith that Russia has a moral responsibility to prevent more people living in war like conditions, especially since it isnt blameless in starting that war), hurting sanctioning Ukraine does not work because the people running Ukraine are either people with a martyr mindset (Nationalists) or people who increasingly depend on foreign backing (people like Yatsenyuk, to inconvenience Yats one would have to sanction the US embassy) and in general sanctions dont change regime behaviour very much anyway.
    In a sane world, Russia could wait until Kiev/Maidan collapses on its own insanity, but in this world, while this kind of collapse will eventually happen, the ruling Kiev elites will kill as many “pro Russians” as they can first.
    So, if Russias operation in Syria is so successfull that diplomatic gains start to materialize (this is a pretty big if), Kiev will invade Donbass again, there will be a new Debalzevo or Illovaisk (we will have to see how much Russian support the rebels will need to win) and then a Minsk 3. Of course, Kiev will implement nothing of Minsk 3 either, but we will still be back to the starting point, + some extra sanction on Russia because sanctions are the wests stupid default response.

    In case we just use all Russian media as opposed to only Russian fox news for foreigners:
    There is also f.e. Russian brooks institution or Carnegie:


    Or the actual Russian opposition media (yes, it exists)

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The challenge isn’t narrow. I would count Russia Insider because even though it’s not state run, many of its writers work for RT or Sputnik and it is closely affiliated with them.

      So your article definitely does count, but I find it funny how they had to put a disclaimer on both and include a rebuttal in the second, because God forbid anyone think that not every move of the Dear Leader is a brilliant strategy.

      But that’s basically it though- Russian state-owned media is essentially Fox News. Is this better or worse for media and journalism?

      1. A.I.Schmelzer

        I would prefer honest and unbiased sources, and Russia Today is occassionally so far out there that it has issues serving as the corrective it claims to be, but overall it adds something.

        I mean, I am German. I have to pay 240 Euro per year for what counts as public broadcasting in Germany, on top of any taxes which found them too, and this basically comes straight out of the pocket as a highly regressive “poll tax for propaganda based on households”.
        (And no, you dont get to opt out somehow, and the public broadcasting still does commercials and hunts after commercial ratings).

        German state media is ridiculously hostile to Russia (to such an extent that it actually drives people towards Russia, especially in the east where reading between the lines is a thing), engages in outright lies (including passing off obvious seperatist victims as victims of seperatists, or constantly talking about Russians invading and shelling while actually playing video material of Kievan troops doing shelling) and it is so while it proclaims to adhere to lofty journalist ideals and takes my money without me being able to do anything about it.

        Occassionally they do something usefull. Reknowned investigative magazine “Monitor” was among the first to raise doubts about the “official version of the Maidan massacre”, but you would have to be awake deep in the night (or on youtube) to watch it.
        Here is some youtube:

        Russia today doesnt exactly pretend to be unbiased in the first place, and it isnt taking my money out of my pocket to fund itself.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Russia Today isn’t taking money out of your pocket, but it is taking money out of the Russian people’s pockets for very little in return. And to be fair, RT is actually of better quality than Sputnik or Russian domestic media, so long as you never read the Op-Edge section or listen to their phony “political analysts.”

        RT supporters often go between claiming to be unbiased and then claiming to represent the Russian POV, but both are lies.

      3. A.I.Schmelzer

        How is that a lie that they represent “the russian pov”? They represent “a Russian pov” (not even neccesserarily the pov of the Russian High state) which makes claiming to represent “the Russian pov” just a half-truth and not an outright lie.

      4. Asehpe

        ‘How is that a lie that they represent “the russian pov”? They represent “a Russian pov”’

        Yes, but only in the sense that there are Russians with this viewpoint. By calling it ‘a Russian POV’ you make this POV depend on someone’s being Russian rather than on someone being who s/he is. A viewpoint held by only one Russian somewhere in Russia would also be ‘a Russian viewpoint’ in this sense, but if it is only held by that one Russian it certainly would be better presented as that person’s viewpoint than as ‘a Russian viewpoint’. I’m sure there are Russians who are progressive and pro-gay-rights, for instance; yet it would be quite misleading to say that progressive and pro-gay values are ‘a Russian viewpoint’.

        It’s like saying that both Communism and Fascism were ‘German viewpoints’. Yeah, but not because those who held said viewpoints were Germans; rather, because they were Communists or Fascists. Their nationality wasn’t the reason.

        To me, RT represents more what the elite wants the common Russians to believe.

      5. A.I.Schmelzer

        Why do you think that Russia Today has a monopoly of what “The Russian pov.” is?

        I will be damned if someone claims that ARD/ZDF represent “The German pov.”, they represent the pov. of the German government, which is a big meaningfull difference.

        Same with Russia today.

        Last time I was in Russia, the media there was mostly indistinguishable from the media in Germany. Down to having the US ambassador in a talkshow where everyone piled in on him (which is the same as when the Russian ambassador is in a German talkshow), the main differences are that Russian media lies a lot less proficiently (which makes them more harmless, not more dangerous, then the western media), and does not invest in Alibi investigative journalism as much.

  3. A.I.Schmelzer

    It is literally impossible to compete in this because your sites spam filter which eats links from Russia with a fucking passion.

    As for Russia insider, go there, search for “Jacob Dreizin”. He has a series of aptly named articles called “Curb your enthusiams, Russia is not winning in Syria”.

    There are also some somewhat critical articles concerning this on “Russia in global affairs”, in particular the one my Sergey Misyanin.

    No links since your filter just eats them.

    Russia today btw. is not “Russian Fox News” it is “Russian Fox news for foreigners”.

  4. Pingback: While you were away | Russia Without BS

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