After the first full day of Panama Papers coverage we can finally get an idea of the reactions from around the world. Much of the Russian state-run media has preferred the “no news is good news” approach, and avoided reporting on the leak. A few have preferred to do some damage control, alternatively pointing out that the leaked documents show no direct link to Putin (nobody ever said they did) and claiming that it was a Western “information attack.” Of course that begs the question as to why there is no direct link to Putin himself if this is nothing but a contrived, nonsensical propaganda attack designed to smear the Dear Leader. And were not the same Russian officials claiming that an intentional information attack on the Dear Leader was in the works almost a week before the papers were first released? Oh wait. Shit. I forgot I’m talking about people with the reasoning ability of six-year-old children. Never mind.
On the topic of Putin’s wealth, Mark Galeotti has stepped forward to explain what this really means in the context of the Putinist system. I think this was extremely timely and necessary because when the leak first happened, I was afraid some people would get the idea that this means “Putin has $2 billion;” it doesn’t. As Galeotti explains, you have to follow the power, not the money. Putin certainly has access to vast amounts of wealth, but he has very little capacity to enjoy it. Without power, it can all be taken from him in an instant. If you understand this, you will go far toward understanding why the system operates the way it does and Putin’s behavior. Another reason to read Galeotti’s explainer is that he puts things into perspective by pointing out the massive loss Russia suffers due to high level corruption. It is this corruption that has a serious detrimental effect on the country as a whole and it is driving the country to ruin with no signs of changing.
By far, the greatest reaction to the leak has come from none other than RT, which promptly lost its shit and published what has got to be one of the most hilarious “news” stories I’ve ever seen. I write “news” because it’s important to note that the following story appears in the news section of the site and not the Op-Edge editorial section, where one normally finds wacky conspiracy theories and fawning, even disturbing praise of the Dear Leader Vladimir Putin.
To fully appreciate this masterpiece we must start with the headline, which explains what RT thinks is the real story here:
‘Goebbels had less-biased articles’: Public slams MSM for Putin focus after Panama papers leak
Hmmm… So the real story isn’t the leak itself, but rather that there has been some kind of backlash from the “public” against the MSM, also known as the “mainstream media” or “any media that happens to contradict the Russian government’s official narrative.” Well then, what is the source for this alleged “slam?” Comments and tweets.
No I’m serious. Go look at the article. They’ve collected a handful of negative tweets and Facebook comments that were left in response to certain outlets such as the BBC, and used these as evidence that the “public” is slamming the MSM over their alleged biased coverage of the leak. For example, here’s an excerpt explaining the source of that “Goebbels had less-biased articles” quote:
“A Facebook user accused the BBC of “anti-Russian propaganda” and complained that “Joseph Goebbels had less biased news articles,” in regards to the fact that the BBC published an article about Putin, despite the Russian leader not being named.”
Yes, “a Facebook user,” in this case apparently named Christopher Huddleston. Yes, the Christopher Huddleston! As for the praise of Goebbels, knowing RT’s fanbase it might not have been an attempt at hyperbole; he might just be an admirer of Joseph Goebbels. Who knows, who cares? The point is that RT actually resorted to cherry-picking social media comments to concoct a hilarious story about a non-existent backlash against the “mainstream media,” which incidentally might not be the best angle of attack when you work for a government that is known for pissing away money on internet comment trolling.
Just imagine what it would look like if I made a reaction story based on say, the comment section of Yahoo! News:
‘The Musslum Kenyian Marxist usurper Obummer is taxing white people into slavery’: Public slams MSM over handling of bake sale story
Of course the laughably desperate author of the piece does attempt to make some form of argument, but spliced in between random tweets and comments from people who may or may not be paid trolls or insane, the whole effort fails miserably.
First the author starts things off with two lies, one big, one little:
“The world’s media has been pointing at one person following a massive documents leak from a Panama law firm. But that person, President Vladimir Putin, wasn’t even mentioned in the data leak. Sections of the public are not happy at the media coverage.”
No, silly, the world media hasn’t been focusing on one person. While some articles were published focusing on the Putin-related story, plenty of others have been released exploring the other angles. These stories came out near-simultaneously. Second, while Putin isn’t necessarily mentioned in the leak, people very close to Putin are, and that is basically the whole Putin angle of the story. In a sense this is nothing new; it’s long been established that Putin’s close friends are insanely wealthy and above the law. They receive very lucrative favors from the state and this is no secret either. Just ask Arkady Rotenberg.
Secondly, it was the presidential administration itself which made this all about Putin in the first place, starting even before the leak was published. Even after it was published and dozens of stories emerged about other world leaders, Peskov rammed his foot right in his mouth by claiming it was aimed at Putin personally.
This kind of whining is ridiculous because Putin’s fan club just loves to attribute everything good to Putin. He saved Russia! He improved living standards! He beat back ISIS! But the second someone brings up anything negative and dares question if there’s some connection to Putin and his 16-year rule over the country, the whole line flips 180 degrees. “Why must you blame Putin for everything? The weather was bad today- it must have been Putin’s fault!” It’s getting old, Putin fanboys. Real old.
Part of the nitpicking in the RT article centers on the fact that some of the stories about the leak featured Putin in their cover image, even when the story wasn’t specifically about him. Putin is, however, one of the most recognizable and arguably most powerful world leader implicated by the leak. Richard Nixon, by the way, didn’t break into the Watergate hotel. But what image do you think would we see heading an article about the Watergate break-in? The fact that RT went full-on foam-at-the-mouth screeching about this minor point just shows how super-sensitive they are about any perceived slight against their Dear Leader, and it also dispels any doubt that they are a legitimate news organization rather than a propaganda organ.
As I have stated before, the “MSM” has released numerous stories about other people implicated in the leaks. Here the New York Times gives a general run-down with the all the major suspects we know about so far. Oh wait, hold on, RT and its fans like to compare themselves to the BBC. So that means the BBC must have been running hysterical reaction stories downplaying the involvement of PM Cameron’s father in the scandal, or perhaps just ignoring it like the other Russian state media outlets. Nope. The BBC and the rest of the British press is having a field day with the story, because in Britain criticizing your leaders isn’t seen as treason.
Not satisfied with throwing a tantrum in print, RT has apparently been engaged in similar antics on-air:
Ah yes, RT’s “experts” weigh in. Some might actually have credentials, and others might just be random bloggers, as is typically the case. The implication that the ICIJ, the people who compiled the story, are the “same people who ‘saw’ WMD in Iraq” is laughable beyond all imagination and shows that their “experts” literally have no idea who and what they are talking about. Allow me to explain.
In the end of that hilarious article we see how RT, along with some of the Russian media, is trying to smear the ICIJ and CPI (Center for Public Integrity) as being part of a government conspiracy. They have also linked the organization to George Soros, a common bugbear for the Russian government. First of all, linking George Soros and the Bush administration’s drive for war is just plain stupid, seeing as how Soros was a well-known opponent of the GOP. Second, the CPI has received funding from Soros but not only do they disclose this, but they also included Soros’ political donations in a large report they compiled on campaign finance.
What about Iraq? Oh yes, let’s see how the ICIJ, an organization created by the CPI, consists of the “same people” who “saw” WMDs in Iraq. The CPI compiled a list of 935 false statements made by US leaders and their allies on the topic of Iraq. You can read it about it to your heart’s content here. They also launched an investigation into war profiteering by allies of the Bush administration thanks to contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. When has RT managed to produce a real investigation of such malfeasance in its entire history? The truth is we don’t need RT as an “alternative” to the “MSM,” because we have organizations like the CPI, which is dedicated to real journalism and questioning leaders as opposed to worshiping and zealously defending a president.
Look, RT people. I know some of you read this blog. Some of you have contacted me in the past. I have a simple request. Please, either anonymously in the comments or via email- justify this. Explain this. Don’t claim you’re just like the “Western” or “mainstream media” because first of all, that’s demonstrably false and beyond debate at this point, and secondly you can’t claim to be a truer, more objective alternative to the “mainstream media” and then claim to be exactly the same when it suits you.
Please write in and try to justify this because as I write, just over 20 million Russian citizens live under the poverty line, up 2 million in 2015. Russia’s minimum wage after a recent hike is $110 a month, which is still below the subsistence rate. Thousands of Russians work without receiving salaries for weeks and in some cases months. Meanwhile your organization has received several hundred million dollars over the years with virtually no accountability or oversight, much of it going to foreigners with no journalistic abilities or expertise whatsoever.
Please, justify that. Explain it to me as though you’re explaining it to one of those Russians getting by on about $140 a month. Imagine you’re justifying it to a group of workers who have endured several months of salary arrears. Hell, break it down as though you were telling a group of orphans in a group home about the importance of “information war.”
Whatever you do, please try to give a coherent explanation as to why anyone should take your network for a serious news organization and not what it apparently is, a personal PR firm for Putin and a propaganda outlet for the Russian government. How many times have you made fun of that “propaganda bullhorn” label, and how many times have you then gone and produced material that shows you’re exactly that? Wouldn’t it be better if you just flat out admitted it openly?