They Protest Too Much

Last week a new friend in Kyiv related an anecdote. He was discussing the topic of Ukraine online when one individual came in spouting off all the usual Kremlin talking points. In spite of regurgitating said talking points virtually word-for-word, he insisted that he doesn’t consume Russian state media. For me it was a familiar story- person spouts off every Kremlin-crafted talking point while swearing that they don’t consume any Russian or Russian-aligned media. In fact, I’ve encountered similar behavior in America.

A certain family member of mine back in America would often espouse the same viewpoints that one typically gets from conservative talk radio, Fox News, and conservative news websites. Yet when I’d bring up the fact that their worldview seems to perfectly align with those media outlets, they would swear that they don’t rely solely on conservative media.

This is quite a strange scenario. After all, if one doesn’t consume a certain media that is known for touting a consistent line, how does one end up toeing that line almost to the letter? If you gather your news from a variety of sources, it stands to reason that chance alone would lead you to take different, sometimes conflicting positions on various issues. Ideally, you’d be more nuanced in your talking points. I for one have certainly encountered such people with more varied opinions. We sometimes agree, sometimes differ, and sometimes debate. This is normal because we’re not forming our opinion based on one very specific set of outlets that is pushing a certain line.

Going back to our original example, all this seems to cast doubt on the protestations of those who espouse Kremlin talking points and insist that they don’t consume the media that is typically the only possible source for talking points. I’d go so far as to say they’re lying, which leads us to another question as to why they feel the need to lie about what media they consume.

If you buy into the idea that the poorly defined “mainstream media” is so biased and phony, and that the Russian “alternative” media is supposedly more objective or truthful, then wouldn’t it make more sense to defend that media instead of disowning it? To be sure, there are those who do defend it, yet I can’t help but notice their defense always seems to be pointing the finger at some past transgression of particular Western news networks and say that this justifies a deliberate, consistent propaganda line like what we see from outlets like RT and Sputnik. The funny thing is that I never see people who consume the BBC, CNN, NY Times, and other such “mainstream” media defending such outlets with that kind of fanaticism, nor do they deny consuming their news.

And speaking of Western “mainstream media,” I can’t help but notice how often consumers of “alternative news” eagerly announce that “even the mainstream media reported this!” On those occasions when the news report actually says what they claim it does, a troubling question arises. Why did the mainstream media, which we’re constantly told is in the pocket of the corporations, the shadow government, Deep State, or whatever, the mainstream media that is totally untrustworthy and responsible for zombifying most of the population, even report this story in the first place? What editor screwed that up?

Are we supposed to believe that the same people who are allegedly responsible for keeping the population in a trance-like state of consumption and docility would somehow regularly let “the truth” slip onto the front page of a major publication? There are plenty of people in America alone who believe that the powers that be in their country engineered the murder of roughly 3,000 of their own citizens on 11 September 2001. The same people allege that the media played a key role in the conspiracy and the cover-up. So with that in mind, what reporter would be stupid enough to write anything that seemed to support the “alternative news” point of view?  If the reporters don’t know the terrible secret, what editor would risk letting out anything that contradicted the government line?

Of course I’m really indulging these conspiracy theories far too much for the sake of illustration. It’s clear as to why those who consume “alternative news” and state propaganda lie about consuming it, just as it’s obvious as to why the same people are only too happy to tell you about a “mainstream media” report or how the Russian state media puts so much weight into “Western media” when it suits their purposes.

The answer to the first “why” is that many of those who consume alternative news know, on some level, that their sources of news are not respected, and I suspect a great many of them harbor doubts about their sources that they try hard to suppress. They know that they’re espousing a specific, consistent political line and if others were to note that this just perfectly synced up with the editorial line of say, a certain state propaganda outfit, they would come off a dupe, a gullible rube.

As for the reason why such people and alternative media outlets put so much stock in “mainstream media” reports, that is quite simple. This is a tacit recognition of the fact that certain media outlets, in spite of their flaws or mistakes, are simply more reputable, more respectable. Those outlets don’t need to constantly refer to other outlets for comparison.

And having answered that, I want to address my conclusion to any of those “alternative news” consumers who might have stumbled upon this column somehow, possibly because you saw my name in an alternative news report that claims I’m funded by the CIA, George Soros, Willy Wonka, or the Keebler Elves.

My message to you is this- if you’re really a critical thinker, someone who forms their opinion based on cold hard facts, you shouldn’t have to lie about your sources of news. More importantly, you shouldn’t constantly have to cherry pick stories from media outlets you insist are utterly untrustworthy propaganda outlets in order to defend your claims. If your alternative news outlet is really engaging in actual investigative journalism and coming up with the facts, their findings will eventually be reported by other, reputable outlets. Lastly, if your favorite media outlet spends an unusual amount of time insisting that all the other major media networks are engaged in some kind of conspiracy to conceal the truth from you, you might want to exercise a little more skepticism when it comes to their news.


8 thoughts on “They Protest Too Much

  1. AndyT

    This behaviour reminds me of those who say:

    “I’m not racist/misogynist/homophobe, BUT…” – and a second later completely disprove their previsious statement.

    1. wildthang

      I always thought, these people were a myth, before I had the pleasure to spend a flight from Moscow to Frankfurt next to a AfD party member. I am still impressed with me for not strangling him

      1. AndyT

        Party members aside, what really perplexes me is the “normalness” (I’m using this term for lack of a better word) of their voters – deep dissatisfaction with the status quo has turned even the mildest person into a raging individual calling for mass murders of politicians and immigrants…

      2. wildthang

        for some reason, I can not reply to your comment.

        I don’t buy their dissatisfaction, the average AfD voter does rather well financially (I believe I read somewhere, that their average salary is around 70k/year, which is more than 2 times the average in Germany) they are not imporverished idiots, who do not know any better, they are bigots, plain and simple. They are what used to be the right fringe of the CDU. Alas, in the last 20 years the social democrats sold out to the markets (Agenda 2010 and Hartz 4 made life for lower income people significantly harder, though it did improve our competitiveness on a macroeconomical level) and the conservatives embraced diversity. It should have been the other way around

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        It was similar with Trump and Brexit. In the case of Trump, the average supporter had a median income of $70,000. Many were homeowners, and 44% had college degrees, which I’m told is higher than the national average.

    2. Asehpe

      Which is why I’m not happy with the “forgotten by globalization” explanation for these people. I don’t think their lives are objectively bad, or that they’ve somehow been discriminated against or abandoned or anything. I think it’s anger at not having what they wanted, plus a tendency to externalize the causes of whatever “problems” they think they have (‘why am I not richer?’).

      I think this is one of those first-world problems: people who are angry without there being a deeply compelling reason for their anger. And who compound this anger by listening to alt-right websites and talk shows, and externalizing blame. This, I think, more than having actually been ‘forgotten by the élites’, explains the sudden surge of pro-authoritarian tendencies. (Who wants to bet that Trump’s budget cuts, despite actually hurting many of his supporters, will actually cause none of them to change his/her mind? It’s not really, or at least not entirely, about objective reality.)

  2. Black_Rose

    I don’t have to be reminded on how the mainstream media is biased. They are biased on some issues but can be impartial on others. Heck, even those who don’t care much for Russia and somewhat support US foreign policy, say that the US media’s job is to influence how people think.

    However, there is a strong anti-Russia bias in the mainstream media. They portrayed the Maidan as peaceful protests and do not mention that many of these “activists” seized buildings. They portrayed the Crimean Referendum as being at gunpoint when most of the people their supported it. They said the that the adorable little green men were reviled and feared, but many liked him. The little green men prevented violence in Crimea. In fact, Ukraine needs more little green men. If there was little green men to keep the peace in Odessa, the anti-Maidan protestors would not have been driven from their camp and massacred in the Trade Unions Building.

    The media says Russia bad/ Maidan good.

    I don’t have to believe in conspiracy theories to note that the media has a strong anti-Russian bias. (written in January 2014, argues that much of the violence from the Maidan comes from the protestors themselves. That type of story lends some credibility to the Russian media.)

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I’m sorry but everything you said in this comment is laughably false. I’m going to go ahead and ban you for repeatedly arguing bullshit claims using bullshit sources, but just for the gallery, I’ll shoot down your claims here.

      Basically what you’re doing is saying that there is an anti-Russian media bias, and then to “prove” this you’re regurgitating Russian talking points complete with a source from RT’s Op-Edge, which is basically the sewer of the whole site.

      In other words, if a media source fails to promote the Kremlin’s POV, it’s “biased.”

      1. The original Maidan protest was peaceful for a few weeks until it was attacked by police. That’s what brought more people out and that’s also what brought the nationalists out. There were periods of calm but repeated violent actions from the state provoked more and more violence.

      Nobody was even trying to occupy any buildings in the beginning.

      The first people killed were killed by the police as well.

      2. There have been plenty of Western media articles about the far-right and Maidan. What those articles don’t say is that the far right dominated the protests, because in fact they didn’t.

      People on the ground at Maidan knew this, and those Western reporters were on the ground.

      Furthermore, Russian state media criticizing ultranationalists is rather rich, seeing as how the Russian state promotes and funds Russian ultranationalism. There’s very little difference in worldview between the Ukrainian far right and the Russian one- just different flags and the latter is backed by the state when it’s useful.

      “They portrayed the Crimean Referendum as being at gunpoint when most of the people their supported it.”

      It was at gunpoint since it began with the seizure of the Crimean parliament by Russian special forces. Dissenters were suppressed, often violently, and the whole thing was carried out in less than three weeks with no status quo option. What that means is that if you were a voter you really couldn’t “oppose” it.

      We’ll never know how many people actually supported it because Russia is a country famous for fraudulent elections and the only “observers” were Russia-friendly representatives of far-right parties.

      “They said the that the adorable little green men were reviled and feared, but many liked him. ”

      Are you literally retarded? I mean seriously, have you ever been diagnosed with severe brain damage? This is one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever seen.

      ” If there was little green men to keep the peace in Odessa, the anti-Maidan protestors would not have been driven from their camp and massacred in the Trade Unions Building. ”

      What happened in Odesa was a tragedy, but not a massacre. You know what would have kept the peace there? If Anti-Maidan activists had not SHOT several of the Maidan marchers. That’s what kicked off the riot. The first victims of Odesa were Maidan supporters.

      “written in January 2014, argues that much of the violence from the Maidan comes from the protestors themselves. That type of story lends some credibility to the Russian media.”

      No, it actually doesn’t and the fact that you think it does signifies that you have poor critical thinking skills to say the least.


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