Tag Archives: RT

RT and Sputnik Are On Notice!

Look out, Margarita and Kiselyov- there’s a new counter-propaganda project in town and it has vowed to protect “Western values” from Russian attempts to undermine them. That’s right, RT, Sputnik, get ready to face the wrath of…Nick and Mauro! Yeah…Seriously.

I stumbled across this site for the first time when someone shared this article, in which the authors decide that it’s time to “retaliate” against Russia because we have been “bombarded” with their propaganda. Let’s look at a few choice excerpts:

“It was the Kremlin’s toxic propaganda, with R.T at the forefront, that for years instigated the unprecedented anti-European sentiment which lead to Brexit.”

Errr…No. Only someone who has never met any Brits would say something like this. Brits have been complaining about the EU, often comically so, for many years. Before Sputnik, before RT, before Putin even. Britain has a world-infamous tabloid press that has been stoking anti-EU, anti-immigrant sentiment all this time. Seeing as how these publications are not state-financed and they’re still in business somehow, I’d say they have a much larger audience in the UK than RT or Sputnik.

“It was fake articles, sponsored by the Kremlin, that prompted the rise of radical groups throughout Europe by purposely brewing hatred towards immigrant communities.”

Oh really? Which ones, exactly? Last time I checked, far right parties have been a thing for decades. In fact, one could reasonably argue that far right groups and figures from Europe and America had an impact on Russia first, and then the Kremlin merely adopted their rhetoric for its own political purposes. If the entire Russian propaganda machine simply disappeared overnight, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment would still be just as much of a problem, and Western domestic media would be guilty of stoking it as well.

“During the 2016 election, Kremlin media targeted and exploited the grief felt by those on the fringes of the left as well, by shamelessly promoting Green party candidate Jill Stein as the only ethical choice. Although she did not win, Stein served her purpose by helping Russia achieve its aims. Her vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory.”

Well that’s a bold claim. The author must present some serious evidence for it, right? Well no. All we get is this tweet:

Let’s see…What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. There’s no evidence these people would have voted for Hillary.
  2. They might have been swayed to Hillary if she had campaigned in their states.
  3. TST’s implication is that these people were somehow influenced to vote for Stein thanks to RT. No evidence is provided to support that.

Moving on…

“It is finally time for some reciprocity.”

Nah. I think it’s time for some GAME THEORY!

“The U.S. could launch a counter-propaganda campaign and hit the Kremlin where it hurts most by sowing dissent and distrust between Putin and his small but loyal oligarchy.”

Okay how is this supposed to work, exactly? Do we start a special news network that broadcasts fake stories claiming, for example, that Igor Sechin is complaining about Putin behind his back? Show your work.

“If successful, this initiative will mark the first centralized counter-propaganda push-back against the Russians since the 1990s.”

What counter-propaganda campaign was used in the 1990s? Maybe he means since the Cold War, which effectively ended in the 1990s? Who knows?

“Yet as grim at it might all seem, there is a silver lining to our new commander in chief . Before the Trump phenomenon, this ever-encroaching Russian propaganda was receiving nowhere close to the attention it deserved. In the US that meant none at all. The recent election of a suspected Kremlin puppet however, is bringing a new level of awareness to this issue. This is key because merely recognizing the networks used to peddle Russian falsehoods is half of the battle, and right now more Westerners understand that RT stands for Russia Today. And for that we thank you Mr. President.”

Russian propaganda received little attention in the United States because very few Americans actually consume it, at least directly. And much of what they do consume is simply rehashed material from the American political fringes. If we speak about propaganda undermining American values, the biggest threat comes from Fox News and AM talk radio. Freakin’ millennials think this is all novel.

“When I say we are fighting a war I don’t mean that as some sort of figure of speech. The threat is real and the stakes couldn’t be higher. And they should, as the eventual victor will decide which values are preserved, and whose ideology ends up on the wrong side of history.”

Russia’s ruling class doesn’t have an ideology, beyond boundless greed and sheer survival. Incidentally, boundless greed is the closest thing the United States has to an ideology these days. The US, as it is, will surely win this “New Cold War” for reasons that ought to be obvious to any honest observer, but the problem that led to this will still be there.

“The good news is that we’ve faced this same opponent before and won. The bad news is that we seemed much more united when we did so.”

Okay first no, we haven’t. The Soviet Union can’t be compared to Putin’s Russia. The differences are extreme. Second, what do you mean we were more united? Look I graduated from high school in 2000 so I understand a lot’s changed, but did they really stop teaching about the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-War movement, McCarthyism, the Counter-Culture movement, all of that stuff? There was a time when people with actual authority were going around accusing people of being Soviet agents; it wasn’t like now when the people doing that are just mental cases on Twitter.

If you think this is as bad as it gets, think again. This ride is far from over. In another article, the author laments the death of the “Tear Down This Wall Republican.” Yes, the problem with Republicans isn’t that they’ll gleefully try to deprive people of healthcare in order to shovel more money into the gaping maw of America’s richest- it’s that they don’t recognize Russian propaganda as the biggest threat to the United States. Seriously- they wrote that:

“It used to be that the pursuit of basic birthrights around the World was a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. And although a bipartisan issue, Republicans always seemed to champion an active role around the world more vocally that their democratic counterparts.”

Again how old is this guy? How could anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history even write that without irony? When did this used to be the case? When the CIA helped overthrow Allende to install the dictator Pinochet, or was it earlier, when the US was dropping more ordnance in the former Indochina than they did in the entire Second World War? It’s often said, and quite rightly so, that Russia’s current leadership views human rights as nothing but a cynical ploy for achieving geopolitical goals. They are not entirely correct, and they use this interpretation to justify horribly immoral actions, but it’s also painfully clear that they did not simply pluck this notion out of thin air.

Of course the author isn’t unaware of this either, but their understanding is rather limited, as this paragraph indicates:

“The big elephant in the room, of course, always being our relationship to Saudi Arabia. How can we, with a straight face, stress human rights while maintaining a close alliance with a literal authoritarian monarchy?”

These days Saudi Arabia probably is the biggest elephant in the room, but it’s not nearly the only one. Let’s just say the US once had enough elephants in the room to run its own circus. Also these days it’s important to understand just how immoral the US relationship with Saudi Arabia is. Taking into account what the Kingdom has been doing in Yemen, it is basically the equivalent to Russia’s relationship with Assad (no, it doesn’t cancel out Russia’s actions in Syria- they’re both wrong).

Then there’s this hyperbolic statement:

“I’ve said this before (yes even before the Trump phenomenon): Russian propaganda is the single biggest threat facing Western society today.

Not the Russian military. Not the political discourse in the USA. No. Our biggest threat is non-countered propaganda spewed by our enemies designed to seed doubt in our American institution, and career professionals, while simultaneously spreading false news.”

Um…No. No it is not the biggest threat. The biggest threat in America today is the fact that the entire federal government, along with many of the state governments, is controlled by a party that openly and almost enthusiastically declares that it is unconcerned with the suffering and potential death of millions of American citizens. It is the same party that engineered what may be the worst American foreign policy disaster of the 21st century, namely the invasion of Iraq, which has thus far been responsible for untold death and suffering far beyond the borders of that small country. This party, often with the collusion of their so-called opponents, has literally killed thousands of Americans via their policies. Excuse me if I find that just a tad more threatening than a foreign network whose most watched video is about a homeless guy who sings really well.

As further proof of ignorance, take a look at this next part:

“I don’t believe that the solution should be to censor RT, Sputnik, or any of the many channels peddling Putin’s garbage. The solution instead, should be to counter misinformation with facts.

The Baltic countries have been leading on this front:
In Lithuania a small army of bloggers of who’ve dubbed themselves “elves” — patrol social media, coordinating their actions through Facebook or Skype to expose fake accounts.
Latvia, intends to launch independent quality media in Russian, which could include a Russian-language TV channel to counter Kremlin propaganda.”

Okay in another article he said that the US should “retaliate” by creating a network that would sow dissent among Putin’s ruling class. I’d imagine that somewhere in that operation you’d have to lie, simply because the people behind such a network would not be privy to the internal dialog within the Kremlin and Russia’s elite. But never mind that- why is he saying that the Baltic countries took the lead in this effort without ever once mentioning Ukraine’s StopFake, which has been all over the media in the past few months?

 

Bear with me, but I’m going to quote from one more piece on the site to complete our sampler for today.

In a piece which carries the bizarre headline Projecting The Russian Federation’s Soft-Power Abroad Via Its Visa Program, we learn some interesting things about the author and their possible motivations. First, the author is basically implying that Russia’s “visa program” is somehow an incarnation of Russian soft power. “Russia’s visa program,” is the visa regime it maintains for foreigners- other countries decide their own policies when it comes to admitting Russian citizens. This cannot be considered a form of Russian soft power. You could argue that Russia maintaining a visa free regime for former Soviet nationalities like Ukrainians is a form of soft power, but in reality that has far more to do with economics and cheap labor. But let’s get to the red flags in this piece:

“If you’re a citizen of the Russian Federation and want to jaunt off anywhere across the globe, it’s common knowledge that many popular and regularly visited places you choose as your destination will require you to obtain a visa. Annoying, time-consuming, and on a broader state level, a political game of chess. It’s a way to irritate the folks over at The Kremlin and to tell Vladimir Putin that he’s not so welcome in their backyard, and if he really wants his citizenry to travel there, they have to shoulder this bit of extra burden.”

This is exactly what Putin wants. For one thing, several million Russians are already banned from traveling abroad for security reasons. Second, when conditions in Russia did improve during the 2000’s and thousands of Russians went abroad, what happened? They saw how much more modern and functional the West was in comparison to Russia, and then they started protesting. Putin no doubt wishes he could be dealing with the Soviet population, little of which had ever visited the West and thus could not make comparisons. Anything that makes it harder for Russians to travel to Europe or the United States would be a gain for Putin.

But the article gets even more bizarre because in the next paragraph you can’t even tell who the author is talking to. Are they making recommendations to the West or to Putin?

“So what better way to stick a thumb in the eye of the United States, NATO members and others, while at the same time exercising a projection of Russian power on a global scale? Slap these countries with visa requirements of their own and one-up them by making the process as onerous as possible, requiring sponsorship from an organization inside the Russian Federation, strict limits on the days one can remain traveling, and also adding transit visas to the mix to make it even more burdensome. Even meeting this exceedingly strict series of measures will not guarantee an automatic approval and more often than not, those applying are denied and must start the process all over again, meaning more money, time, and resources wasted.”

Russia has strict visa rules, but they’re by no means the worst. Keep in mind there are countries where American citizens, or in some cases anyone, must book a guided tour just to visit. It is, as I’m told, rather easy for an American to get a visa to Iran, for example, but you won’t just be able to wander around as you please. Also, these rules have been in place for quite some time, yet the author acts like they were implemented as some kind of “soft power” by Putin. If that’s the case, it would suit Putin to relax visa laws so as to bring in more tourists and potentially, useful idiots. And indeed, the Russian government has relaxed visa laws over the years. They have done it for special events like the UEFA Championship, and they signed an agreement with the United States which allows US citizens to get a three year multi-exit tourist visa.

Confused yet? Read on:

“Following the splintering of the USSR back in 1991, Russia wasted no time in crafting together a bulwark to NATO in its own backyard with the creation of the CIS, or Commonwealth of Independent States. This association is comprised of countries that were once part of the Soviet Union; I like to think of this group as a “mini Warsaw Pact”. These countries also enjoy visa free entry into the Russian Federation and this along with the very existence of the CIS further serves to poke a stick in NATO’s direction.”

The CIS was not a “mini Warsaw Pact” and countries joined and left freely of their own accord. It does involve visa free travel and free trade agreements but how is this “poking a stick in NATO’s direction?” Please, explain the threat that is posed to NATO when Russia allows Uzbek citizens free travel into their country.

This is where the author really loses the plot, and goes off the rails with a personal anecdote:

“From experience, this author has seen first-hand just how exhausting it can be to enter Russia if you don’t enjoy the benefit of being a citizen of any of the aforementioned countries. While on a trip throughout Scandinavia back in the summer of 2012, I entered Russia by way of Finland, utilizing my Nicaraguan passport in order to avoid the migraine that obtaining an entry visa would have entailed; and even then, things did not go smoothly. If you’ve ever seen a movie featuring a gulag, or Siberia full of pine trees, with the occasional outpost filled with barbed wire fence and Russian security forces walking around with attack dogs, then you’re picturing the VERY remote border crossing between Finland and Russia that I encountered. The hour spent there seemed like the very definition of eternity, with confused and clearly untrained officials looking at my passport every which way while sounding out “N-i-c-a-r-a-g-u-aaaaaaaaa?” in a mix of bemusement and disbelief. To play devil’s advocate, I’m sure that these Russians stationed in the most remote of outposts had probably never heard or even known the existence of a Central American country located thousands of miles away. After being peppered with endless questions about why I wanted to enter Russia, what my business and purpose(s) for doing so were – all while having uniformed KGB-like officers with trained attack dogs at their side looming over me – I was coldly told “Da”, “Yes”, and allowed to enter.”

Notice how the author claims to have entered via a remote border post. How many Westerners (discounting Finns, who might have business on the other side of the border) do you think they encounter out there? When you go to a remote border post like that, expect to be asked questions. Also, while the border guards are certainly aware of the existence of Nicaragua, I doubt they were aware of the fact that Nicaraguan citizens do not require visas for entry to Russia (up to 90 days). Random border guards don’t have a database in their head detailing the visa policies for every nationality on the planet- they often have to look them up.

Also I don’t see on what grounds the officers were “KGB-like.” Was that simply because they were Russian? They had attack dogs? Again- you’re at a remote border post. Dogs are used to patrol the borders, and certainly not only in Russia. Need I remind you that the President of the United States campaigned on building a giant wall?

“Talk about a first impression entering the Russian Federation, and this while holding a passport of a place where both countries enjoy very warm relations. Had I dared use my US passport, I’d be spending my remaining days in some even more remote part of Siberia.”

No, you would have been refused entry for not having a visa- it’s that simple. Just last year an American tried to enter Russia via Kazakhstan without a visa. He was in a car and was turned around at the border. He then tried to drive around the border post and was, naturally, caught. So was he packed off to Siberia? No- he was fined about $107 and then flown to New York at the Russian government’s expense.

If the author had used his American passport and had a visa to Russia, he probably would have gotten through the border crossing more easily.

Moral of the story is really simple here, folks- get a visa before entering Russia, and if you don’t want undue hassle just enter at an airport instead of trekking across the wilderness to some remote border post.

Also, the author might want to consider the US’ requirements for Nicaraguan citizens (who are not fortunate enough to also have US citizenship) to enter the country.

 

With all that out of the way, I think it’s time for a general evaluation. First, on the page’s “about” section it says that the site’s sole purpose is defending Western values. Yet I only had to scroll down to the bottom of the second page to see an article about Harambe the gorilla.  Not terribly disturbing but a possible clue that the site was originally launched as some kind of blog project and then maybe was refashioned as an “anti-propaganda” effort later. Later, as in when it started to look like one could profit off of this Russian propaganda bandwagon.

Next I found this article by one of the site’s co-founders, Mauro, who is apparently an “International Relations, Political Science & Tech/gadget guy.” In it, the author compares America to…*drumroll* the Roman Empire! Congratulations- this is one of the laziest attempts at a political analogy the world has produced, and I’m already wondering how much Mauro spent on a degree in International Relations and Political Science to produce something that a bookish high school senior could have written. The problem with Roman collapse analogies is that they often peddled by people who don’t properly understand why the Roman Empire collapsed (HINT: It’s really complicated), who then go on to creatively interpret modern American history until the United States is suddenly threatened by the same one factor that just happened to be Rome’s downfall.

Look, I’m not trying to be a dick to these two guys, but looking at their bios I don’t see any evidence that either of them have any special insight into Russia, nor do they seem to speak the language. The lack of historical knowledge (American, Russian, Saudi, Cold War, etc.) is incredibly conspicuous. None of this makes them bad people, but it certainly disqualifies them from being taken seriously in regards to Russia and it especially disqualifies them from taking on Russian propaganda. The truth is that Putin’s fanboys just love amateurish efforts like this, and they’ll pick this low-hanging fruit clean and then claim that it’s representative of “Western journalism” about Russia.

There is an unspoken rule among some people that discourages policing people “on our side,” with “our side” being the “anti-Kremlin” one. I’m sorry but I don’t play that game and I never will. For me the struggle against the Kremlin regime is a struggle against reactionary fascism, a struggle for the independence of Ukraine and for the future of the peoples of Russia. It is also a struggle against what I see as a by-product of a global capitalist mode of production which consistently ignores human rights in favor of private profit, and which cannot but do otherwise. So-called “counter-propaganda” which is poorly produced or which advances bad politics is not helpful in this struggle; on the contrary it is often more harmful than anything the Kremlin’s propaganda masters could cook up.

But hey what do I know? I’m sure these fine lads are just days away from getting a massive grant from the State Department or cushy jobs with some major think tank. On both sides, the system loves team players.

The Competition

I’ve spent a lot of time making fun of Russian propaganda on this blog, but you don’t really get the full picture if you don’t set the Kremlin’s propaganda machine in its proper context, that is to compare it to the propaganda of other countries. Advances in social media have made it possible for governments which are either minor players or barely players at all to disseminate their own propaganda. For example, this video exposes the dastardly lies Fake News Vice has spread about the small country of Eritrea:

I’ve watched some of the Vice documentary they’re talking about and while I’m not in any way qualified to comment on the state of human rights in Eritrea, I do think the country’s information ministry or whoever probably would have done better to ignore Vice News’ documentary so as to avoid the so-called Streisand effect.

This case brings up an interesting point about Russian propaganda- it’s logical, in the sense that Russia has a very good reason to run a state propaganda machine. Despite having an economy roughly on par with Italy or Spain but with much lower standards of living, nobody can deny that Russia is a major regional geopolitical power and it can project its influence far beyond its borders. So far, in fact, that it is able to cause mental breakdowns in people living on the other side of the world:

Given Russia’s global position and its domestic situation, you can totally understand why it needs to think about projecting soft power worldwide. There is no reason why the government of Eritrea should waste money on soft power. Even countries that are up and coming regional powers are probably wasting money on their global soft power initiatives. For example, take a look at this pro-Turkey flashmob that took place in New York’s Times Square:

What was the point of that, you ask? Apparently it was to reconcile Turkish-Armenian relations regarding remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, that thing which the Turkish government still denies ever happened. To be sure, it was apparently organized by an NGO, but it’s an NGO whose activities just happen to line up with the interests of the Turkish government.

Whatever the case, I can’t imagine how this is going to have even the slightest impact on Americans. It took Russian interference in the presidential election just to make a significant amount of Americans actually care about Russia, and that’s a country with a huge nuclear arsenal and a 40-year historic rivalry during the Cold War. Turkey has zero chance of making any kind of significant impact on the thinking of a significant percentage of Americans. It might as well be Eritrea.

Secondly, waving any flag with a crescent moon and star on it in Times Square is most likely to piss off a large segment of the American population, known as the “Afraid of their own shadow” demographic. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were comments about this video claiming that “THESE MUSLIMS ARE CELEBRATING BLOWING UP THE TOWERS!!! HAVE WE FORGOTEN?!” No, if Turkey wants to have an impact they ought to try something more effective, like slipping their message into popular culture venues. The Avengers: Infinity War is going to be in two parts, so there’s still probably time to hand over a shipload of money for some subtle messaging in the film. Here’s a hypothetical example:

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Hey Tony, you look pretty preoccupied with something over there.

TONY STARK

Oh hey Cap, I’m sorry I was just thinking about what happened in the eastern Ottoman Empire around 1915.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

You mean the Armenian geno…

TONY STARK

…cide? That’s just it. I’m not sure genocide is the best word. After all, many Muslim civilians living in the area also suffered atrocities at the hands of Armenian nationalists.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

I get what you’re saying. A real hero has to see both sides of the story.

This teaches us a second lesson about Russian propaganda. As easy as it is to make fun of, in comparison to what else is out there it’s actually pretty well-constructed. The best equivalent to Russia in terms of geopolitical power is China, and their soft power is laughably bad. In case you haven’t caught it here before, I present to you a case study:

 

Just so I’m not being unfair, here’s another video from the same channel I’m including because it’s the top video on the channel’s page and it appears to be using part of the soundtrack from The Rock (I’m totally sure they paid Hans Zimmer to use it).

 

There’s also CCTV, a channel I have only actually watched while in a hotel in…China. To CCTV’s credit, they did produce a very interesting series of documentaries about the major African independence leaders, or at least the idea seemed interesting before I actually started watching them.

I’m not an expert in documentary film making, but as a long-time viewer I have to say these were some of the most boring ones I’ve ever seen. One of them also has a rather hilarious title:

 

By comparison. Russia’s foreign-language propaganda is far more logical and effective. Logical in the sense that it has a clear goal and it works towards it, effective in the sense that it reaches a certain audience, even if that audience is in fact very small. The Russian strategy is incredibly simple- find out what extremists in various nations are talking about, then regurgitate and amplify the signal. They give a platform to fringe elements and produce content that said elements will happily cite to bolster their own credentials.

We can argue about the overall effectiveness of Russian propaganda in terms of achieving the Kremlin’s goals, and we can certainly note how much money the Kremlin spends for so little in return, but one thing is for sure- they’re not totally pissing money away on nothing like China, Turkey, or Eritrea.

It makes you wonder how much more effective they would be if they ever learned from the US or the UK and granted editorial independence as they once did to a few select outlets like The Moscow News or RIA Novosti’s English service (the former was part of the latter). I doubt we’ll see this happening any time soon however. In the minds of the people at the top in the Kremlin, there is no editorial independence with the BBC, VOA, or RFERL. As always, they make an a priori assumption that their opponents already do the morally-questionable thing they want to do so as to justify it to themselves.

Still, when we step back and look at the wider picture, we see two things. The first is that Russian propaganda, as amateurish as it seems some times, is probably one of the best-produced forms of soft power in the world today when viewed in comparison to the rest. We also see that more and more countries are getting into the soft power game, and it’s interesting to think who might be inundating Youtube with pro-regime propaganda. Zimbabwe? Equatorial Guinea? Myanmar?

Fake News? You Don’t Say!

So America just elected an incompetent, possibly insane billionaire president, and now it seems the media’s got a new coping strategy to adjust to the inevitability of a Trump administration. Oh wait, hang on, what I really meant is that they have totally flipped out and started a new moral panic about “fake news.” Naturally we have to pretend that fake news is a new phenomenon, because anything less might suggest we have some serious problems with our society- from corporate consolidation of media and the relentless profit-driven scramble for ratings and views, to the lack of critical thinking in education and the ridiculous idea that all opinions are equally valid. Just to be sure, some folks in the media would have us believe this is an external threat, specifically one coming from Russia. Put simply, this is bullshit, but I’ve got a lot to say about fake news so please strap yourself in.

lies

American liberal, 2016

I guess the logical place to begin is by saying that fake news is nothing new. Liberals did virtually nothing to oppose the corporate takeover of AM radio in the 80’s and 90’s, which, along with the revocation of the “Fairness Doctrine,” essentially turned America’s talk radio medium into a non-stop sewage pipe belching out right-wing propaganda. Even big names like Rush Limbaugh weren’t averse to spreading conspiracy theories about Bill and Hillary Clinton. If you want to know the roots of some of the wackier Hillary-related conspiracies today, you really have to start with something called The Clinton Chronicles. For those of you too young to remember or not from the US, American politics during the 90’s basically consisted of outrageous scandal after outrageous scandal, and many conservatives were acting as if the US had been taken over by a radical socialist junta. The lexicon included terms like jack-booted government thugs, black helicopters, and New World Order. And then…in 1996…it wasn’t just radio anymore.

Fake news reached new heights with an actual fake news cable TV network, known as Fox News. While the claim that Russia influenced this most recent election is highly dubious, Fox News certainly swayed a US election within four years of its existence. An outside observer might think that American liberals rallied against a foreigner-owned TV network that engaged in all manner of dishonest tactics, but that’s not necessarily true. The documentary Outfoxed spoke of something called the “Fox effect,” whereby other TV networks moved to the right in order to get a piece of Fox’s action. This had disastrous effects during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, as one might expect, but hey- capitalists gonna cap.

 

It’s also worth noting that around this time, Alex Jones was building his media empire. In addition to Jones’ non-stop conspiracy mongering from 1996 onward, you also had sites like World Net Daily, founded in 1997. And in case you think I’m picking on right-wingers too much (as if that’s bad), remember Oliver Stone? JFK was a boring, conspiracy theory laden production which came out a few week after the Soviet Union broke up. These aren’t just pre-Russia Today; they’re pre-Putin. The simple but inconvenient (for some) fact is this: Virtually all Russian propaganda for foreign audiences is nothing but rehashed conspiracy theories, largely from the United States.

So why is the media and all of liberaldom panicking about fake news now? Well one thing is that for years, they dismissed it and made fun of it. Now, in a way, it seems to be upsetting their precious liberal order, and so they’ve suddenly decided it’s a problem. But as I alluded to in the beginning, admitting too much would require choices they don’t want to make such as free higher education or more critical thinking classes in school (I suspect liberals are too cowardly to face the inevitable conservative backlash over this). Thus, the threat needs to come from somewhere else, as this recent Washington Post article claims. 

Yet there’s something rather amusing about that article. It relies on an anonymous source (the reason they have given for their anonymity doesn’t hold water) based in the US. In other words- exactly the same tactic that actual Russian fake news uses all the time, i.e. misrepresenting a dubious source. And just like any other fake news story, WaPo‘s article got cited by other publications, such as Gizmodo. Way to fight fake news, guys!

There’s also a far more serious issue at stake when we allow charlatans to pin all their woes on Russian propaganda- they are in fact helping Russia’s propaganda war. Recently we’ve seen a perfect example of this with the EU resolution against Russian propaganda.

First of all, the resolution was proposed by Anna Fotyga, a member of Poland’s Law and Justice Party. In case you hadn’t heard, that’s the same party that wants to criminalize women for having abortions and recently dug up the remains of Poland’s ex-president to prove that Russia somehow caused his plane crash. Why is her proposal so hypocritical? Well as it turns out, the Law and Justice Party’s propaganda in many ways mirrors Russian propaganda about the European Union, i.e. Europe is nothing but gender-bending degenerates rapidly being overrun by Muslim migrants. What is more, the party’s politics in Poland are eerily similar to those in Russia. The media and courts come under attack for their independence. History is rewritten as “patriotic” and those who dissent by insisting on staying factual are punished. So to sum up this point, though it is a minor one, the resolution was proposed by the least qualified person to speak out against propaganda.

But far more important was the fallout of the resolution. If you read RT or Sputnik’s reaction, you’d think they’re totally pissed about this resolution, but I assure you they are not. Shortly afterward Putin actually congratulated Russia’s “journalists” in response to the news. Do you know what that means? It means no funding cuts for a while.

See the only performance metric RT and Sputnik have is basically “Look! The West is afraid of us! See how angry they are?” They almost literally say exactly that in their own material meant for Russian consumption. Every panicky op-ed demanding that the EU do something about this Russian propaganda is liable to be snatched up by the propagandists themselves so as to justify their already inflated budgets in this time of crisis. So you can imagine how the Kremlin reacts when they find serious public figures in the West actually claiming that Russia swayed the election in favor of Trump. As immature and childish as the RT/Sputnik performance metric is, the widespread panic over Russian propaganda says “This is working. We’re winning. Let’s keep going and see what else we can do.”

What then, is the right way to respond to the threat of fake news? First of all- it’s domestic. Deal with it. Second, fake news and echo chambers are a symptom of our capitalist society. If this last election taught us anything, it’s that the ruling class on both sides of the political spectrum is extremely out of touch with much of the country, including their own constituents. If someone doesn’t start addressing the social causes of this, then Americans will continue checking out of real politics and tumbling down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and fringe politics. So what is to be done?

In counter-insurgency warfare they have this term called the “population-centric” strategy. While it’s hard to find historical examples of purely population-centric strategies and not every population-centric strategy resulted in victory, in general this strategy tends to work much better than its opposite, known as “enemy-centric” strategy. The current Western approach to Russian propaganda could be termed as an enemy-centric strategy. Every proposal comes down to responding to the Russians, which is problematic because as we have seen, the West can’t control Russia’s actions (though I suspect they don’t want to).

What I propose is a sort of population-centric strategy, meaning that the focus is put on American and Western societies. It means opening up more dialog, addressing controversial issues, and actually resolving those problems that alienate people and perpetuate cynicism. This isn’t going to be easy. It means we’re going to have to start talking to people with bizarre politics, many of whom may display traits of cult-like brainwashing. But there is ample research to suggest that attacking someone’s beliefs, however absurd they may be, only causes them to double down and retreat further into a bubble. Meanwhile if Western institutions do more to address people’s needs, provide more tangible, visible stability and prospects for advancement, and also show accountability for their past actions, many people will open up and be willing to talk.

Do I believe that Western governments will adopt such a strategy? Personally I’m skeptical, because doing so threatens the status quo even more than Russia ever could, but at least we could say we warned them.

 

Margaaariiita!

Oh how we Russia watchers love RT’s chief editor Margarita Simonyan, the Other Iron Lady, the Gourmet. I’ve even given her a theme song, if only because this gets stuck in my head any time someone mentions that name too many times or when I order the drink.

Whenever Tungsten Maggie gives an interview you can almost set your watch to it. Today’s interview was with Financial Times. I was expecting whataboutism, and she delivered! Rick Astley would let me down before she ever does. Check it out:

“We are far less critical of western policy than western media are critical of Russia. When was the last time you read anything good about Russia? Anywhere? Name me one publication,” she says. “That’s why this cliché that Russia Today is an anti-western channel brings a smile to my face.”

HA HA HA HA! No. When it comes to criticizing government policy, RT is 100% anti-Western, almost exclusively anti-American. Take a look at their Op-Edge page some time and you’ll find article after article slamming America’s leadership, foreign and domestic policy, the supposedly monolithic “mainstream Western media,” etc. Westerners are useful to RT only insofar as they attack their own governments without ever turning the same scrutiny to the Kremlin.

Now as for Margarita’s challenge, it took me less than a minute to find not one, but two positive stories about Russia. One from Bloomberg and another from The Guardian. In fact while writing this I remembered a piece from The Daily Beast of all sources, which seems to echo Russia’s line on Syria so closely that it was actually cited by Russia Insider. In fact, my own reprinted article in The Guardian seems to have been interpreted by the Russian state media, including RT’s Russian site, as a positive piece on Russia for shattering stereotypes about the country.

Now it is true that you’re apt to see more bad news out of Russia than good from most Western publications, but there are two simple reasons for this. One reason is that even now, most Westerners, especially Americans, do not care about Russia. If I write a story about say, the wonderful benefits of Moscow’s recent craft beer revolution there’s a very limited audience there. On the other hand, if I speculate on how Trump might be a secret puppet of Putin, warn about an impending world war, or accuse Putin of destroying the liberal world order, I’m not only more likely to get published, I’ll probably be offered a staff position at a major publication.

magicmargarita

But there’s another good reason why the Western media is often hostile to Russia. Margarita might not yet be aware, but Western media publications have correspondents in Moscow who speak Russian and they have access to Russian experts. We know about how the Kremlin portrays the West as an enemy bent on taking over Russia for some idiotic reason or another. Europeans know that your domestic media is calling them limp-wristed perverts and reveling in their misfortune. Westerners know about how often Russian leaders or media personalities talk about reducing their countries to “radioactive ash” or otherwise imply that they wouldn’t hesitate to start nuclear war if they don’t get their way. They saw Russia’s tantrum when it lost Eurovision this year, and they know about the doping. We know how your leaders live in unimaginable luxury at the expense of their own people, and yet they blame all of Russia’s problems on the US State Department. We can see you. We can hear you. Now you combine that with the annexation of another country’s territory in violation of international law and several treaties signed by Russia, and a war which Russia’s leadership doesn’t have the guts to even admit after overwhelming evidence of their involvement. When you look at the big picture, is it really so hard to understand why Western media coverage of Russia tends to be negative?

But Margarita’s complaint fails on another level. Yes, Western media outlets tend to report negative news about Russia, but that’s what they do everywhere. Here’s a little trick you can try, one which apparently escapes Ms. Simonyan and the entire fanbase of RT. Using this wonderful site known as “Google,” take a major international sporting event in the past decade or so, type in its name, and add something like “problems” or “controversies.” Some of you have probably already seen examples of this regarding the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. You no doubt remember it from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. If you focus on all these articles about problems and controversies associated with such events, you’d assume they must have been disastrous. In the run up to the 2014 World Cup, also held in Brazil, the media coverage alone would make you think that mass upheaval would take place.Some powerful favela gang leader, possibly with the assistance of a professional marketing team, promised a “World Cup of Terror” ahead of the games. It would seem the launch didn’t go so well. And in the case of Sochi, corruption was a major issue and the facilities were rife with amusing deficiencies, but it was nowhere near the disaster that some people predicted prior to the games. And here we’re only talking about sports, something that ought to be non-political.

Western media, which contrary to Margarita’s belief is not monolithic, is constantly focusing on the negative everywhere. Terrorism, violent crime, and in particular sex crimes get top billing. Look at it this way- over a period of about 30 years, a significant portion of Americans have become convinced that they live in what is rapidly deteriorating into a Third World shithole, contrary to nearly every credible statistic one can find. Where did they get that idea? Almost entirely from the American media. Forget Russophobia- Americans are far more afraid of each other than anyone else save Islamic terrorists and illegal immigrants.

Not only does the news media criticize society (often unfairly- just look at the coverage of “millennials”), but it also criticizes government policy and leaders as well. This is a key distinction between RT and the “Western media.” While RT’s news department doesn’t ignore bad news coming out of Russia, go back to that Op-Edge section and see if you can find anything seriously critical of Russia’s leadership and their policies. As I’ve noted before plenty of times, any speech by a US leader is almost instantly followed by “fact checking” articles which take apart their claims. Do we see something like this from RT after Putin’s direct line or annual press conference? Do we see RT actually investigating the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine to see if their president is lying? If you name a NATO or US action somewhere in the world, I guarantee you I will find critical voices on it from some major, trusted source. It’s simply impossible for any US effort abroad to be without some negative effect. Yet if we look at how the Russian state media relates to Putin- what a surprise! Turns out he’s the one politician in the world who actually never lies, nothing is his fault, and he’s picked on for no reason!

magicrt

And this is all without getting into the political divide in Western countries. For example, I can find all the scathing criticism I’ll ever need against Obama simply by heading over to the Fox News Channel’s website. Now at this point, an RT defender might be inclined to object. “But that’s not fair! Fox News is a conservative network, a media wing of the Republican party! Of course they would viciously attack Obama and the Democrats! They’re supporting their party. They want their party to win elections!” And my reply to that or any similar argument? Yes, exactly. As the “Western media” is almost entirely privately owned, various networks and outlets do have biases towards certain political parties. Some are comfortable admitting it as well.

It’s called diversity of opinion, and it’s proof that there is a significant difference between the two systems in question. When a US president somehow buys up all the major news outlets in America and uses ever-tightening regulations to squeeze out independent voices (including popular blogs), and when those independent outlets that remain are continually labeled treasonous and subject to harassment by unknown assailants who are never caught or punished, then we can start comparing Russia’s media to that of the US.

While certainly not the meat of the interview, it seems every story on Simonyan has to include her making highly questionable claims about the network’s exposure. This time she said this:

“RT is also proud of its presence on YouTube, where it was the first news channel to crack a billion views. “Let’s be fair, we don’t have cats and Beyoncé, but politics and news stories,”

I don’t mean to sound like a dick here, but I’m not sure many major satellite networks put as much emphasis on their Youtube channel. Whenever RT brags about their Youtube success I can’t stop thinking of Pewdiepie, the Swedish man who screams at video games and has over 46 million subscribers on his channel. Also, we’ve already established that defending RT means losing the ability to use search engines, so Alexey Kovalev did what must have been literally three seconds of “research” to discover that RT’s Youtube channel does apparently have “cats.” A lot of cats, 136 in one story in fact.

 

Now she’s absolutely right about one thing- they don’t have Beyonce. Just one clip that is six years old, apparently. That is a shockingly low amount of Beyonce. If RT was a person and Beyonce was vitamin C, the conspicuous deficiency of Beyonce would cause RT’s teeth to fall out.

I really feel like I’m going around in circles with these people. We never get anything new out of Simonyan or her boss Kiselyov because, I’m sorry to say, journalists never press them enough. Like most Kremlin supporters, these people make a priori judgments about the world in order to justify their own actions in advance. “The Western media lies and they’re not objective, so it’s okay if we lie.” Rarely do they actually put it that bluntly, but that’s the gist of it, and no one who speaks with them seems to challenge them on their assumption. I mean this is a measurable, quantifiable thing. We can count negative stories. We can look for heavily distorted or even totally concocted stories. We can look for and count the number of stories that criticize a certain leader or his policies. This is by no means entirely subjective. Even when they do manage to seize on a poorly reported story from a particular outlet, you often find that firstly, the journalist in question suffers in some way, and secondly, another media source attacks or debunks the claim. Remember that infamous story from the first Gulf War, the one where an ambassador’s daughter testified to congress about Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators from hospitals and leaving the infants to die on the floor? Guess who debunked that- the mainstream media in the form of ABC and The New York Times.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again as long as I have to. Yes there are serious problems with our media. Yes they failed us again and again. In this post alone I pointed out how the American media has managed to convince a significant portion of the population that they are living in a rapidly declining country when in fact the opposite is true in almost every aspect. There are plenty of think tanks, independent media outlets, journalists, and academics all throughout the West (and some in Russia as well) who raise these issues and talk about solutions. One thing that definitely isn’t a solution is relying on a network whose staff believe it’s alright to lie and spread propaganda because they just arbitrarily decided that the rest of the world media does the same. Fast food may be bad for you, but the alternative isn’t eating out of the dumpster in back. Like following a healthy diet, being properly informed means going beyond headlines, looking at a diverse array of sources, learning about how the media works and how news is made, and using critical thinking. Uncritically accepting anything claiming to be non-mainstream or peddling information “they don’t want you do know” is going to the dumpster buffet.

 

 

 

Russia To-D’OH!

Welcome to part two of our saga on Russia’s whiplash 180 degree turn toward Turkey! Apart from suddenly “discovering” that the Turkish government deals with ISIS or that Turkish chicken imports had listeria, the Russian media also “uncovered” other unsavory facts about Turkey. For example, RT chief Margarita Simonyan started railing on Twitter about Turkey’s denialist position on the Armenian genocide. Apparently she just happened to discover this after Turkey shot down that jet. What is more, Russian “discovered” facts about the Turkish governments oppression of Kurds. This is a new thing, folks!

I’m only bringing this up because RT’s UK channel, dutifully fulfilling its role of constantly regurgitating the foreign policy of its Kremlin masters, managed to get dinged by the UK media regulator Ofcom yet again. Apparently this is the 15th time so far, and once again the complaint is similar to those in the past- a lack of objectivity.

Ordinarily I’d ignore this, particularly because I think RT has done far worse than not give the Turkish government enough time to present its position, but as is typically the case they just had to make a statement about it and it was predictably hilarious.

“A spokeswoman for RT said: “We note Ofcom’s decision and want to make clear that the premise of our programme and the factual accuracy of our content have never been called into question.”

Well, that would probably be a first then, because I know for a fact it has, at least implicitly, in other Ofcom rulings.

“It is Going Underground’s mission to unearth the stories ignored by governments and mainstream media. This programme was raising an exceptionally serious issue related to possible atrocities committed by the Turkish military on the civilian Kurds in the town of Cizre. This shouldn’t be ignored.”

Ah yes, the familiar RT mantra: “Why doesn’t the mainstream media cover X?” The best way to answer this challenge is to take “X” and put it into Google. Typically within seconds you’ll be inundated with stories from “mainstream media” outlets, many of which were published before RT got onto the story. Take the incident in Cizre that the spokeswoman referred to. Last time I checked, the New York Times is rightfully considered “mainstream media.”  According to RT, Vice is “mainstream media,” and it looks like they reported on the massacre claims earlier than RTThe Telegraph certainly didn’t ignore the story. And that outlet RT apologists love comparing their network to, namely the BBC, didn’t ignore the story either.

But here’s the real kicker. While one can quibble over how much attention these news outlets devoted to that particular issue in a region torn apart by a war which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and killed nearly half a million, one thing is almost certain- RT wouldn’t have been harping on this issue so much had it not been for the spat with Turkey that started last November. While the Kremlin is by no means the only government to play such petty political games, it has not only refined this behavior into an art form, but it also does so with no subtlety as its entire media machine touts the party line. Just imagine a Bush administration for life, where Fox News has gobbled up all the other major news outlets.

That’s about all I had to say on the topic, but I’ve been saving the spokeswoman’s last line for now.

“We will continue to campaign for international attention and support in preventing further bloodshed.”

Yeah. You guys are all about preventing bloodshed.

The deafening silence

If you’re a British reader still reeling from Brexit, I’ve got something that might cheer you up on this otherwise sad day. As it turns out, you’re not the only country that’s taken a swan dive into the abyss; we’ve been on our way down for some time and now we’re accelerating our descent.

Today Russia’s Duma just voted on an “anti-terrorism” legislation package that is one of the most repressive laws since the fall of the Soviet Union. In the end some of the most odious measures were removed, but what got in is bad enough.

In truth there’s nothing really shocking about this. In the past couple years we’ve already had numerous Russians sentenced to jail for things like retweets and “likes” on social media, all under the intentionally vague, always hypocritical charge of “extremism.” As Russia’s crisis deepens with no end in sight, the elite knows that it must squeeze more wealth out of a shrinking supply, all the while suppressing the ordinary working people who face the consequences of the regime’s irresponsibility and blatant criminality. One needn’t look much further than the bill’s originator- nutjob deputy Irina Yarovaya. Like Putin and many of his friends, she has good reason to preempt public dissent.

Hey, speaking of using terrorism as an excuse to pass draconian laws, I happen to know a certain TV network that prides itself on exposing the diabolical machinations of out-of-control governments. They constantly feature guests that insist that information should be free, that governments are manufacturing false pretexts to justify repression. They championed Edward Snowden for exposing government spying on private citizens and even gave a talk show to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I bet they’ll be all over this! 

Oh…That’s it? Just one news story? Oh. Okay.

Funny how it omits some of the nasty bits of the bill that still made it in, such as the increased punishment for “extremism.” But let’s be fair- this was a news story in the Russian Politics section of the website. If we want to see the Russian government get taken to task for cracking down on its citizens’ civil liberties, we need to go to the Op-Edge section! This will be good…

Uh…Alright. I see an article about how the FBI uses terrorism as an excuse to spy on people’s private lives. That’s a little bit hypocritical, isn’t it? Let’s keep digging.

Oh look, here’s an a hypocritical article bashing “multiculturalism,” suggesting that Britain might start to tolerate bigamy among Muslims. This is hypocritical because Russia in fact allows bigamy, as the infamous case of a middle-aged Chechen policeman legally marrying a 17-year-old girl (possibly against her will) taught us last year. The marriage was publicly defended both by Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov and “family values” Duma deputy Elena Mizulina. So if you’re keeping score, Russia allows teenager-old man bigamy whereas according to the article itself, any bigamy is still a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

I guess I’ll have to keep digging to find an evisceration of Yarovaya and her tyrannical anti-terrorism law.

Uh…Okay. Here’s an article complaining about the rehabilitation of Nazism and antisemitism in Europe. That’s a bit hypocritical given RT’s propensity for featuring and often misrepresenting neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

Speaking of antisemitism, just a bit further on we get a bizarre Op-Edge by Sam Gerrans, a clear nutcase who once penned an Op-Edge featuring the old “Jewish Bolshevism” trope, one of the cornerstones of Nazi propaganda. Looking at Gerrans body of work, I can’t help but note an odd mixture of severe sexual issues, ironically juxtaposed with anti-Islamic rhetoric which could get him dinged for extremism in Russia. In this particular Op-Edge, Gerrans rants about pedophilia, suggesting that the media is subtly trying to make it seem acceptable. Don’t laugh- he may have a point. Someone should find out what TV shows Putin has been watching:

putin-boy-kiss

Mainstream media! What have you done?! 

As I am not a student of psychology working on a doctoral thesis on repressed sexual issues, I decided to move on from Gerrans and continue searching for an Op-Edge that would take the Russian government to task for its lack of transparency and respect for civil rights and privacy.

I’m starting to get a bit desperate though. Hey! There’s an article about Julian Assange! Maybe this champion of transparency will…Oh…Wait…No. It’s just an article defending him.

Okay what else is there?

Let’s see…An Op-Edge by the legendary Robert Bridge! Let’s look at the description…

“With US military bases breeding faster than McDonald’s franchises, and 28-member NATO smashing up against Russia’s border…”

Actually US military bases have been closing and personnel are still being cut- right out of the gate this is literally the opposite of true. Shit. Well maybe there’s something here…

This headline says “Foreign investors are interested in connecting with Russia.” Wait a minute…I thought Putin is a bulwark against globalization and Russia doesn’t need foreign investors. Here’s a story about the dangers France faces from Islamic terrorism, but they still publish articles from Pepe Escobar, who said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France were nothing but a false flag! Fuck! There must be something here! This is RT! The network that dares us to QUESTION MORE! After everything they said about the PATRIOT Act, Snowden, the NSA, and the FBI, there must be some article condemning Russia’s recent draconian anti-terrorism law! 

I scrolled down for several pages but couldn’t find anything even mentioning the anti-terrorism bill. You know, looking back, I noticed that I couldn’t find anything critical of the Russian government or its foreign policy at all. Virtually everything was about how unfair the world is to Russia, and how incompetent America is. This is kind of weird because in other international news outlets it’s not hard to find articles criticizing the policies and actions of their politicians, challenging their claims, and so on. Sure, some publications tend to lean toward one party or another, but in general all but the absolute rags will at least provide some diversity of opinion. There’s something…different about this channel.

You know, it’s almost like they don’t really believe in all that talk about transparency, civil rights, and privacy! It’s almost as if they flog Snowden not because they believe that governments using terrorism as a reason to spy on millions of innocent people is inherently bad, but rather because Snowden’s revelations indicted the US government.

No, I mustn’t give into such paranoid fantasies. I’m sure that RT’s near silence on this issue is just some horrible oversight, no doubt due to the budget cuts they’ve had to endure in 2015. I’m sure someone will get right on an Op-Edge taking Yarovaya and the whole Duma to task for passing such legislation. In fact, I bet they’ll have this article up so quickly that I can actually hold my breath while I wait for it. I think I’ll do that now.

 

 

 

RT and Sputnik commentators may be replaced by homeless men due to budget cuts

MOSCOW- Ronald B. Wallace, once a homeless man in his native Baltimore, finally has a roof over his head. Thousands of miles away in a residential district of Moscow, Wallace has been provided with a room in a small flat that also doubles as a studio for his own news talk show. Pacing back and forth across the old Soviet parquet floor and muttering to himself, he is mentally preparing to “go live” and begin a new career in TV journalism.

“You see people, it’s all there,” Wallace says at one point, going over his own script that he wrote in a coffee-stained spiral notebook. “They’ve had this planned out since 1776, maybe longer. The New World Order is here, I’m telling you. Open your eyes.”

Wallace is one of several dozen homeless Americans lured, some say kidnapped, to Moscow as part of a new pilot program of the state-run media. Because Russia’s foreign language media such as RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik News often require foreign staff and operate outside of Russia, their operational costs are considerably high, and worse still- numbered in hard currency such as dollars or euros. Faced with budget cuts in the wake of Russia’s worsening economic situation, some enterprising officials in the presidential administration believe they have found the solution. Vladimir Frolov, one of the Kremlin’s so-called “political technologists,” is one of those.

“Basically the problem is this- we need to maintain Russia’s soft power throughout the globe, but with the collapse of the ruble and the economic downturn it’s difficult to justify the huge operating costs that go with such efforts,” Frolov explained.

“I was tasked with evaluating the content of outlets such as RT and Sputnik, and suddenly it hit me. Why are we paying these foreigners such ridiculous salaries when I knew for a fact that we could find other foreigners, even native English speakers, who will do the same job for far less money and no noticeable decline in quality?”

An idea made in the USA

Frolov’s found his inspiration while on his annual family vacation in Miami, where he owns a luxury condominium.

“I was waiting for my Uber ride near a bus stop, and there was this dirty homeless man waving a tattered book in one hand and ranting at anyone who passed by. I heard him talking about the NWO, secret plans to rule the world, and he was constantly referencing the CIA and NSA. That’s when it dawned on me- this guy sounded just like one of our pundits! I offered him dinner at a nearby fast food establishment and the rest was history.”

Frolov took several additional weeks off to do research at bus stations, libraries, and public parks up and down the East coast. When he’d finally seen enough, he pitched his new idea to his kopeck-pinching superiors.

“Why pay some useless long-term expat 200,000 or 300,000 rubles a month to write long, incoherent rambling op-eds full of 9/11 conspiracy theories, alleged CIA plots, and lavish praise of Putin as a defender against the global hegemonic Anglo-American-Zionist imperialist NWO, when I can just stick some of these homeless guys in an apartment and hook them up with some booze and hot food from the nearest McDonald’s or KFC? What’s even better, about half these guys don’t even realize they’re in another country,” Frolov explained.

Escape from the CIA

Wallace was chosen for the project back in April and said that he initially had some misgivings about the project.

“I was on the street corner telling the truth, the truth that those in power don’t want you to hear, that which remains untold, and suddenly these guys come out of the bushes and grab me,” Wallace said,staring at the floor as he spoke. “I screamed that I was being taken by the CIA. I’d been waiting for this moment. I was sure they were the CIA Conein division; those are the guys that do all the black ops and wet work. I kept screaming this but nobody came to my aid. They are sheep, still trapped in the Matrix.”

Eventually the Russian operatives were able to convince Wallace that they were not, in fact, CIA agents, and Wallace agreed to be taken to their “secret arctic underground base,” where he was assured that he would be kept safe from what he dubbed the “Conein division.”

“You’ve got to understand, the CIA Conein division has been after me for years- decades even,” Wallace explained. “So when these men told me that they work for Vladimir Putin, the only man in the world who would know how to stop them, I naturally agreed. For once I can sleep soundly at night.”

Showtime

During the pilot, Wallace sits behind an IKEA desk with a green sheet draped behind him. To the viewer the broadcast would appear not far removed from a typical program on RT. The producer gives a signal, and Wallace begins his program without the aid of a teleprompter.

“Good evening and welcome to The Hunt for the Truth,” Wallace stares into the camera with laser-like focus, still clutching his ragged notebook in one hand.

“I’m your Paul Revere. I’m Prometheus. I’m Morpheus. I’m here to tell the untold, the knowledge they don’t want you to have. The CIA Conein division boys have been hunting me for years because they know what I know- I know all about the population control, the mainstream media Matrix, the chemicals they’ve been adding to our food and water to make us mindless, dull consumers who can’t care about anything but reality TV and professional sports. But thanks to Vladimir Putin, the NWO’s number one most hated opponent, I can broadcast the truth into your homes and none of their micro-jamming satellites can block the signal!”

Throughout the broadcast, Wallace dazzles his audience with complex diagrams explaining what he calls the “Luciferian New Genesis Agenda,” a conspiracy which has allegedly been in progress for centuries, if not millennia.

“Most experts, almost all of whom have been assassinated throughout history, acknowledge that this conspiracy goes back at least 300 years,” Wallace says, standing in front of a white board which he uses to map out the various connections between world events and leader involved in the alleged plot. “But it may go back even further, to the times of ancient Egypt or even earlier. There’s evidence to suggest that the Biblical Lucifer was in fact a man, and the legend about him being cast out of heaven was actually allegorical. Since then, Lucifer and his followers have been attempting to create their own ‘Garden of Eden.’ That Eden is the NWO- the New World Order.”

Winners and Losers

Not everyone is pleased with Frolov’s new cost-cutting measures. Some Western expats who work for the state media see the writing on the wall. Adam Tudesky, a frequent guest commentator on the Kremlin’s international satellite network, had dreamed of getting his own talk show but now says that he’s “in the sights of the cost-cutters.”

“I have always been an admirer of Putin’s style of rule and leaving the decaying, degenerate third world America for a resurgent Russia was the best decision I ever made,” said the 25-year-old political analyst, who moved to Russia in the summer of 2014 after leaving graduating college with a degree in Russian studies.

“I started talking to some people about NATO aggression against Russia, the fascist CIA coup in Ukraine, and color revolutions- all these things I’d heard about on RT. Two months later I’m a geopolitical expert and a little later I become a board member of the Institute of Eurasian Geopolitics and Hybrid Warfare, a prestigious Russian think tank.”

But Frolov’s new project has got Tudesky worried.

“I mean who are these guys, really? Are they real patriots? Could the CIA slip one of their agents in here as a homeless guy and start a color revolution? What if one of them says something on the air which casts doubt on Putin and his brilliant foreign policy? What then?”

Apart from concerns about the quality of the broadcasting, Tudesky admits he has his own personal interests as well.

“I’m not going to lie. I feel threatened by this move. If they go through with this my choices are teaching English to little kids or doing the unthinkable- moving back to the US and trying to figure out how I’m going to survive when the dollar collapses. Hopefully when that happens I can use my speaking skills to assist Putin in creating a Russian enclave on the continental US, but I don’t know what I’m going to do in the meantime.”

The next generation

Wallace admits he feels sorry for expats whom he might replace if the project get the go ahead, if only because they will, according to him, “no longer be safe from the Conein division.” But he also said this wouldn’t stop him from performing what he considers a “duty to wake people up.”

“People need to know the truth. They need to wake up and break free of the Matrix. When the UN troops show up on your doorstep to drag you off to the FEMA population control camps it’ll be too late. That’s why I do what I do. I’m sounding the alarm.”