Tag Archives: RT

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.”

The content of their character

One of the most common tactics of the Kremlin supporter is to impugn a source of information based on where they supposedly get their funding. It is also rather ironic, considering the fact that these same people often either work for or commonly site media that is entirely owned and paid for by the Russian government. But dealing with Kremlin fans inevitably means dealing with the most brazen hypocrisy.

In an age of PR-gone-wild, it makes sense to ask questions about funding. As the saying goes: He who pays the piper calls the tune. The problem is, however, that folk wisdom doesn’t really get you very far in the real world, where governments and individuals often have very complex, sometimes seemingly contradictory motives for funding initiatives or donating to non-profit organizations. Let us explore that a little deeper.

While this is a topic I’ve been wanting to address for a long time now, once again you have Anatoly “Da Russophile” Karlin to thank as a sort of catalyst for this post. He was apparently upset that Russia Without BS has some kind of “syndication” agreement with Stopfake.

First of all for the new readers out there, yes, there is a sort of “agreement” with Stopfake; I gave them permission to repost my work as they see fit. I am personally acquainted with the founders and many of the workers at Stopfake and I see no reason to apologize for this because Stopfake provides a much-needed service and on a personal level I find them to be dedicated, sincere individuals.

As for Karlin’s figure of 100,080 pounds per year, I’m not sure where that comes from (see update on this at the bottom of the post -JK). I was under the impression that they go grant-by-grant, somewhat like Hromadske.tv. In any case this is totally irrelevant. What matters above all is the content an outlet produces, not who funds it.

In this case, we may look back at the Russian media backlash against the Panama Papers for another example. As is typically the case, the super sleuths at RT and other affiliated blogs draw a line between the ICIJ, the Center for Public Integrity, and then yet another organization, and another, until they find funding from…THE US GOVERNMENT! Well then, the CPI might as well be Air America! Of course the CPI also gets some money from George Soros, but as it turns out they also covered Soros’ donations in their investigation of campaign financing.

So how do we judge if the CPI is just a US government front for information warfare, or an honest organization dedicated to real investigative journalism and questioning those in power. Well let’s just pop on over to their front page.

cpi

Hmmm…Nothing about Russia or Putin there. In fact nothing about any foreign country. And look! There’s a story about the dealings of Pierre Omidyar, the guy that Putin fanboy Mark Ames is obsessed with. And what of that article about the US prosecutor opening an investigation into the Panama Papers? Doesn’t even mention Putin or Russia. Today the front page looks a little hard on Sanders, but scroll down a bit and we get this story about defense contractors donating the most money to Hillary.

As I’ve mentioned before plenty of times, Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, is featured heavily in this documentary that deals with the topic of media manipulation and consolidation in the US:

 

I have also pointed out before how the CPI maintains an archive of over 900 false statements that led to the Iraq War, but hey- Soros! State Department! BLLLLEARGH!!!

And what about Stopfake? Well if someone really wants to attack Stopfake they could start by showing which stories they claimed were fakes turned out to be real. It’s also worth noting that Stopfake does debunk fake stories from the Ukrainian media as well. They probably would do so a lot more if it weren’t for a much larger, consolidated propaganda machine deliberately and explicitly waging “information war” against Ukraine. And this also gets right to the heart of the matter about grants and funding for organizations like Stopfake or Hromadske.tv. The programs which fund such organizations are dedicated to building up a functioning free press in nations where such a thing hasn’t existed before. As in Russia, Ukraine’s media doesn’t have stringent standards of journalism. In fact, many of the fake stories coming out of Russia aren’t deliberately concocted out of thin air- they are just repeated with no fact-checking whatsoever. If foreign-based Kremlin fanboys would actually bother to talk to the people who work at organizations like Stopfake or Hromadske, they’d probably learn that these are people who sincerely believe in good journalism and have no interest in being puppets of some foreign government.

Now one might ask why then should RT or Sputnik be dismissed as propaganda bullhorns due to their funding. My answer is they shouldn’t. While they are entirely owned by the Kremlin and managed by well-known supporters of Putin, we must always look at the content first and foremost. For one thing, RIA Novosti was entirely Kremlin-owned in the past, yet it managed to produce objective material. The Moscow News, which was under RIA Novosti, was also known for providing a diverse, pluralistic viewpoint that often criticized or questioned the Kremlin. Russia Behind the Headlines still clearly maintains more objectivity than the other state-run outlets.

By contrast RT and Sputnik, from what I’ve seen, have never challenged the Kremlin line on anything. When Putin said there were no troops in the Crimea, they said so. When he admitted it, they admitted it but said it was justified. When it comes to foreign policy they have carefully and dutifully stuck to the president and foreign ministry’s line on virtually every point. Moreover, as I’ve said in the past we never see any attempt to seriously challenge Putin or the foreign ministry’s statement on anything. There are no “fact checks” of his speeches, the sort of which we see all the time from Western media outlets about Western leaders. We are not given the opportunity to hear a variety of views from different Maidan participants to better understand what that event was really about. We don’t get to see how the Donbas “rebels” shell the very same people they claimed they were trying to protect from the “junta.” We get “analysis” on Ukraine and Russia from people who have very little prior background on either topic, if any at all. And what is more, we see a consistent pattern of cowardly, anonymous attacks on any journalists who challenge the Kremlin line in the Op-Edge section.

Now you add to that the Kremlin ownership and management by Putin fanatics and you see precisely why RT and Sputnik can be readily dismissed as propaganda outlets. It’s not just on the basis of those two facts; they behave precisely as you’d expect propaganda outlets to behave. I don’t have any problem finding material from the BBC that criticizes the British government or otherwise portrays it in a bad light. If I did have such problems, and if they seemed to be on a warpath against any outlet or individual who questions them, then I’d label them a propaganda outlet too.

And if you’re an RT fan or employee who’s reading this, keep in mind that it didn’t have to be this way. RT and Sputnik could have carried on the traditions of RIA-Novosti or The Moscow News, providing objective reporting with better coverage of the Russian government’s POV. But alas, that’s not what Ms. Simonyan and Mr. Kiselyov wanted to do. They wanted to wage “information war,” because they just told themselves that all media works the same way without every questioning this assumption. So what you ended up with is a propaganda machine that is increasingly becoming a global laughing stock.

Getting back on topic the point is simple. There’s nothing wrong with questioning who funds whom, but ultimately what matters is the content that gets produced. Moreover, the Kremlin fanboy tactic of guilt by association, no matter how stretched and tenuous the connections are, is getting real old, as old as their “whataboutery.” But hey, when you can’t be bothered to actually answer the accusations, investigations, and difficult questions, whataboutery, guilt by association, and poisoning the well might be the only tools in the box.

UPDATE: Karlin was kind enough to provide the source of that figure here. Nice of the UK government to be so transparent. As I suspected, it is not funded on a yearly basis but rather this was a one-year grant. Here is how the UK government site describes Stopfake:

“The purpose of this project is to help the StopFake project increase its impact in Ukraine and other countries targeted by disinformation campaigns. It focuses on improving reporting in Ukraine and abroad; promoting tools for fact-checking; easing tensions instigated by propaganda and misinformation; and enlarging the scope of true news spreading in social networks.”

As you can see, this is obviously a dastardly information warfare campaign aimed at expanding NATO and destroying Russia. In their Russophobic logic, it’s perfectly fine to label pro-Kremlin stories “fake” just because they happened to be untrue. Is there no end to Albion’s perfidy?!

RT America journalist under investigation

WASHINGTON DC- FBI officials raided the house of RT (Russia Today) America journalist Adam Peterson on Monday morning. Peterson, 34, lives with his parents in Rockville, Maryland. Federal authorities stated that he is under investigation for “extremism” and “conspiring to undermine the Constitution and territorial integrity of the United States.”

Critics of the move charged the FBI with violating the First Amendment, but a Justice Department spokesperson denied that any of Peterson’s rights had been infringed upon.

“What if he had been going on cable TV and criticizing the government of Iran, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea?” the spokesperson said at a post-raid press conference.

“North Korea gave on of our citizens fifteen years in a labor camp just for taking down a poster.”

When asked what events in North Korea had to do with this specific case and the question of Constitutional rights, the spokesperson responded by claiming that such cases “happen everywhere.”

According to authorities, Peterson is being investigated over comments he made when speaking as a guest on a news broadcast. Specifically, it is alleged that some comments he made regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq may be in violation of a law against “harming or defaming the integrity and reputation of the US military and its commander-in-chief.” The law forbids “public statements or published material which questions, challenges, or otherwise denies the necessity, wisdom, or moral correctness of US military campaigns, as well as the decision makers who planned and/or executed said military campaigns.” It is believed that Peterson’s on-air statement that “Weapons of Mass Destruction were not found in Iraq” may constitute a violation of this law.

Peterson’s arrest is one more high profile example of what human rights activists call a “tightening crackdown” by the US  authorities against dissent. Experts suggest that economic troubles in the wake of 2008’s crisis coupled with the strain imposed by foreign military conflicts may have led the administration to see itself as more vulnerable.

In March of this year, White House press secretary Josh Earnest caused concern among America-watchers due to his remarks about foreign influence and the need for more “vigilance.”

“Our Eastern partners still finance their agents in our country. They launch information attacks against our president, in an election year no less. They are hoping our vigilance will fail so that they can start another Occupy Wall Street and overthrow the Constitutional order,” Earnest told reporters  at the White House.

The major American media networks, recently consolidated under state control and put under the management of several men with close friendship ties to the president’s administration, have also recently joined the “information war” against dissidents.

A recent NBC Nightly News broadcast aired an investigative piece claiming that Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is working as an agent of the Russian intelligence services. Critics quickly pointed out that the so-called “SVR internal documents,” which purport to show electronic correspondence between Sanders and Russian president Vladimir Putin,” are rife with Russian grammatical and stylistic mistakes. When asked for comment, NBC’s producer told our correspondent that it was the responsibility of the critics to show that the correspondence did not take place. Some supporters of the Obama regime have even suggested that the Russian intelligence agents deliberately put the language mistakes in the document, so that they could claim it was forged.

Martin Galtieri, an expert on America’s military and intelligence establishment, suggests caution when dealing with such rhetoric from the regime.

“Well, you have to remember that the administration often floats these trail balloons to see how people will react,” Galtieri explained. “Even if the president isn’t really behind this sort of rhetoric, it’s in his interest to make the opposition think that there’s greater repression hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles.”

In any case, it would appear such tactics are having an effect, as Obama’s approval ratings have skyrocketed in spite of rumors that he might be considering canceling the elections. On the streets of America, polls show little concern over the loss of democracy. The response of Edna Raffery, 72, a florist and former member of her local Tea Party organization in Humble, Texas, might explain why.

“Sure, I have complaints, but now I realize I have to support my president. He needs all the help he can get. Otherwise the Russians will make us all slaves”
UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that none of this happened, and according to our in-house experts, none of this could even possibly happen in the US.We hope our readers will be happy with this real story instead.