Russia Today’s Propaganda
I like much of the coverage on Russia Today. Because they are commercial-free, they are not afraid of being critical of corporate culture and regularly do so. They do a good job on the death penalty, outrageous CEO compensation, and even ugly “Free Trade” agreements like the TransPacific Partnership. RT’s reporting on banks and the financial crisis is insightful and damning. Unlike almost all the US mainstream media, they are critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which deserves attention. They report on the surge of drone activity and dare to point out the ethical nightmare here. They also did a nice puff piece Twin Oaks a couple of years back.
And RTs coverage is toxic.
RT is 100% funded by the Kremlin and is promoting Putin’s expansionist agenda. They are simply fabricating stories about the Ukraine to popularize their views in the US. So much so that one of RT’s own reporters quit on air recently over the bias in the Ukraine coverage. RT is happy to run a long interview with a young Ukrainian soldier who is talking about refusing to follow orders that would hurt his own country people. And they would never show a Russian soldier saying the same thing, or a Moscow police officer who is refusing to obey orders.
RT is slick, enticing and growing. In 2012 Pew Research found RT the most watched news channel on YouTube, with Fox News second. RT broadcast through 30 satellite and 500 cable operators to 550 million people in over 100 countries, 25 percent of all cable subscribers worldwide.
Their strategy seems clear. Report much of the populist news in the US straight up. And then for stories Moscow wants spun a particular way, spin and fabricate as necessary. Some of my east European friends think i am a fool for pretending i can tell when i am being lied to. Some of their thoughts are at the end of this post. And i do definitely recognize that RT is threatening these people’s lives and liberty very directly. It is not from a frivolous position that i watch coverage from here.
So what is a world news consumer to do? We can quickly reject some alternatives like Fox news. Where most of their viewers think that Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq, because Fox told them so and they saw US soldiers discovering chemical weapons outside of Baghdad, which were misclassified as WMDs.
What about BBC or CNN? As a propagandist i am impressed with how these channels appear to be objective, carrying most of the government’s messages, and more importantly, their framing. In the lead up to Iraq I, i was in Singapore and obsessed with the protests around the war and the international politics. The only English news i could get was CNN. I felt like a junkie on bad dope. Across the US my comrades were talking about protests, and huge percentages of people were against the war. Polls were showing most Americans opposed to starting a war in Iraq, yet a FAIR study of television reporting for the three weeks following the beginning of the Iraq War revealed that nearly two-thirds of all sources were pro-war, while only 10 percent of guests were anti-war.
Some other telling CNN failures include:
October 7, 2002
—As noted in a FAIR Action Alert (10/10/02), CNN host Connie Chung takes Rep. Mike Thompson (D.-Calif.) to task for expressing doubts about claims made by George W. Bush about Iraq’s weapons. At one point Chung interrupts Thompson to say, “You mean you don’t believe what President Bush just said? With all due respect….you know… I mean, what…” Chung adds: “So it sounds almost as if you’re asking the American public, ‘Believe Saddam Hussein, don’t believe President Bush.'”
January 26, 2003
—On CNN‘s Reliable Sources, actress and activist Janeane Garofalo tells host Howard Kurtz: “You have anchors saying all the time, ‘Well, we know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.’ No, we don’t. We do not. We do not know that.”
March 26, 2003
—CNN anchor Carol Costello cuts short a live press conference in Baghdad with the Iraqi information minister: “All right, we’re going to interrupt this press briefing right now because, of course, the U.S. government would disagree with most of what he is saying.”
So with all news services, you are choosing a certain amount of bias. I like RT, because the populist stories are useful and informative to me and the most likely to be spun stories (like the Ukraine pre-civil war), i either am not tracking closely or watched from a hyper vigilant perspective. And it feels like choosing poisons.
But i want to quote some of the better warnings from my East European comrades.
Linas Vilinus Wrote: Paxus, you stayed for so long in CZ, you know CEE region and it’s past soviet period. ? Putin and his FSB secret service gang openly declare their wish to restore USSR 2.0 (under Russian World) and they spread open hate to all “Western world” All this postmodern Russian messianic propaganda are so bizarre, that normal person cannot stand it. Many ordinary Russian people are so affected by this dominating anti-western hate discourse that they repeat it themselves in social media and it’s part of their mentality. If you could read Russian media, Russian internet sources and would take part in these Russian language social forums, you would be shocked what you’d hear towards your personal lifestyle, values, all “Russian enemies” and western society in general.
Communist propaganda was good in mixing some issues about western problems with pro-communist lie and it was horrible brainwash about “decayed west” vs bright communism (based on GULAG concentration camps system and KGB terror in the USSR). Current official Russian propaganda does the same, but more in German Nazi style (also using Nazi’s propaganda achievements). Everybody knows that there are many problems in the western world, corporate powers, corruption, and many other bad things in the west. But for me RT or any other Russian TV/propaganda channel would be the least source to talk about it, not worth to listen. It’s very hard to see and impossible to understand how and why some western people still are willing to listen and to believe the same propaganda sources.
Jan Haverkamp wrote: Pax, I side with Linas on this. I know RT also a bit from the inside, and it does not know journalistic freedom. Support for progressive causes is sandwiched with things to make the audience side with Russia in what is of higher priority for them. They are managed by people on the level of Goebbels (and I don’t make this comment lightly). El Jazeera at least has journalists keeping up BBC quality. Don’t get caught in the wrong propaganda machine. Putin’s current style has learned a lot from the Nazis. Our friends like Vladimir Slivyak are the first ones to go if this continues. We – activists here in Central Europe – may well be the next. Please, be more careful about RT…
Vladimir Sliviak wrote: dearest Pax, actually, only difference between our views is that you believe you can sort their news out and identify what is truth and what is not, and i believe they are soldiers of Putin who act with specific goal. and this goal is not about providing you with correct information. of course, this doesn’t mean they always give away perverted news. i just hope one day RT will tell you how Putin sends armed commandoes to Ukraine with modern rockets to provoke riots in the east of country and then pretend it is all done just by local people. or how they perverted referendum in Crimea and that international observers at this referendum came from well known far-right parties, real Nazis, from across Europe. and many more hot news. for the time of Ukrainian crisis, environmental movement here became separated into two parts. one, based in Ukraine, telling others what’s going on around and expecting some moral support. and another one, based in Russia, listen to TV and respond – you are fascists and kill innocents every day, so Putin is doing everything right. they are people who cooperated for decades, know each other very well. and that’s just vanished during couple of month. now people just hate each other. that’s what i call effective propaganda. some people says that’s what happened to Yugoslavia once. compared to all this, our disagreement here is nothing.
I should point out that i includes these three sets of additional views, not because all of these people are folks i identify as friends, but rather they are experts on the region, they a generally wise in their analysis and i have and would bet my life on their judgement.