New Statesman article on Russia Today worth a look-see

I’m not sure why it would be called the “anti-Fox”.  It’s a similar propaganda bent.  The only thing I might surmise is the current issue with the Obama Administration and Fox News would not exist with Vladimir Putin and Russia Today.

What you need to know in the quasi- “Age of Austerity”, or where taxpayer financing of media outlets are always circulating about (see Public Broadcasting in the states; BBC in Britain):
In October last year, Putin personally intervened to block a finance ministry proposal to cut RT’s funding. The channel will receive more than £250m this year, approximately the same sum as the BBC World Service received from the British government in 2011- 2012. And where the World Service will lose its direct government funding from 2014 and be paid from the licence fee instead, thus squeezing its budget, Putin will keep RT healthily supplied with cash.

This next sentence is pretty interesting, and needs a bit more elucidation, ie: What is the actual editorial policy?  Surely it can’t be “pretty much anyone on air?”… may be more likely with a fervent belief in getting, quote-in-quote “voices marginalized in the Western Media’s corporate interests” or something.

Through an editorial policy of letting pretty much anyone on air and with cash backing from the Kremlin, it has become a televisual home for disaffected viewers in the west, a refuge for the Occupy and hacktivist generation, which believes that its own countries’ TV stations are in the pocket of corporate interests. Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, is even prepared to call it the “anti-Fox News”.

And, this next one brings to mind the other big youtube sensation of media — Taiwan’ “Next Media Animation“.

Its strand The Truth Seeker – presented by Daniel Bushell, a posh Brit whose on-screen style appears to owe a significant debt to Brass Eye’s Chris Morris – reported on Barack Obama’s re-election last November, as all channels did. RT put in for an interview and, as expected, its request was refused. Its next step was less orthodox. The Truth Seeker created Legobama, a Lego figure of Darth Vader whose head had been replaced with that of a black Lego character. RT jerkily stopmotion- animated it and made it answer questions on drone strikes in a poor imitation of the president’s accent.

Max Keiser’s weekly Keiser Report specialises in lambasting the western banking system, often describing government responses to the financial crisis as “genocide”. Following the British government’s decision to remove child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers, Keiser commented that George Osborne would “sacrifice his child . . . throw the child into a volcano if it meant getting a good deal on a derivative”.

In comparison, the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who last year hosted a series of interviews on the channel with global rebels, including the Hezbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah, came across as rather conventional. His interviewing style was gently probing, if not quite hardball.

And this may just be taking the basic inanity of the MacLoughlin Group or Crossfire and moving it beyond the Donkey v Elephant game and letting conspiracy theories circulate about.  Given the sometimes pointless nature of those “talking heads” programs, I wonder if we might as well, and lose the pretensions that there’s any redeemable civic value with the programming.

For the more extreme end of inter – rogation, viewers should seek out Peter Lavelle’s CrossTalk, where the guests are encouraged to “jump in any time you want” and do, often making the discussion degrade into barely comprehensible shouting. Producers slyly undermine their guests with banner headlines contradicting whatever they are saying, and Lavelle throws in hand grenades of controversy if things are going too smoothly.

The right-wing British commentator Douglas Murray was unprepared for Lavelle’s approach when he appeared as a guest in 2010 to discuss France’s burqa ban. Visibly baffled throughout the programme, he lost his temper when Lavelle dropped in an offhand remark about the 11 September 2001 hijackers not being fundamentalists.

RT has long specialised in publicising alternative “truther” interpretations of the 9/11 attacks and even ran a lengthy investigation called “911 reasons why 9/11 was (probably) an inside job”, but Murray appears not to have known this and wrote of his confusion for the Daily Telegraph. “I leave it to readers to work out why the Russians would want to be pumping this kind of filth around,” he concluded. It is a good question.

And your bottom line…

“My guess – or interpretation, really – is that they were getting pissed off with the bad publicity that Putin had already attracted and decided, in time-worn Soviet style, to ‘combat’ it with a channel of their own,” he told me. “That fits certainly with the impression I gained working with them that they wrongly believed the ‘message’ could be improved without changing the reality.”

And into its appeal here in the states…

RT does not lie, but it is selective about what facts it uses. Indeed, from its coverage of US politics, you might gain the impression that the only thing saving the Obama administration from collapse is police oppression of dissidents. “Several well-respected individuals have recently warned on the possibility of a severe social crisis erupting in the United States,” RT warned on 21 January, basing its conclusion on quotes sometimes more than six years old. Its relentless focus on Washington’s opponents has, however, won the channel their gratitude.

Its coverage of Britain is similarly slanted towards marginal voices. Ukip’s Nigel Farage is a regular guest, as is George Galloway of Respect. In a recent edition of The Truth Seeker Galloway was described simply as “a UK member of parliament who’s raised millions for victims of war”. Neither Farage nor Galloway responded to my request to comment, but Loz Kaye, the leader of the UK Pirate Party and another occasional guest on the channel, was more forthcoming.

Where else am I to turn to hear from the Pirate Party?

And the basic problem.  Good for the marginal voices of the West.  What of Russia?:

And yet, RT campaigns on all these issues in other countries. This is not to say it does not cover dissent in Russia. It reported on the Moscow protests in the winter of 2011-2012 – but Simonyan tweeted that the organizers would “burn in hell” and the reports lacked the detail of its work on Occupy. That is a pattern that holds true for almost all matters that affect both Russia and the west.

And your bottom line is the very bottom of this article.

“I understand that you work for the Los Angeles Times, and not for Pravda or Izvestia, and that you have to take a certain position,” Putin said, revealing himself – at least when it comes to propaganda – to be the unreconstructed KGB agent that his enemies always say he is. That is where to look for an expla – nation of RT. Deep into his 14th year in power, the president appears to have given up on improving Russia. Instead, he funds RT to persuade everyone else that their own countries are no better.

Looking through the comments section is curious.  We get the idea from people that to even publish an article on the subject of RT is to “give it free publicity”.  Beyond that, some predictable “equivalency*” arguments, an example of the exception that proves the rule with respect to Assange on Pussy Riot, and the most compelling part of the comments section is the reference to Russia merely being “conservative” and someplace most Americans wouldn’t be ready to live in with further suggestion that oddly American conservatives would love to implement some of Putin’s agenda (immigration and whatnot).  Interesting.

* The problem of the equivalency  argument in media was always on display when Fox News would go ahead and hold CNN as the spawn of liberal media.  The one good thing about MSNBC becoming the outlet of opinion shows devoted to the agenda of the Democratic Party is that there is at least now an equivalency for Fox News to counter-weight.  I suppose we’re back to the Cold War with the Voice of America beeming out over Eastern Europe… or something like that.

One Response to “New Statesman article on Russia Today worth a look-see”

  1. john Says:

    Where can I find the video of legobama? I think that would be very entertaining.

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