Uproar at Russia Today
Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine has had the effect of unmasking the Putin dictatorship before the eyes of the world, and perhaps the institution most breathtakingly exposed has been Putin’s propaganda TV network Russia Today.
In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, something really stunning happened. Not one but two American female on-air journalists employed by Russia Today fought back against the naked act of Russian aggression they were witnessing. One, Liz Wahl, actually resigned during her broadcast in protest, saying she could not continue to work for a state-owned entity, while the other, Abby Martin, declared her open opposition to the Kremlin’s actions during her broadcast.
But what happened next was even more amazing.
Russia Today’s editor in chief Margarita Simonyan published a post on her Live Journal blog in both English and Russian in which she cast aside any pretext of journalistic objectivity and openly declared herself a partisan of the Russian state in the Ukrainian conflict. She stated: “Yesterday I spent quite some time explaining to the New York Times correspondent why I consider Russia’s position to be right. I’m Russian. I support my country and I will fight for the truth for as long as it takes.”
Simonyan’s use of the word “truth” is highly revealing. She uses it in the same sense Putin does. For them, “truth” does not mean accuracy. Instead, it means those statements, correct or incorrect, which help Russia win victory. Only such statements are to be reported by people who call themselves “journalists” in Putin’s Russia. That is how it is possible for Putin to strip all military insignia from the Russian soldiers who invaded Ukraine and then tell the people of Russia that they were “self defense forces” and not Russians at all.
Simonyan told the NYT that Martin’s comments were “not in line with our editorial policy” and admitted: “We have never made a secret of the fact that we reflect Russia’s position.” Martin fired back at Simonyan: “Believe it or not, it’s possible to disagree with Russia. I don’t agree with sending in thousands of troops to a sovereign nation to ‘protect ethnic Russians.’ It’s a bizarre pretext to use military aggression, and it’s flat-out wrong.”
Indeed, Russia Today does state on its website: “RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge. RT provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints international audience with the Russian viewpoint.”
Any entity with a different attitude quickly finds itself under siege. For example, the Russian newswire service RIA Novosti is now in the final phases of liquidation the Kremlin found its reporting too much like actual journalism and not enough like Simonyan’s brand of patriotism.
An important part of Russia’s “position,” of course, is rabid anti-Americanism. If you opened the “USA” page of the Russia Today website on Friday, February 28, 2014, here are the stories you would have read:
- Leader: If you use Yahoo! e-mail, the U.S. government is looking at your personal photographs. Oh and, the Department of Defense is invading your computer hardware. And in case you were wondering, private firms who deal with computers are just as bad.
- The U.S. Supreme Court is a star chamber. The FBI, you ask? Very corrupt and evil. And the U.S. Border Patrol is out of control.
- But if you were hoping for salvation from local police, think again. Police in California are a racist goon squad. Oh and, they’re also clueless incompetents. Yes, and the Houston police? They’re even more evil. Maryland police? Also really, really awful. From sea to polluted sea, basically.
- And speaking of pollution, the U.S. government is helping oil companies to poison Americans. In fact, pollution is seeping out of every American pore. Every single one.
- What’s more, the USA is a nation of drug fiends.
- There’s censorship everywhere in the USA.
- And crazy, scary religion, too!
This isn’t a sampling of the Russia Today coverage on February 28th, it’s a full list of every available story, save one.
So you were offered 16 items condemning just about every aspect of American society. Just to show it is fair and balanced, however, Russia Today did throw in one story acknowledging that Americans have pretty good science, and had just discovered a whole bunch of new planets. So nobody can say Russia Today has an anti-American bias or anything!
Russia’s actions are truly mind-boggling. Russia’s response to its belief that America doesn’t report fairly about Russia is to report unfairly about America. Its response to its belief that America inappropriately uses military force abroad is to do so itself.
How can Russians denounce American conduct and then engage in exactly the same conduct themselves? Doesn’t it occur to them that it’s impossible for Russians to insist that Americans stay out of Russian conflicts like Chechnya when Russia is inserting itself into the Ukrainian conflict? If Russia wants accurate reporting, shouldn’t it engage in accurate reporting? How can Simonyan possibly expect any viewer to take her network seriously when she openly admits she’s fighting for the Russian cause?
Such hypocrisy has never caused Russians to lose any sleep. For them, when Russians use military force against other countries that use is unquestionably valid, while when the USA uses military force it is just as unquestionably invalid. Russians want to dictate to the world just as Putin dictates to them, in a manner similar to the way in which a battered child becomes a battering spouse.
What is really disturbing about all this is that Russians have already witnessed the dire consequences. The information vacuum created by the USSR was the primary culprit in preventing that regime from adapting to changing circumstances, and it was the failure to adapt that caused the USSR to collapse. Yet Russians are now repeating all the same mistakes of the Soviet past, blithely allowing their nation to once again be led down the path of doom.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.