The list is very long, over 2300 names, because it contains the name of every person to ever appear on either Sputnik or RT. Hosts or guests, hostile or friendly, it doesn’t matter. If you’re on the list, you are a useful idiot.
They’ve highlighted some names in yellow, to denote they’re “particularly noteworthy”. Names receiving the yellow highlight – the Russian agent equivalent of twitter’s blue tick – include Harrison Ford, Stephen Fry and Senator John McCain. All noted for their pro-Russian public stance on important political issues.
Also on the list are Boris Johnson’s dad, Barack Obama’s wife and John McCain’s daughter. And while all three of them may well be idiots, I’m struggling to see how they’ve ever been useful to anyone.
It’s honestly beyond a joke at this point. But let’s take a look behind the scenes anyway.
The not-at-all Orwellian sounding “European Values” think-tank is a Czech based NGO focusing on fighting…
…aggressive regimes, radicalisation within the society, the spread of authoritarian tendencies and extremist ideologies including Islamism.
Their about page goes into a lot of (vaguely creepy) detail about their logo, in case you were interested, but much less detail about their funding. If you want to know that, you have to read their annual reports.
In 2015, for example, you can see that they received funding from disappointingly predictable list of sources. The European Union, the US Embassy, the UK Embassy and (of course) the Open Society Foundation.
One day, it would be really nice to read the “Our Funding” section of an NGO’s website, and NOT see George Soros’ name.
The author of the list and accompanying report is one Dr. Monika Richter, a first generation British citizen and child of Czech immigrants. She’s a new face at the programme, having recently graduated from Oxford, where she studied at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The Reuters Institute receives funding from various sources, including Google, the BBC and…*sigh*…George Soros.
Interestingly enough, when Richter was at Oxford she spoke at the Free Speech Debate, arguing against the “no-platforming” of certain speakers because it could be used to censor unpalatable views.
Quite when she changed her mind on this issue, I do not know.
The fifty-three page long report that accompanies the list is both terrifying and hilarious, with some beautiful paranoid language that reads like the journal of Jack D. Ripper. I have read it, so you don’t have to (you’re welcome)…but if you really feel the need then here it is. It is a masterpiece of doublethink.
In one paragraph she smoothly segues between three points: 1. That Russia illegally “invaded” Georgia; 2. That RT’s “biased coverage” blamed the war on Georgia; 3. That the EU’s own report stated Georgian aggression was a prime factor in causing the conflict. Apparently she is totally unaware that her third point completely undermines points 1 and 2.
Later, she claims that RT employs “conspiracism” to spread insidious messages that undermine public faith in Western government.
For example, RT is accused of spreading the “conspiracy” that the US and UK started the Iraq war under false pretenses – when, far from being a “conspiracy theory”, the WMD-related lies are now an historically accepted truth. Only neocon diehards even try to deny that any longer.
The report also claims that RT spread conspiracy theories about “false flags” which, again, are a point of historical fact. And that RT reports, stating that the US and their allies are supporting ISIS in Syria, were untrue. In fact, these reports have since been shown to be absolutely correct.
She also rails against RT’s reporting of the Ferguson riots, in which they apparently:
revealed a consistent refrain: “the oppression of blacks in the US has become so unbearable that the eruption of violence was inevitable”, and that the US therefore lacks “the moral high ground to discuss human rights”
Now, personally, I’m struggling to see how that statement is inaccurate, but maybe I’m just indoctrinated beyond all hope at this point.
The best parts of the report come when the author is forced, by the unbending hand of reality, to make concessions. These include:
RT does not (typically) lie outright in its reporting, it presents facts in a way that distorts the reality of the situation and leads viewers to certain conclusions.
For the sake of fairness, it must be acknowledged that despite these malign intentions, RT has enjoyed a small handful of journalistic accomplishments. For example, its coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes, and the 2010 WikiLeaks scandal was incisive, with the former two earning RT International Emmy Award nominations
Which, in a beautiful demonstration of intellectual dishonesty, is quickly followed up with:
However, the critical point here is that RT’s treatment of these events is not motivated by a genuine commitment to principled, balanced journalism, but rather by opportunism to demonise the US government for its apparent contradictions and democratic shortcomings.
You see? Even when their news coverage is good, and nominated for international awards, and tells important truths, none of that counts because they’re doing it for the wrong reason.
She apparently wants us to believe that telling the truth for the wrong reason is just as bad lying. Worse even, when you think about it, because your unabashed use of fact-based arguments lends a seeming legitimacy to your incorrect world view.
It is absolutely bonkers.
Some of the other highlights include:
RT disguises the malicious objectives of this editorial strategy by claiming to uphold traditional liberal-democratic ideals like free speech, critical journalism, and independent thought. RT’s shrewd perversion of these principles through rhetorical ploys like the ‘Question More’ ad campaign – which appears to advocate media literacy, critical thinking, and reasonable scepticism about media content – can seem highly convincing to the untrained eye.
By saying the wrong things RT is “perverting” free speech. The principle of free speech only applies to those with state-approved motives who say state-approved things. By disagreeing with that state-approved consensus you are, actually, perverting your freedom and therefore should have it taken away from you.
If the arguments that multiple points of view are important, and that journalistic integrity and free-speech demand the broadcasting of unpopular opinions, sound convicing, it’s only because you’re not well trained in picking up sedition and propaganda.
Not only that but:
RT uses guest appearances by Western politicians, journalists and writers, academics, and other influential public personalities to boost its credibility. Regardless of their intent, these appearances amount to complicity with the Russian propaganda machine, and thereby render its influence that much harder to counter. RT is not a neutral media platform; per point 1, its raison d’être is to disparage and demoralise the West at all costs, and all content it airs is calibrated to serve this purpose. Thus, even guest appearances made in good faith – e.g., motivated by the desire to offset some of RT’s more toxic and hyperbolic narratives – are counterproductive.
This explains the presence of John McCain on the idiot list, I suppose. Ms Richter seems to think that, even if you go on RT to criticise Russian foreign policy, or call RT biased, or defend the US viewpoint, your very presence reinforces the illusion that RT is a TV news channel, when it’s just a Kremlin disinformation centre. By airing contrasting points of view from every side, RT is able to maintain a pretence of impartiality.
You see, RT are not objective, so they have to pretend to be objective by allowing people to disagree with them on air. CNN and the BBC et al ARE objective, so they don’t need to pretend to be, so they DON’T have to allow people to disagree with them on air. By extension, the more differing opinions they broadcast, and the wider variation of opinions they broadcast, the more show themselves to be unobjective.
The logic is flawless.
None of this matters anyway because:
While the security hazard of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign and influence operations should not be taken lightly, it is imperative to not overinflate the threat of individual influence agents like RT and Sputnik. Such a reaction is counterproductive: it further empowers these agents, allowing them to claim excessive success and consequently obtain more funding from the Kremlin to expand their operations.
So there you go, even if RT appears to be a serious undermining or our society and values, they actually have no real power and shouldn’t be overestimated. The important conclusion of this 53 page report that an NGO spent 100,000s of dollars on, is that we shouldn’t over-react.
One wonders how long the report would be if she had over-reacted.
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