Is RT Russian State Propaganda, a Progressive News Station With a Valid View, or a Little Bit of Both?
RT, which originally stood for Russia Today, is Russian State TV designed for non-Russian audiences.
That is a clear fact, but the question that is less clear is, “it RT more BBC World or KGB?”
We explore the nature of RT and Russia’s involvement in it below.
Watch this video on how Reaganomics killed the middle class. The video is rather well done, it makes many good points, but it is divisive. In it Richard Wolff, a pretty darn smart economist, and Thom Hartmann, an excellent progressive host with a long respectable career, discuss Reaganomics. Do they ever directly plug Russian interests here? No, not in any overt way. All that is happening here is the slandering of supply-side economics and the informing of why it didn’t work (from their perspective). That is something you might see on Rachel Maddow, so how is this different from NBC? You see, outside of a few talking points sprinkled into shows like this, there really isn’t much difference at all. AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES THINGS COMPLEX.
TIP: It isn’t videos like the ones above that are the problem per-say, those just draw us in. It is the ones like the next one, with the headline that says, “The Philippines should have stronger ties with Russia and China, as Western nations are only interested in double talk and disregard Philippines interests, President Rodrigo Duterte told RT and other Russian media ahead of his visit to Moscow.”
‘They want me to fight China. It’s gonna be a massacre!’ – Duterte to RT (FULL INTERVIEW).
TIP: A good influence tactic, when picking a target, is to pick someone with an ego so big that they will never admit to themselves they have been played. Someone like this will never see the person pulling the strings, they will always think to themselves “I did this alone because I am so great.” See, “what is a useful idiot?”
TIP: Although no one will argue that RT is at least to Russia what BBC is to Britain, a state backed media channel. That alone isn’t a problem (if viewers know what the source of their information is, then certainly there is nothing dishonest about each nation having the liberty to frame their own narrative for international audiences; that is democracy and liberalism and such things are virtues). Thus, when discussing Russia and the 2016 elections in France or the U.S., we have to separate accusations surrounding email leaks and social media influence campaigns from messages pushed on RT like “voting your conscious” (i.e. for Stein and against Hillary). Not everyone is required to love Hillary Clinton, and RT has no requirement to put a pro Hillary message on TV. The responsibility instead falls on the lap of the people of the west. Simply put, people should understand the media they are listening to and the intentions behind it, just like they should understand the presence of trolls and troll bots on social media who are trying to divide people politically using fake news (a problem that goes beyond just “Russia”). Learn more about the specific accusations pertaining to Russia and the 2016 elections that Macron and others like U.S. intelligence agencies have responded to.
RT; How to Win Comrades and Influence People
This conversation probably doesn’t mean much for the mainstream right-wingers or left-wingers who watch channels like Fox and NBC respectively (it might be an eye opener into the attack on democracy, liberalism, and western values, but it doesn’t affect them directly), however it is something libertarians, alt-righters, and progressives should note very carefully.
Libertarians and Progressives should note this, because they are the main target. Meanwhile, alt-righters should note this, because their “alternative Media” often uses very similar tactics (which might indirectly have the same actors behind them).
Consider, RT America is arguably the most progressive news-ish channel on TV (er, um, mostly the internet).
With that in mind, speaking generally, there are really only a few things you’ll ever see on RT (on the clips that make it online at least):
- Lots of facts and reporting that often do a better job of staying away from opinion than main stream American media (that is the insidious part; lots of the reporting is great, which makes the pro-Russia talking points that are laced in hard to spot).
- Awesome progressives who are given a platform to speak openly and to the left of Democracy Now.
- Awesome libertarians who are given a platform to speak openly and to the “libertarian” of CATO.
- Those representing “establishment” viewpoints who are verbally smacked around worse than Hannity used to do with Colmes.
- A different perspective on some News stories which helps give insight into what Russians are thinking.
- Key talking points that seem to be designed by the Russian state in order to divide Americans, in the case of RT America at least (be it dividing left-wing and right-wing populists from each other, dividing Bernie from Hillary, or progressives from Democrats, or the far-left from the far-right).
You see Russia and Progressives share the same thing in common that Russia and the far American populist right do, that is they seek to weaken the American “establishment” (especially the “war hawks” and “deep state“).
For Progressive left-wing populists, they want love, peace, socialism, and a better deal for workers and the have-nots, for the right-wing populists, well they want sort of the same thing but less “big government” and less “others” benefiting.
Likewise, libertarians like Ron Paul are fully against foreign intervention and big government, thus also sharing interests with Russia (that is, neither Libertarians or Russians want the U.S. in Syria, Ukraine, or other select places, nor do they want sanctions).
For all the ideologies considered, progressive, Russian, libertarian, alt-right, etc, their common “enemy-of-sorts” is the establishment wings of both major U.S. parties. Thus, there is a clear motive here.
The Russians, speaking in somewhat speculative and general terms (but based on official U.S. reports and testimony of people like Garry Kasparov), have a divide and conquer strategy that can be called many names, and is comprised of many tactics, but it is well understood via the concept of “oh, dear” strategy.
Oh Dearism. Some more “Russian intelligence” tactics. When in doubt, one should typically err toward the country they live in. Actually, when in doubt a person should fact-check earnestly. When you think you know and close your mind to skepticism and debate, you take a slippery step toward being dangerously wrong.
That is a strategy where you fund and fuel all the fringe divisive groups of a country to create chaos, confusion, and division. The word is Russia does this at home and abroad to sow a sort of post-truth post-modern confusion. In environment created from that, and from overt propaganda and old techniques like having compromising information, democracy falters and authority shines.
This environment favors a person like Putin who wants to stay in power and weakens a system like America that depends on an open and free democracy where every citizen gets to voice their opinion and speak freely.
This is the point.
The tactic is simple, support the populists and progressives, wearing a thousand different hats, never concerning one’s self with any ideology beyond the end goal, then pivot whatever new environment results from the chaos to better suit your needs (lifting sanctions, securing business deals, securing certain regions, ensuring you become the world’s superpower).
Garry Kasparov: ‘Putin’s main philosophy is confrontation’. Kasparov on French TV. The French, with their leaked emails and Le Pen had every reason to be just as concerned as the U.S. did. People who think of public influence like a chess game have picked up on the general strategy at this point. Unfortunately, this does not speak to the awareness of “unwitting pawns.” In a democracy both chess masters and paws have an equal vote, but the special interests of the chess master are often overrepresented rather than the general will. Welcome to the problem of democracy, which official documents and Kasparov say Russia is exploiting.
Putting Aside Speculation and Looking At Some Evidence
All of the above said, real questions still remain like, “is RT a mouth piece for a well hidden talking point or two? Or is there something more insidious going on here?”
Well, that is something we can’t answer for sure, but we can sure the heck offer evidence for and against.
- We know Russia generally interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections and interfered with the elections of our western allies. The general consensus is they were trying to destabilize countries by supporting right-wing and left-wing populists. Further, it seems that RT was used to these ends to some extent (not illegal in itself, but worth noting). This can be confirmed in part by a report signed off on by 17 American intelligence agencies that shows Russian involvement in the 2016 American election says, “[RT is] Russia’s state-run propaganda machine . . . [it] contributed to the influence campaign [to divide America] by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.”
- Those who are aiding the Russian effort, be they talking heads on RT, Flynn, Jill Stein, or any other “fellow traveler”, aren’t necessarily colluding with Russia knowingly. In fact, a much smarter strategy (and thus likely the one Russia is actually employing) is to do nothing illegal in the open and to create doubt by getting people like Flynn and Stein into compromising situations using their own ideologies to honey-pot them into sticky situations (like the photo-op). Imagine if you will a situation where the investigation into Russia turns up no collusion, or imagine it does, it has divided us either way. This gives us a hint that their strategy is working rather well…. and that is the thing about a complex strategy that deals a number of hands that can be played many ways.
TIP: The photo below says this all in a single image. Micheal Flynn and Jill Stein are sat beside President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a Moscow gala for RT. RT, the Kremlin-financed television network and subject of this page, paid Flynn more than $45,000 to attend the event and give a separate speech. I’m not sure if Jill was paid or not, but does it really matter? No one had to do anything wrong or illegal for this to be cluster fuss. We all like friendship and dinner, and Stein certainly gets more air time on RT than mainstream American Media (so perhaps she was just returning the favor), but this photo speaks a thousand words. The problem here isn’t attending a gala, the problem is by attending the gala the American’s in the picture acted as “useful idiots.” The image calls into question Flynn and Stein’s involvement with Russia and the election, which is probably why RT invited them (to get the photo and give the money to create the uncertainty). All that aside, to our point, we can confirm that RT is most certainly involved with the Russian state. So, did Flynn or Stein do anything wrong? We don’t know. Did RT and the Russian state set them up for a photo op, well… again, the picture speaks for itself.
TIP: Not only is the above all worth note, but there is another smoking gun here in “alternative media.” On the Russia issue specifically, we get “alternative media” doubting official reports and downplaying any involvement of right-wingers. The logic is this, if Russia interfered, then Trump didn’t just win bigly on his own (even if he didn’t collude at all, it wasn’t just him “winning”). So all right-wingers tend to dismiss the facts about Russia. Do you see the awkward spiral of misinformation here? I hope you do, as that is sort of what the whole thing is about. I.e. the alt-right is indirectly sometimes being useful idiots of Russia, as they are creating just as much division and ignoring just as many facts as anyone else. But that makes sense right? I mean using the far-left and far-right to divide the country certainly is going to involve influencing the behavior of both.
FACT: The report noted above (Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution) is real and worth reading. Notice how it speaks clearly and factual, that is what real information looks like. Notice how different real information is from talking points.
What the CIA Report on Russian Hacking Really Tells Us.
Summing this Up; Sort of
I guess what I would say to people to sum this up is:
RT is absolutely Russian TV meant for overseas audiences. Thus, one should assume there is an agenda. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, or that it isn’t worth watching, that just means you need to double-check the facts.
Of course, this is true with ANY MEDIA!
For RT, by targeting divisive and ideological people, like Flynn and Stein, they can use people as “useful idiots” without ever actually doing anything illegal. That is all fine and dandy until it isn’t, and we all already felt the effects of “till it isn’t.” IS IT REALLY VOTING YOUR CONSCIOUS when the Kremlin has influenced your conscious (and please do take this as a metaphor in general for other sources; it doesn’t just apply to Russia).
On that point. Aside RT being Russian and Fox being owned by a right-winger from Australia, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between being divided by the Kremlin or being divided by Fox. The reason tactics that seek to divide western liberal democracies are effective is because we already have a culture of selling conflict and division (our freedom gives us freedom to divide into parties and speak freely at each other).
Likewise, people are already pissed about wealth inequality, they are already pissed about the other team, and they are already pissed about “the establishment.” So, it only takes a little push and then we divide and do the work of others for them.
All this to say, yeah, RT is Russia TV and one should really take that into account. However, honestly, those odd talking points aside, it has some really great stuff on it (just like Fox, NBC, Breitbart, or any other not-purely bipartisan source).
The one good thing about this strategy is that it gives voice to any divisive entity. Sometimes a divisive entity is a NAZI, sometimes it is a well intentioned progressive or libertarian. When you give Thom Hartman a show and Ron Paul a 30 minute segment to speak his mind, much good has been done, even if some bad has been done.
Meanwhile, we can stress the point that other entities like Breitbart, Fox, or CNN divide the nation and push talking points without the help of Russia (and they don’t even bother to give Progressives and Libertarians air time.)
Suffice to say, there is a big ol bed here, and while Russia may have slipped a mint under the pillow, they didn’t make the bed.
So, watch RT, but like Fox, Briebart, or any other media with a clear agenda, but do a double take and check yourself. Ask yourself, am I really hearing every side of the truth? Am I really only hearing complete pure information?
If you start running around repeating talking points heard only from sources in your circle, you could be acting as someone’s useful idiot. If not Putin’s, someone’s.
There is only one way to win a propaganda war (as a good guy/gal), that is through truth, critical thinking, and general correctness (i.e. via facts).
If you understand the two-party system and the Clinton foundation, you aren’t going to waste your vote, you’re going to speak with your ballot tactfully.
If you “vote your conscious” because you heard about it on RT, again, that isn’t necessarily your conscious speaking, it just may be Jill Stein being a fellow traveler and you riding her coattails all the way to the gala.
TIP: Now that we’ve presented our take on all this, here are two videos that address these points directly (one, oddly enough, from RT itself). Remember though, propaganda isn’t simple, it is like chess. There are many moves at a given point, it isn’t one thing happening, it is many. You don’t have to not watch that next RT video or anything… but if you are watching Breitbart, or RT, or Fox thinking everything you hear is the pure and only truth, you should be checking yourself mate. No one likes being a pawn.
Ex-RT anchor tells Congress how Putin’s media works.
Inside RT: News Network or Putin Propaganda? | Mashable Docs.