And so it starts. The articles slating US talk show icon Larry King for agreeing to do a series of shows for the Kremlin-sponsored RT (nee Russia Today) have begun to flow, full of the predictable bile and vitriol.
Hey, Larry King: Have You Ever Watched Russia Today? screamed the headline in a Foreign Policy piece on May 30 by J. Dana Stuster, with the tagline, "seven crazy clips the former CNN host should have checked out before joining Kremlin TV."
By the third paragraph, Stuster is in full attack dog mode: "All of which raises the question: Does Larry King realize who he's working for? This is RT, the Kremlin's English-language network. It's propaganda under the thinnest of veils. Facts and supporting arguments be damned, RT is known for peddling the Russian government's policies - from supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria to provoking the European Union to tarring-and-feathering US officials and policies - with an unabashed eagerness that would make Fox News or MSNBC blush."
I am not going to defend RT, as many of the criticisms of it are true. It is paid for by the Kremlin. It is soft on criticism of domestic politics. It does dodge some very obvious bullets (barely ever mentioning the word "Khodorkovsky", for example). And some of the reporters can be amateurish, hackish or just plan bad.
I am not even going to bother with the obvious retorts: the BBC is paid for by the British government; "Propaganda under the thinnest veils..." goes equally well for Fox News - if not even more so: those people flat out lie on a regular basis.
No, the real fun of these pieces is to skim the content and then read the publication's own reader comments at the bottom of the page.
• "R.T is the best news channel out there for the truth of what's going on in world at the moment, you can't trust any American news channel or British for that matter as they all have Zionist agendas(except democracy now)I don't know how you can call the U.S news channels news, is just serial ass licking of the government and AIPAC," justgoldsworthy wrote in the FP comment section.
• "Having said all this rt is at its best critiquing the west and at its worst on its own record on the free press such as the 300+ Russian journalists who Putin had silenced / murdered," stereotypicalpropaganda added.
Of course, some of the comments can be a bit extreme, but the interesting thing is that all the comments on this particular piece were far more balanced than the piece itself, arguing the basic line: "yes, RT has an axe to grind, but so does our media, and at the end of the day it is nice to have a different perspective."
And it is not just this piece. The rule seems to apply to the comments on many of the Philippics written on RT following the line, "RT is a Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece and a carbuncle on the bum of humanity."
Another classic example was The Guardian's faux zek Luke Harding, who derided Julian Assange as a useful idiot for agreeing to do a talk show on RT. Again, I recommend you to scroll through the comments, as they are universally critical of the article for going over the top. Some examples:
• "to think that the Guardian promoted this man not so veyr long ago not so very long ago... the irony," wrote miles11, highlighting the major conflict of interests that was conveniently passed over.
• "This article comes across as pretty bigoted. The majority of it isn't about the Assange programme but your disapproval for Russia Today. Personally I think in a world where most of the news channels are owned by major western corporations or governments, Russia Today is a breath of fresh air, even though it is obviously very pro-Kremlin in its interests," wrote sadsadzoo encapsulating the essence of most critiques of the piece.
Commenters also pointed out that despite its obvious faults, RT does do some real journalism and is actually good on some topics.
• Russia Today might not be everyone's cup of tea, however it does provide a platform for honest journalists and commentators like Chris Hedges, who are effectively non-persons in the US media. RT has also tried to cover Ron Paul's campaign for president, when he has been virtually blacked out of the mainstream US media," GuyCybershy wrote.
Indeed, RT was nominated for an Emmy for its coverage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, admittedly a story right up its ally, but also a real story that the US media ignored until they couldn't any more.
If I were an editor at either Foreign Policy or The Guardian and read these comments, I would be concerned that editorial policy was going wrong somewhere, as I am obviously not connecting with my readers. But bottom line is the comment by alex27117820 that sums up what the most fundamental principles of the free press should be.
• "This article condemns Mr. King in a good ol' Soviet tradtiion. If US claims to defend democratic values then why not just calm down, see what happens and let people decide themselves what to do," wrote alex27117820.
Ahem... quite so.
(For disclosure, I have appeared on RT without pay several times to have what I consider real and interesting conversations about Russian economics. I wouldn't do so if I was in anyway told what to say and believe it is always useful to speak your mind, irrespective of the media.)
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