DN’s short headline about Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law is a particularly shameful headline from Democracy Now (DN), a so-called “alternative” news outlet that used to chastise the US for mistreating and killing news reporters. During G.W. Bush’s Iraq invasion and occupation, and when journalist Tareq Ayyoub was likely killed by the US war forces, DN rightly pointed out how sharply their coverage was not like the corporate media drumbeat for war. DN didn’t simply repeat the pro-war narrative (built on lies) and have a bunch of other pro-war people on to reaffirm the deception. DN used to make a big deal out of 1st Amendment threats to journalism and DN featured reports from “unembedded” reporters showcasing the difference between their reportage and that of the corporate media. But after the 2016 US election, DN has radically changed into something it used to criticize and this change risks rendering DN dismissable right alongside the corporate media it now sides with.
Why is DN’s headline shameful?
- This headline doesn’t point out the difference between the two laws: The Russian law exists and poses a real threat to freedom of speech in Russia as its American counterpart does in America, but unlike the American law the Russian foreign agent registration hasn’t yet been forced on foreign news agencies with outlets in Russia. RT America has been under the restrictions of FARA for over a week now.
- This headline is all Amy Goodman offers on this story after months of the American law being discussed on RT. DN chose silence (just like her corporate media ideological partners). Prior to the November 16, 2017 headline one sentence of coverage, DN’s last RT story was from October 18, 2016 (repeat the search and see what has changed).
- This headline comes with inadequate context setting. What little context is present minimizes who started this and why. The headline tries to draw focus to the Russians doing something bad, and not squarely place the blame where the issue began—the US doing something bad to foreign media and Americans’ freedom of speech—as part of a larger Russophobic campaign by Hillary Clinton supporters to discredit Pres. Trump’s electoral victory in 2016 (among other reasons). The headline doesn’t at all describe the ugly consequences for Americans who want to be properly and fairly informed by their news media. This headline is quite a sharp departure from how Goodman handled the US narrative on the 2013 Iraq invasion and occupation where she would give the mainstream pro-war narrative and then immediately point out the problems with the case for believing that narrative including that Hans Blix’s group did the legwork to back their claim that claims of Iraq’s possession of WMDs were false.
- The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel called this press restriction part of a new cold war with Russia (the transcript should show up eventually). I don’t agree with some of what vanden Heuvel says here (for example: she leaves room to believe that the Russians played a role in interfering in the 2016 US election despite any evidence to back that argument, or that she says RT gets “a negligible audience” because Nielsen doesn’t track their viewership), but the comments about why the US government is angry with RT, what the foreseeable consequences of this anger are, and comments about the structural nature of the critique are all valuable commentary. RT gave a platform to those who criticize American power on a structural level; this goes well beyond getting into petty distractions about Donald Trump personally. RT’s audience on television doesn’t really matter because more people are ‘cord cutting’ or abandoning cable TV for routing their audio & video communications over the Internet. Hence, RT via video sharing sites (such as YouTube) matter considerably and that popularity is the reason why Google and Twitter offered RT premium ad packages prior to being chastised by US Senators who seek to delegitimize what RT says. vanden Heuvel is right that what we colloquially refer to as “Russiagate” could foreseeably become the opening of a new war with Russia. Why would DN (the self-styled “war and peace report” which, given their previous reportage, used to mean ‘anti-war’) want to join forces with the historically pro-war media?
- One sentence (“The vote comes shortly after the United States forced the international Russian broadcaster RT to register as foreign agents.”) about something that ought to concern any media outlet that views itself as being not on the side of power, an organization that informs their audience even if that means going against the prevailing corporate narrative. I can only guess that means Goodman has switched sides and her pro-DNC take on other stories (from silence about the DNC lawsuit where the DNC’s lawyer told us the Democrats don’t owe us fair primaries, to uncritically buying into the various arms of the Russiagate narrative) means we are being given permission to view her show as a far less watched MSNBC-alike as Max Blumenthal said in a recent interview with Aaron Maté on The Real News Network. Maté also pointed out this “lone mention” by his former employer.
Implications for local media?
DN got to where it is largely by local community media outlets. Does your local in-town media still play DN? At what point do local media managers decide that DN is taking the same view as the corporate media and therefore it’s time to find a DN replacement that can offer local media audiences something they can’t easily find elsewhere (thus justifying the existence of local media)?
In case you’re just catching up to “Russiagate”
Comic and corporate media sycophant Jena Friedman concisely repeats the current corporate narrative in her foolish and ahistorical take which fails to recognize how culpable the US is and how there’s no evidence of suspicious Russian involvement in the 2016 US election.
RT is a Russian propaganda tool. Any Americans who work for the network should at least own up to that. Dear friends who work at @RedactedTonight, don’t be useful idiots to a country that censors speech and kills journalists. You are smart and talented and can get work elsewhere.
What’s come out so far is nothing more than can be explained by media outlets advertising for themselves and free speech. Friedman is also tacitly supporting blacklisting along these lines.
A much more reasonable perspective can be found
But they require some looking around; most mainstream media outlets and freedom of speech groups apparently choose to remain silent about this threat to freedom of speech.
- RT’s report on the media and freedom of speech groups remaining silent including their hypocrisy and the ridiculous consequences of registering under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act).
- RT’s report on how Google will ‘de-rank’ RT & Sputnik (both Russian government-funded media outlets) for being “propaganda” despite any proof of those claims. The BBC is also state-funded but there’s no indication the BBC will be censored.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IG3mTTI_RY—RT’s Redacted Tonight
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWFlCKjJG84—RT’s CrossTalk Bullhorns
- Aaron Maté interviews Max Blumenthal on RT crackdown including exposing the hypocritical media silence on this story (transcript)
- https://www.thenation.com/article/rt-was-forced-to-register-as-a-foreign-agent/ by Aaron Maté, former Democracy Now reporter
- https://www.thenation.com/article/registering-the-cable-channel-rt-a-foreign-agent-is-a-threat-to-press-freedom/ by Katrina vanden Heuvel