Steer clear of Russia Today if you are serious about human rights

So-called ‘alternative’ media should be viewed with no less scepticism than the mainstream.

The word ‘alternative’ attracts like a magnet significant numbers of people regardless of the context in which it is used. Look, for instance, at alternative medicine: ‘alternative’ means no evidence of a remedy’s usefulness; yet homeopathy, the most popular alternative treatment of them all, has thousands upon thousands of dedicated and at times fanatical adherents.

A similar trend prevails in the gathering of news, where crank media organisations have successfully broken into the mainstream by portraying themselves as ‘alternative’ sources of information.

The most notable example is probably RT (previously Russia Today), with its strapline encouraging viewers to ‘question more’.

Part of RT’s success in the UK (it boasts half a million weekly viewers) is down to its ostensibly critical coverage of British politics. It gave coverage to the British Occupy and anti-cuts movements far in excess of that provided by the BBC and other domestic stations, and it regularly features critical programming on Western anti-democratic abominations such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

The station has also in the past given a platform to prominent left-wing commentators such as Ken Livingstone, Owen Jones, the Stop the War Coalition and various members of the recently formed Left-Unity party. All have been invited onto RT to lament the British establishment and detail the extent to which the poor are under the cosh as a result of the coalition’s austerity programme.

No doubt those who agree to appear on RT believe they are justified in doing so if it allows them to give the British establishment a proverbial kicking. After all, is the BBC not just as much an arm of the British state as RT is of the Russian authorities?

Yet under a veneer of concern for the plight of Britain’s poor, RT is engaged in a wholesale misinformation campaign aimed at bolstering the authority of Russian President Vladimir Putin and discrediting enemies of the Russian state at home and abroad. Just as with the now disgraced Press TV, Western commentators who appear on RT are unwittingly giving succour to a homophobic autocracy which behaves in a far more undemocratic and demagogic manner than our own government could ever dream.

Unlike the BBC, which is governed by an at least nominally independent Royal Charter and which is in most matters quite truthful, RT is a subsidiary of the recently defunct RIA Novosti, the successor to the Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo), which was wholly funded by the Soviet and then Russian governments.

To get a sense of the importance Mr Putin attaches to the propaganda value of RT, last year the Russian President vetoed finance ministry plans to reduce RT’s annual funding of more than $340m (£250m); he also congratulated the station on its successful efforts to “break the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon media on the world’s news”.

Putin abolished RIA Novosti earlier this month, replacing it with a new international agency called, coincidentally, Russia Today (the choice of name for the new agency can hardly be a coincidence, noted the BBC’s Russia correspondent Stephen Ennis). Putin’s spokesperson said the creation of the new organisation was needed because Russia required more propaganda. The President also appointed as head of the new agency Dmitry Kiselyov, a notorious anti-Western chat show host who is quoted as saying that gay people killed in a car crashes should have their hearts buried in the ground or burnt as they are “unfit for helping to prolong anyone’s life”.

The new agency will be a “huge machine for propaganda in the West”, tweeted liberal website editor Roman Fedoseyev in response to the announcement. It seems likely that the newly-formed agency will merge with RT to an even greater degree than its predecessor RIA Novosti.

Despite the wholesale evidence that RT is no ordinary news broadcaster, Western commentators continue to appear on the station. They usually justify this by citing one or all of the following reasons:

Anti-imperialism or pacifism

Because RT has a vested interest in making the West look bad, it appeals to people who see a British or American hand behind every global catastrophe. In answer to the question ‘who is to blame?’, RT’s automatic response is always ‘the West’, making it an attractive platform for erstwhile anti-imperialists to bemoan American foreign policy. The fact that Russia has its own imperial agenda is overlooked in the same way that some opponents of military intervention in Syria were guilty of ignoring the intervention of the Russian armed forces and Hezbollah.

Such an analysis can only ever be half correct, and is akin to looking through a pair of 3D spectacles with one eye closed.

All media is biased therefore RT is no worse than any other station

This is a bit like saying that because all democracies are imperfect living in Britain is the same as living in North Korea, or that multiparty elections are no better than elections featuring a single candidate.

In reality RT is a very different beast to the BBC.

As Eric Lee recently noted, when RT describes itself as ‘news with an edge’ it literally means the edge of a Russian bayonet. The stories RT focuses on are “invariably ones in which the West, and in particular the USA, comes out looking bad”. When RT turns its attention closer to home the progressive mask drops, however, and is replaced by “the strident tone of late-Stalinist Soviet propaganda”.

The BBC may be embarrassingly dull at times, but its reporting of foreign and domestic affairs is a great deal more truthful than its Russian counterpart.

RT offers a platform to criticise the coalition

In reality there is nothing to stop a person criticising the British government on the BBC or on commercial stations such as Sky. The former outlets certainly don’t have editorial policies forbidding criticism of the government, and I have appeared on both Sky and the BBC to do just that. Like it or not, in appearing on RT one is unwittingly endorsing the loathsome regime propaganda which appears alongside agreeable anti-coalition programming. Whether it is ostensibly for the purpose of espousing the case for socialism/anti-austerity/anti-conservatism (delete or insert as appropriate), the result of appearing on the station is to bolster one of the most reactionary governments in the world (one that is currently whipping up a tidal wave of prejudice against gay people).

In sum, steer clear of RT if you are serious about human rights, democracy or socialism, however tempting it might be to see your face on the tele. So-called ‘alternative’ media should be viewed with no less scepticism than the mainstream.

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43 Responses to “Steer clear of Russia Today if you are serious about human rights”

  1. stocks

    BBC unbiased? You’re having a laugh. Opposition groups like occupy can’t get a fair hearing on the aeeb.

  2. Juteman

    Stations like RT, Al Jezeera, etc, are how us Scots find out what is really happening.
    The BBC impartial? 🙂

  3. Ed McArthur

    I think you are naive about the BBC but otherwise I agree. Never again will I will I post a link from RT or Press TV(the Voice Of The Voiceless unless you are an Iranian Atheist -Communist or dissident of any kind)

  4. wj

    On Left Foot Forward’s About Us page LFF tell us:

    “5. A Multilateral foreign policy to tackle climate change, poverty, nuclear proliferation, genocide, terrorism, and disease.”

    But Left Foot Forward tell us of RT:

    “Because RT has a vested interest in making the West look bad, it appeals to people who see a British or American hand behind every global catastrophe.”

    If Left Foot Forward are so insistent on poking their noses into other people’s democracies in order to further their Progressive Interventionist policies they can hardly criticize Russia for resisting through Russia Today.

    But of the majority of individuals who find their way to this website most are quite able to think for themselves and are quite aware that LFF’s propaganda is every bit malicious as RT’s propaganda.

    A pox on all your houses as far as I’m concerned.

  5. dougthedug

    “The BBC may be embarrassingly dull at times, but its reporting of
    foreign and domestic affairs is a great deal more truthful than its
    Russian counterpart.”

    Try living in Scotland. The BBC reported on their news bulletins a figure of 8,000 at the independence rally in Edinburgh in September. The Police Federation reported 20,000.

    In Scotland we know that Russia Today is a broadcast arm of the Russian State but unlike you we also know that the BBC is the broadcast arm of the British State and that neither can be trusted.

  6. ghost whistler

    The broader point is fair, though I agree with the comments pointing out how biased the BBC is (and it really is).

    Perhaps most of us are abkle to consume what RT broadcasts (in part) in respect of what happens here without buying into putin’s disgusting regime. IE, we can listen to discussion of issues and comments that matter to us without supporting him. For instance I’ve watched interesting debates about fracking, which I do not the government to pursue, in the UK. Sometimes their criticism maybe worth hearing.

    Should people refuse to be intervewed by RT because of Putin? Should they compromise efforts to get their message acrosss – particularly when the likes of the BBC won’t let them? The same argument applies to The People’s Voice, which is David Icke’s project. Should I refuse to watch Sonia Poulton, who campaigns against cuts to the poor, because she happens to agree with some of Icke’s views, even if she herself isn’t (hopefully) anti semitic?

    It’s not easy. We have to get our info from somewhere and the british media is a lame duck.

  7. swatnan

    Russia’s biggest problem will be to deal with Islamic terrorism in the nexrt 5 years; its all happening on their borders and within Russia. Knowing the Russians, it’ll be no holds barred, to get the problem under control. And good luck to them. Its probably the only way.

  8. AlexisWolf

    The BBC is rife with propagandists, it champions democracy whilst being complicit in its destruction and YOU think RT is bad! “alternative” media is essential to democracy hence the reason why they’re being attacked by our establishment.

  9. leftfootfwd

    “LFF’s propaganda is every bit malicious as RT’s propaganda.”

    We have never hosted anti-gay propaganda here at Left Foot Forward. Nor will we ever do so, unlike RT.

  10. leftfootfwd

    “LFF’s propaganda is every bit malicious as RT’s propaganda.”

    We have never hosted anti-gay propaganda here at Left Foot Forward. Nor will we ever do so, unlike RT.

  11. wj

    What gives you the divine right to set a moral agenda for everybody else.

  12. Paul Lunt

    All media is biased in one way or another. What RT gives is simply a diffrent side to the same story. What is required when gathering any information from any source is the willingness to think about how much is true and how much is propaganda. It is up to the individual to exercise their brain in order to come up with the truth. That truth incidentally will be different for each individual because of course we are all biased in some way ourselves.

  13. zmoreira

    Independently of the (lack of) merits of RT this article shows a deeply racist view towards Russia.

    Russia and RT are being judged more on their evil,agressive, devious nature and intentions then on the actual usefulness of their programs.

    This is an appeal to purity, segragating the chosen people from the unclean slavs.

  14. Stephen

    RT might provide a more honest criticism of the West than Western media, but we should be cautious of it’s reporting on Russia itself which can be highly sanitised. We musn’t forget who Putin is and the hold he has over the Russian media. Most of our politicians are angels by comparison.

  15. Liza Lane

    Well, after reading the article about “no-fly” in Syria, I’ll certainly view LFF with a great degree of scepticism. (Is this an organ of “New” “Labour”?)

  16. louise40

    “Unlike the BBC, which is governed by an at least nominally independent Royal Charter and which is in most matters quite truthful.”
    This is a joke. TRUTHFUL. Yeah right!
    It is precisely because of RT, Al Jazeera, Alex Jones and others that we actually find out what is REALLY going on in the world.
    The BBC is useless. I never watch it anymore. In fact we don’t watch television anymore. We watch the internet for news.

  17. David Lindsay

    Come back when anyone else gives any coverage to this –

    It has been edited, not least to remove the explanation that I am originally from
    Saint Helena, because the Euston Manifesto types tried to have the whole
    thing taken down entirely.

    The BBC and ITN never replied, and Sky copied its abusive reply to several of my former employers. Only RT has taken the slightest interest in this injustice against British Citizens on British territory.

  18. ModerateLeft

    The BBC is legally obligated to provide a perspective on both sides of the argument. It doesn’t necessarily have to give it greater weight, but it’s an excellent base for the viewer to find additional opinion. Conversely, RT is the leftist’s Fox News. There is literally no discussion here, you’re just wrong.

  19. ModerateLeft

    The reporting of news is an entirely different issue, though. REPORT means objective, displaying of facts, not discriminate opinions, warp facts and neglect coverage on other pressing issues that do not conform to one’s own agenda.

    You are contradicting yourself in your own posts. This is an blog, it holds editorial point of view and articles on issues discussed in avenues such as the news. See how all the titles of articles are affirming a point of view? RT is not a blog, RT is a so-called ‘news broadcaster’, yet fails to cover anything that is not within their agenda…and their agenda is that of the Russian state, of Vladimir Putin. Of course they’re not going to give sufficient coverage of opinion to the anti-gay legislation. The few times they provided an interview to an LGBTQ advocate they were interrupted, the issue was extended to “national sovereignty” rather than human rights (which the Russian government has fucking signed and supposedly ratified) and it was concluded within five minutes.

    In conclusion, just watch Al-Jazeera for Christ’s sake.

  20. Juteman

    In an answer to a question from NewsnetScotland, the BBC said they didn’t need to be impartial until the official 16 week campaigning period,

  21. sagbotgamot

    i also watch Fox News, CNN and BBC. then i make a conclusion. RT is my choice.

  22. leftfootfwd

    If you believe in democracy and gay rights in England you must believe in them in Russia, too. Either you believe in democracy and gay rights for everybody or you don’t believe in them.

  23. leftfootfwd

    “This is an appeal to purity, segregating the chosen people from the unclean slavs”

    No, it’s a objection to the propaganda arm of a homophobic autocracy. Throwing the word “racist” around in this way is to cheapen the term.

  24. Jim

    What an outrageously pious and patronising article.

  25. Paul J

    I would have agreed with most of this until the war in Syria.
    However, not only do RT give more details and better coverage, they’re actually less biased than the BBC, which has obscenely and disgustingly one-sided pro-rebel coverage.
    If you add to that the total; blanking of the on-going privatisation of the NHS, I have no affection whatsoever for the BBC.

    I expect RT to be less than reliable. I used to naively think the BBC was different, but it isn’t.
    I really don’t think many metropolitan liberals realise just how much contempt the beeb is held in by people who once considered themselves it’s natural defenders.

  26. Stephen

    Shouldn’t the same criticisms be levelled at Al Jazeera, owned by the Qatari government, which arguably has much worse anti LGBT laws and general human rights abuses? I have noticed a tendency that people are very quick to condemn Russia but much more reluctant to do so with Gulf states, as if they are being judged by a different standard.

  27. Paul J

    Follow the money.

  28. MikeB

    I am in general agreement with the LFF article on RT. It appears to be written in the radical traditions of George Orwell, Claude Cockburn and others. There can little higher praise than that. Other commentators are right to criticise the BBC but not draw a parallel with broadcasters from despotic régimes.

  29. rukudzo

    I love Russia Today though

  30. Someone from Russia

    Is homosexuality legal in In Qatar from where Al-Jazeera originates? Just curious. In Russia it is legal and there are gay clubs in Moscow.

  31. Bg

    I stopped reading when it said the BBC is truthful, what a joke.

  32. Jake Darwin

    Orwell is ridiculously over-rated. Google for ‘George Orwell useful idiot’ for evidence.

  33. Jake Darwin

    I’m glad people are alert to the garbage that is the BBC. And it has been for its entire existence.

  34. neilcraig

    In Russia there is a legal requirement that opposition parties, even down to those with only a few % of the vote, get at least 21 hours airtime.

    In Britain the BBC Charter requires that their political reporting be “balanced”.
    Anybody care to suggest that UKIP got a fraction of that at the last election; or will at the next; or even will this year, when their support is within a few % points of the LabCons; or when we have an EU election they are expected to beat all the other parties in?

    If our media is not wholly corrupt in the totalitarian interest they must be covering all the parties proportionately to their support. Can anybody pretend the BBC is not wholly corrupt and fascist.

    Also Russia has a proportional electoral system rather than ours which is deliberately intended to disenfranchise anybody who votes for an unapproved party.

    And of course, Russia is not ruled by a political class guilty of war crimes, genocide, the sexual enslavement of children and the dissection of living human beings to steal their body organs.

    I submit that any MP who has not publicly denounced corrupt state media censorship, a totalitarian electoral system and genocide is, at the very kindest, more fascist than democrat. If that is factual it is not diminished by the fact that that means all of them.

  35. Avis71

    RT has very strong censorship on their website where you can write comments on the articles. 80% of the articles i like to read and believe i wouldn’t find this article in the western news. However some articles are really hypocrite. Eg like the article with the title ‘ Guantanamo must close during Obama’s term – Russian Foreign
    I wrote a comment putting this in perspective pointing out that at least the west had a history of respecting human rights whereas Russia didn’t, referring to the KGB Stasi, Siberia, the movie the lives of others. How only a few people could afford a car, the long queues in the shops to buy shoes, food etc. So from an historical perspective Russia never cared about their citizens. Also still the Russians who gained some wealth are eager to bring it abroad since they don’t know when their government will strip them from their assets.
    Also i pointed out that perhaps Russia doesn’t have any ‘Snowdens’ since whistle blowers will think twice, Puttin can easily assassinate them abroad similar to Latvinenko killed with radioactive PO 210.
    All my comments were deleted after 20 minutes. The comments were not insulting, related to the topic, just putting things in perspective and pointing out the hypocrisy of the article.

    Don’t believe me try for yourself, you’ll see RT is censored very badly while they are focusing on discrediting the west.
    Initially i joined the critique on the west and although i don’t agree with the coorporate ruling of the elite etc i still prefer to live in the west rather than be sensored by Russia.

  36. Paul Taylor

    “Because RT has a vested interest in making the West look bad, it appeals to people who see a British or American hand behind every global catastrophe. In answer to the question ‘who is to blame?’, RT’s automatic response is always ‘the West’, making it an attractive platform for erstwhile anti-imperialists to bemoan American foreign policy. ”

    More facile, biased and hypocritical nonsense from James Bloodworth. Without justifying in any way Russia’s autocratic and other undesirable characteristics, it is pure chauvinism to think that because Britain subscribes to a western ideology, it’s perspective is necessarily more correct. And it is insulting to all those in the west who acknowledge the damage that western imperialism has wrought on the world and who are looking for information and perspectives that are suppressed in the western media. RT offers one such source of information.

    If RT is acting as a propaganda platform for Russia, then Left Foot Forward (and the BBC) fulfil the same role for neoliberalism.

  37. David Havelka

    ARE you unbiased? When was the last time you actually criticized Obama?

  38. bitter_pie

    that’s called internationalism. Stay with your morals in your own country! One thing everyone should have learned from Star Trek is non-interventionism. You must let people develop naturally or it turns into a disaster. The same has been observed in the human experience on earth time after time . What you are advocating is simply very foolish at this time. You should be mindful of the proverb : the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  39. pod

    You should all be grateful to enjoy the right to freedom of discourse,and thoughts.
    This will never be the case where the soviets and putin are concerned,their/his policy remain staunchly(loyal)to stalin……..rebuild the wall,around russia!!

  40. Tony

    During the miners’ strike, the BBC reversed the sequence of the footage of the Battle of Orgreave to discredit the miners.
    Also, the BBC regularly, and it is not the only culprit, refers to nuclear weapons as a ‘deterrent’. No evidence has ever been produced to support this claim.
    The BBC has never, to my knowledge, questioned the official justification for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These are reported as fact.
    Even today, the BBC claims that the conventional balance of forces during the Cold War favoured the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. This myth was challenged only once, as far as I am aware, in a late 1980s article in the Observer.

  41. sammy jones

    Thats James bloodworth for you.

  42. Eric Lee

    Wow. That’s quite a lot of criticism of LFF. The only problem is, that James is right and the critics are wrong. RT is Putin’s propaganda arm, full stop. It doesn’t matter what you think of the BBC. No socialist, no democrat, no honest person should have anything to do with Putin and his gangster regime.

  43. Rob

    Time some sanity was restored, and the myth of BBC ‘bias’ exposed.
    If so-called Progressives spent a tenth of the time attacking the Billionaire press that they waste on the most unbiased media outlet possible, history would be very different.
    And they wouldn’t look like sulky teenagers refused their own way all the time.
    The theory that RT represents a vital balance to the BBC is absurd, and none of its adherents would want to live a day in Russia.

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