Untimely Observations

Who's Afraid of Russia Today?

The Southern Poverty Law Center is going after Russia Today for providing a forum for “extremists” and encouraging “the burgeoning Patriot movement.” Over the past five years, RT had become a welcome alternative news source for many. In fact, this anti-RT campaign was launched around the same time as that television channel made it to Youtube’s Top 100, while the ratings of several American news networks had plunged.

And the SPLC is not the only one. The Independent described how

Even before the recent spy scandal about Russian "illegals" in the United States, western intelligence services have been wary about Russia Today's correspondents. One journalist, posted by the Russian channel to a western capital, recalls that she was called to a meeting in a local café by the country's interior ministry before being given her accreditation.

"This guy showed up, and he had a dossier with loads of information about me and my past," says the journalist, who does not want her name revealed. "It was pretty obvious he was working in intelligence, and eventually he came out and asked, 'Is Russia Today a front for a spy network?' I thought it was hilarious, but he was serious."

Both parties seem to have grossly underestimated the viewers’ intellectual capacity. After all, those who watch international channels, particularly via Youtube, are already politically curious and web-savvy enough to gather a variety of conflicting information in order to make sense of it all.

Such viewers are certainly aware of the fact that every news source should be taken with a grain of salt. They know that certain underground blogs offer worthwhile analysis, but are rarely there when “the news breaks.” Large networks like BBC are decent in the area of concise reporting from around the world, but normally adhere to the politically correct “party line.” Al Jazeera offers a very different perspective on recent American wars, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to immigration-related issues in Europe. Russia Today provides great coverage of a variety of subjects – from economics to multiculturalism, but don’t look for the “ins and outs” of Russia’s own politics on that channel. Even local newspapers demonstrate which crucial subjects don’t make it to national-level media and offer clues as to the reasons why.

Broadcasting motivations are not difficult to gauge by following the money trail and critically evaluating the content. RT’s pursuit of pro-Russian agenda is not much different than BBC being a publicly funded entity. Furthermore, the idea that private ownership of massive media conglomerates somehow guarantees objectivity is simply utopian -- to state the painfully obvious.

Speaking of which, if CNN weren’t so eager to tell us what fashion experts thought of yet another couture dress worn by Michelle Obama and actually reported the news, for a change, maybe then RT would have less of a niche to fill.