Andis Kudors: Washington Notes No.2. Russian Loudspeaker’s „Alternative Opinion” in the US


Several days ago I forced myself (in the name of science) to watch Russian TV channel Russia Today (RT). The “benefits” came quite soon… However, prior to examining one particular example of the RT action style, related also to Latvia, let us have a brief look at the general context.

Russian channel Russia Today, which is going to receive a considerably more substantial sponsorship in the nearest future, is gradually gaining its popularity in the US. The streets of Washington are decorated with posters of the former US President George Bush and former US State Secretary Collin Powell supplemented by the text “Look, what happens when there is no alternative opinion”. However, alternative opinion had already existed in the US also before the “peaceful, democratic and flourishing” Russia, with the help of Russia Today, attentively undertook educating the Americans.

Activities of the hosts of the White House and tenants of the Capitol deserve some criticism, and they are scrupulously examined and criticized by various calibre local television channels. In everyday life, it is possible to follow on the TV meetings of representatives of various level authority branches both live and in recordings. And not mentioning the major television channels’ news broadcastings and humour night shows where politicians “get a spanking”. I cannot imagine such situation in modern Russia where journalists would have such an excellent possibility to ask regularly and freely the head of V.Putin’s administration or spokesman questions about nuances of the Kremlin’s policy (the staged Putin’s press conferences are not valid!). In Washington, such interviewing takes place on regular basis, male and female representatives of state authorities are much more available for journalists here, politics is more transparent. The White House spokesman Josh Earnest and State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki go through fire and water during the cross-fire of questions. The problems become visible, therefore historically the US Presidents’ ratings have rarely reached the records of Putin.

How the RT helps the Americans (and the other peoples) to obtain an alternative opinion?

On November 21, the UN conducted voting on Russia-initiated resolution containing condemnation or revival of fascism and neo-Nazism in several countries. The television channel Russia Today allocated significant time for discussing this event. The RT programme host Peter J.Lavelle asked questions to three experts (Dmitri Babich from Russia was one of them) who looked horrified about the fact that the resolution, condemning revival of neo-Nazism, was not supported by the Western countries. The resolution, which was promoted by Russia to the UN General Assembly Third Committee (responsible for resolving the human rights issues), called the countries to struggle against glorification of Nazism and other activities stimulating modern racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and the related intolerance. 115 countries voted in favour of the document, Ukraine, the Unites States and Canada opposed it, and 55 countries abstained (Find the voting results here).

Latvia, which was described in the Russia Today’s broadcast as the country where Nazism has regenerated,  abstained together with the other EU member states. The Russian expert D.Babich, who, of course, had the right to speak first, explained that it was not wonder that Ukraine, being governed by neo-Nazi,  and Latvia where neo-Nazism has also seemingly revived, did not support such resolution, but Canada was the surprise… The fact that the European Union member states (and the other countries) had abstained in the voting because of Russia’s wish to discredit Ukraine and legitimize the aggression against it, was not mentioned during the broadcast. In the program, hosted by Peter Lavelle and having the subtitle “Whitewashing Fascism”, all the three interviewed experts sang in unison. Lavelle grabbed his head and began to laugh at the moment when it was told that there existed some countries (for example, Ukraine) which were trying to equalize Nazism with Stalinism… In a word – a “good” alternative opinion for the American audience. Let us bear in mind that the RT is not a private shop, but the loudspeaker of official Russia, attempting inter alia to undermine Latvia’s international reputation.

According to one of the sayings, the evil hides in details. A part of Russia Today programs are created particularly for the US audience, and they are called RT America. If we mention the full name of the television channel – “Russia Today America” – it looks quite awkwardly, because, what is it in reality – Russian or American channel? The abbreviation “RT”, in its turn, seems quite neutral, a casual spectator may even be unaware of the actual source. And if later on that night one sees the former CNN star Larry King on the RT channel, it may look like a local US medium, presenting the necessary alternative view of the events. We can conclude that the RT at least does not suffer from ageism (discrimination according to the age), for the senior King is allowed, at the RT program hosted by himself, to announce in a hoarse voice: “I love Moscow”. These words were rapidly inserted in a recent interview at the moment when the interviewed American rapper mentioned Moscow….