Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US 'alternative' voices
In a truly surreal irony, your trusty CounterVortex chief blogger (me, Bill Weinberg) just got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he's impressed with our website and inviting me to contribute to RT! Can this possibly be real? All I ever do is diss RT—an organ of Russian state propaganda that is openly serving the Putin-Trump agenda. Is this some "gotcha" thing, where Igor (or some imposter?) waits for me to take the bait by responding and then doxes me as a hypocrite? Or do they really think I'd sell out? Or are they just fishing around all lefty and "alternative" seeming websites without actually bothering to pay any attention to the content?
The Russians are coming — and this time they’re looking to recruit US journalists who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
RT America, a newsgathering unit of Moscow-based media company RT, is looking to beef up its US staffing ahead of the 2020 election, a flurry of recent job postings shows. Formerly called Russia Today, it's the same stateside operation that was accused by intelligence agencies of spreading misinformation in the US prior to the 2016 election.
In September 2017, RT was forced by the Justice Department to register as a foreign agent of the Russian government. At the time, RT representatives disputed the Justice Department's findings but said they agreed to register to avoid charges.
Currently, the company is posting on journalism job boards under the name RT — without disclosing its Russian roots or its alleged ties to Vladimir Putin's government.
One source who responded to an ad was called from a number in Moscow by a person identified as Igor Ogorodnev, the Web editor-in-chief in the US.
Ogorodnev told our source that he was interested in stories that can investigate the "rumor" that COVID-19 deaths are being exaggerated by US media outlets.
"No anti-Trump coverage," Ogorodnev told our source. "We're not The Washington Post."
Again, we didn't need "intelligence agencies" to tell us RT was spreading disinfo to lubricate Trump's victory in 2016, thanks very much. As someone put it long ago, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. And spare us the "alleged ties" bet-hedging. RT is directly owned and controlled by the Russian state. In case this reality has escaped you, the BBC News broke it down in its coverage of RT being forced to register as a foreign agent in the US in 2017:
RT, originally Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), began broadcasting internationally in 2005 in English, Arabic and Spanish as a subsidiary of RIA Novosti, one of three Russian state-owned news broadcasters.
The broadcaster focused on Russia-related news reports and said its goal was to improve the image of the country in the US. At its launch, it promised a "more balanced picture" of what Russia is.
Several years later, it shortened its name to RT and began focusing on US news, positioning itself as an alternative to US mainstream media on both online and US cable television.
In late December 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin dissolved RIA Novosti and transferred all its subsidiaries to a new organisation, International News Agency Russia Today.
On the same day, Putin appointed a well-known but controversial media figure, Dmitry Kiselev, as the general director of the new organisation.
Mr Kiselev was placed on the EU's individual sanctions list in 2014 for being a "central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine"...
He is also known for his homophobic views, including saying gay people should be banned from being blood or organ donors. "In case of car accidents, their hearts must be buried or burnt and never used to save someone's life," he told Russian TV show in 2012.
So talking about RT's "alleged ties to Vladimir Putin's government" is like talking about the New York Post's "alleged ties" to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp! Of course it's an irony that Murdoch's principal stateside propaganda organ, Fox News, and RT share the same agenda: the Trump-Putin agenda. However much mutual suspicion there may be between the White House and Kremlin, however fragile their commonality of interest may actually be, it is certainly clear that Putin has everything invested on Trump's re-election. Operation Barbarossa did not mean that the Hitler-Stalin Pact did not exist, if you get our drift. And while their modus operandi persists, they share a mutual aim—along with their lesser collaborators and clients, from Bashar Assad to Viktor Orban to Rodrigo Duterte—of imposing a Fascist World Order.
But RT and Fox are playing to different crowds. Fox is playing to the American right, and RT (with its dizzyingly hypocritical kicker "Question More") to the American left. This way they control both sides of the debate. It's a total scam.
Which is why no opprobrium is too harsh for those figures on the American left who have sold out to RT. We'll name a couple. Most obvious is Chris Hedges, who somehow maintains his "leftist" creds while openly shilling for Trump, and whose primary platform is now his RT program, On Contact.
But we'll name another: Alex Rubinstein, who we called out for writing up a puff piece for RT on so-called "anti-war [read: pro-war] protesters" who disrupted a pop-up orchestral and choral performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy in Manhattan's Grand Central Station that had been called to support Syria's White Helmets volunteer rescue group and promote the documentary about them. Before Rubinstein was swept up by RT, and affiliated propaganda outlets such as Sputnik, he was a figure of some prominence in New York's left activist circles.
These sell-outs are a digrace to the "left," who have betrayed everything it supposedly stands for. But don't worry, RT. You aren't getting Bill Weinberg.