One of the sources for the Times piece is the anti-Putin Atlantic Council, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank composed of about equal parts neocon hawks and liberal interventionists. In other words, it's run by a bipartisan collective of warmongers who get their paychecks from such entities as Goldman Sachs, General Dynamics and Exxon-Mobil. So, to prove just how treacherous a stooge he really is, President Trump proceeded to nominate Atlantic Council Director Jon Hunt as his new ambassador to Russia within 24 hours of the Times article's publication.
Oops. There is so much head-fakery and so much gaslighting going on, it's hard to tell just who is punking who on any given day in this, the twilight of the American Empire. The appointment of the anti-Putin Huntsman does kind of take the wind out of the sails of the anti-RT, anti-Trump critics. It kind of turns this whole Russophobic narrative of the TrumPutin clone right on its ear.
Then again, maybe not. The anti-Russia hysterics have dug themselves into such a deep hole they don't know how to get out of it. This saga will likely continue to the bitter end, if it ever does end.
Further deepening their hole is the WikiLeaks revelation this week that the CIA has a program which can falsely trace leaks back to any source that it chooses. Spy agency assertions -- that the leaks of DNC emails showing how the party sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign, and the subsequent dump of the Podesta email trove proving Hillary's allegiance to Wall Street -- were both traced directly to Russia renders their "high confidence" even more suspect.
And if all else fails, and it does seem to be failing, they'll blame those selfish, disloyal millennials who tune in to such RT shows as Watching the Hawks and Redacted Tonight. Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden has already gone so far as to accuse millennial hires of dumping the CIA documents through WikiLeaks. It's just terrible that the Intelligence Community is turning into an assisted living facility with no other choice but to import hacker slackers to perform the dirty deeds of an aging Establishment.
But back to the RT hit job by the New York Times.
Erlanger, the paper's London bureau chief, begins his particular smear piece by graciously granting RT executives the opportunity to deny that the media group is "an agent of Kremlin policy and a tool directly used by President Vladimir V. Putin to undermine Western democracies — meddling in the recent American presidential election and, European security officials say, trying to do the same in the Netherlands, France and Germany, all of which vote this year."
He goes through a laundry list of so-called experts who opine that RT, despite all its protestations to the contrary, is not only a propaganda mill, it is the actual inspiration for the epidemic of "fake news" currently plaguing the great American psyche.
Even as Russia insists that RT is just another global network like the BBC or France 24, albeit one offering “alternative views” to the Western-dominated news media, many Western countries regard RT as the slickly produced heart of a broad, often covert disinformation campaign designed to sow doubt about democratic institutions and destabilize the West.Erlanger then insinuates that RT once hacked C-Span. A technical glitch in a broadcast last January caused a pristine and democratic Congressional hearing to be over-ridden for a few minutes by "Russian propaganda." Erlanger immediately covers himself by admitting that well,yes, this was only a technical snafu on the part of C-Span itself. But just by writing about the incident again, he slyly succeeds in raising new doubts in the minds of his American readers. It's another variation of the propaganda technique of damaging a reputation through the magic of innuendo.
Western attention focused on RT when the Obama administration and United States intelligence agencies judged with “high confidence” in January that Mr. Putin had ordered a campaign to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” discredit Hillary Clinton through the hacking of Democratic Party internal emails and provide support for Donald J. Trump, who as a candidate said he wanted to improve relations with Russia.
Erlanger continues by innocently acknowledging his own profound confusion:
Translation: anyone refusing to declare full allegiance to Big Brother USA is a nut. Noam Chomsky is the same person as Alex Jones. Everything bad you ever heard about American wars and the military-industrial complex and Wall Street greed and income inequality and rigged elections? It's all in your head, because obviously you never would have felt disgruntled unless you were totally and unknowingly assimilated by the Russian borg.Watching RT can be a dizzying experience. Hard news and top-notch graphics mix with interviews from all sorts of people: well known and obscure, left and right. They include favorites like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Noam Chomsky, the liberal critic of Western policies; odd voices like the actress Pamela Anderson; and cranks who think Washington is the source of all evil in the world.But if there is any unifying character to RT, it is a deep skepticism of Western and American narratives of the world and a fundamental defensiveness about Russia and Mr. Putin.
To deflect legitimate criticism of the American mainstream media, where 90% of all information is controlled and disseminated by six corporate-funded conglomerates, Erlanger quotes another expert claiming that RT's only goal is to spread political, economic and media influence. Of course, nothing that you watch on CNN has anything to do with selling forever wars by means of giving non-stop coverage to mass shootings and terror attacks and endless campaign coverage to Donald Trump.
CNN and other American outlets defending themselves against Trump's Twitter attacks are not the same thing as RT defending itself against attacks from American media mouthpieces. Such a defense is just another indication of its propaganda motive, according to Erlanger's sources. What is wrong with them, reporting about the ongoing smear campaign against them? Such complaints only prove their essential guilt. They doth protest too much.
Meanwhile, Erlanger slantingly agonizes, RT "is both a slick modern television network, dressed up with great visuals and stylish presenters, and a content farm that helps feed the European far right. Viewers find it difficult to discern exactly what is journalism and what is propaganda, what may be 'fake news' and what is real but presented with a strong slant."
After briefly reverting to fair and balanced mode and allowing another group of journalists to deny that RT is nothing but an alt-right propaganda mill with a leftist gloss, Erlanger dutifully pivots right back to his Security State sources so as to double down on the smear.
The gist of his whole piece is that if you, the American news consumer, has any doubts about the goodness of the people running your country, then it is just possible that RT has taken over your brain if you've watched any of its programs. Says one NATO public relations flack quoted in Erlanger's article: "Over time, it's more about hard power and disinformation." (So if you're a fan of such respected and well-regarded RT hosts as Larry King, Chris Hedges, Lee Camp, Thom Hartmann or Ed Schultz, you'd better watch out. Hurry on over to CNN and let the stentorian voice of Wolf Blitzer help you overcome any sickly inhibitions you might still harbor about our trillion-dollar wars.)
Ben Nimmo, another NATO flack who now gets paid "studying" RT for above-mentioned pro-war, NATO-aligned Atlantic Council, directly accuses the Russian media network of acting as a conduit for "hacked material" such as Clinton campaign director John Podesta's emails.
Maybe Atlantic Council Director Jon Huntsman, Trump's new ambassador to Russia, can get to the bottom of all this nasty propaganda and hackery once he lands in Moscow. Or maybe not. Just like Barack Obama, who named him his own ambassador to China, Huntsman is well-known for being something of an ideological chameleon with the added charming ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. "If Trump continues to pursue rapprochement with the Kremlin," warns that other Deep State mouthpiece, The Washington Post, "suspicions will run very high about his motives, and Huntsman will be called upon to defend the policy as beneficial to the national interest."
With all the hysteria over a foreign government influencing American elections, it's notable that the Atlantic Council, with its assignment of a staff person to do nothing but "analyze" RT's nefarious influence, is itself accused of being financially compromised by foreign governments.
It's received donations from nearly two dozen countries since 2008.
Under political pressure, the Atlantic Council finally released its foreign donor list in 2013. Besides taking lobbying cash from such repressive authoritarian regimes as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan, it also relies heavily on donations from various oligarch-controlled energy cartels, most notably in Turkey.
Other donors to the Atlantic Council comprise a veritable who's who of the global plutonomy -- a whole panoply of billionaires, multinational corporations and media outlets. The full list, found here, includes Exxon-Mobil, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, 21st Century Fox, Novartis, Pfizer, the Blackstone Group, Coca-Cola, Walmart, and JP Morgan Chase. If you're interested in a definition of the "National Interest," simply refer to this list.
The funding of mainstream media propaganda which insanely equates progressive humanitarian policies with right-wing authoritarianism can be a very expensive proposition. So it's nice to see all these plutocrats sharing the wealth among themselves, isn't it? Smart-sounding, constantly-aired defenses of hyper-capitalism in the Times and the Post and on CNN and MSNBC do not come cheap, after all.
So it seems that Donald Trump has made a very savvy choice in Jon Huntsman. It makes it even more obvious that the smear campaign against RT is just another one of those sweet-smelling toxic smokescreens giving more cover to the usual suspects of the global plutonomy.
It's somewhat shocking, as well as bleakly entertaining, whenever the oligarchs break out of their self-protective molds and start bashing and bitching at each other right in full public view. Is the Trumplandia crime family really doing battle against the Deep State cartel, or are they only characters in an epic soap opera designed to keep our minds off our own everyday miseries and precarious existences?
Pick a side. Or don't. Stay tuned. Or not.