#22 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. IV

mine siberia

This image is of the Mir Mine, an inactive diamond mine in Siberia.  It’s about 3900′ in diameter.  The air space above is closed to helicopters, which can be sucked into the pit by the downward flow of air, according to Amusing Planet.  Per Amusing Planet, operating the mine was no walk in the park.  The winter weather is so cold that car tires would burst, oil would freeze, and the workers at the mine would use jet engines to burn through the permafrost.

 

 

Mir mine, siberia

My favorite quote regarding this subject is on a reddit page about the inactive mine:

The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dûm…

 

MAKING LIFE HARD FOR RT

Bearing in mind the Bana Alabed RT Redacted Tonight  video on youtube I urged you to click on– which I believe is a valuable piece of reporting (albeit presented in an infotainment-style format)– let’s briefly discuss RT / Russia Today’s governmental status.  When it was launched in 2005, Svetlana Mironyuk, the director-general of RIA Novosti (the Russian news agency which was subsequently closed around the end of 2013), said that the purpose of RT is to give an alternative to the gloomy image Westerners have of life in Russia.  In her words, “[u]nfortunately, at the level of mass consciousness in the West, Russia is associated with three words: communism, snow and poverty,” she says. “We would like to present a more complete picture of life in our country.”

That seems fair enough.  As far as I know, the evidence that RT is “state controlled” or “government run” or “Russian Propaganda” versus merely “publicly financed” (the way the BBC is publicly financed) is not conclusive, despite what the MSM and our government wants you to believe.

Of course, I do suspect that RT is indeed slow to publish pieces critical of President Putin.  But then again, our own mainstream media isn’t exactly critical of our “bosses.” In America– and I think most of us realize this even if we don’t like to admit it– our bosses are the permanent political class (including the intelligence community and corporate lobbyists) and the very, very rich people who pay for political campaigns and who own media and arms companies.  As usual, no one can beat Caitlin Johnstone’s succinct description of the situation– see this article.  Again– CNN, WaPo, MSNBC, et al. are not very critical of our neocon/neoliberal globalist plutocrat overlords.

Moreover, in this 2011 bit RT points out that other countries like the UK, France, Germany, and U.S. all have their own foreign broadcasting services that receive at least partial funding from their respective governments.

In the U.S. it is the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which according to wikipedia “is an independent agency of the United States government.”  I decided to take the initiative and look at the BBG webpage.  I think the following mission statements are highly topical:

radio free asia etc

Source:  BBG

I really had to wonder how welcome the above programs are in the countries they target, so I looked up Radio y Televisión Martí.  The following is straight off wikipedia— not the best source, but a source:

Radio y Televisión Martí is an American radio and television international broadcaster based in Miami, Florida, financed by the Federal government of the United States through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which transmits political propaganda in Spanish to Cuba. Its broadcasts can also be heard and viewed worldwide through their website and on shortwave radio frequencies.

Also:

Today, Radio Marti broadcasts a 24-hour radio program over short-wave transmitters in Delano, California, and Greenville, North Carolina, and a medium-wave transmitter in Marathon, Florida (GC: 24°41′58″N 81°5′19″W). Its studios are located in Miami, Florida. Cuba jams both the medium-wave and shortwave signals, but the shortwave program is heard in Canada and throughout Central America and South America. On occasion, the medium-wave transmitter at 1180 kHz can be heard as far north as Washington, D.C.

This, to me, is hilarious– the U.S. taxpayers pay to broadcast a propaganda radio show to Cuba– the signal is promptly jammed– but you can listen to it in Washington D.C.  Look, it creates jobs, okay?

Of course, like a lot of things, the truth turns out to be slightly more complicated on closer inspection.  According to the Miami Herald, the Obama Administration “began making a series of changes designed to bring their [Radio Marti and TV Marti] coverage in line with the journalism standards of the Voice of America, another U.S. government broadcaster.”  That in turn enraged anti-Castro Cubans and exiles:

But the shift of funds from the TV broadcasts — seldom seen on the island because the Cuban government blocks them — to the digital content and the decision to move away from propaganda and toward a more balanced journalism have been criticized by some Cuban exiles as well as opposition activists on the island.

Source:  Miami Herald

Moral:  You can please none of the people all of the time, or you can please some of the people some of the time.

In the general context of the above facts, and regarding its own status as “state-funded” or “state-run”, everybody’s favorite bogeyman RT concludes:

So call RT “state-funded” if you must, but if you want to “call a duck a duck,” as NPR’s host so eloquently put it, you might want to consider the pond we’re all swimming in.

Source:  RT

In isolation, the argument in the last quote is technically invalid from a strictly logical standpoint; it’s a Tu Quoque argument (“you do it too” / “two wrongs make a right”).  See this link for a pretty decent list of fallacious arguments and biases compiled by the University of Texas at El Paso. However…

In the broader (real world) context, dismissing the RT argument as Tu Quoque argument is itself just throwing out a red herring (another fallacious rhetorical technique) or a fallacious either/or argument (EITHER RT IS STATE-RUN OR NOT!).  Why?  Because the entire American focus on alleged Russian propaganda is a red herring (read:  DISTRACTION)– one created by our politicians and IC and promulgated by our media in order to keep Americans from focusing on their real problems.  If you still doubt this in October 2017, please give some attention to these two links:

The Big Fat Compendium of Russiagate Debunkery

Russia-Gate’s Shaky Foundation

In this larger context, the meaningful question is not “who produces the most propaganda?”, but whether alternative news sources have a value irrespective of who pays for them.

McAdams -- RG -- guns

The underlying issues that I am interested in are a) access to information, and b) our own government propaganda and countering it.  These days, the MSM and U.S. government are essentially saying that because some of RT’s programming is presumably biased in favor of Putin, all of its programming is “Russian propaganda.”  That is an over-generalization (another logical fallacy).  Lots of RT’s programming has no possible political angle at all– like a lot of factual reporting.  Moreover, not all Russian programming that is critical of the West is necessarily generated for the purpose of stroking Putin’s ego or bolstering his base or destroying democracy.  In the “free marketplace of ideas” that America supposedly touts, I believe that hearing a perspective that is not controlled by the Not-a-conspiracy-theory-but-something-that-exists-by-definition-Deepstate is valuable.

daou rg

No claim about actual Russian election hacking has come close to being proven, and most such claims have been debunked.  Even if Russia did hack something, the answer to cyberwarfare is cybersecurity– not to, say, unilaterally invade Iran or to bomb Syria more.  Completely outside of the Russiagate issue, we should get rid of electronic voting machines that don’t leave a (literal) paper trail.  Period.

 

I’m not sure that Trump won’t get himself impeached because of shady business dealings.  But besides for the matter of patching some cyber vulnerabilities, the current Red Scare is a joke, and the average American is the butt of the joke:

pokemon russiagate

 

But with the Russiagate hacking & collusion narrative crumbling (this post & video is so great), the Russiagaters have resorted to the idea that Russia is somehow “influencing” our people with “ads” and… (cover your ears kids)… IDEAS!

Andrew Korybko, in the same article I linked to earlier, makes the following point:

One of the more popular fake news claims going around about Sputnik and RT is that the two outlets were heavily biased in favor of Trump during the 2016 election, but that’s frankly not true, as anyone would know by listening to Sputnik’s radio programs from that time, watching RT’s shows, or reading both of their websites’ archives. Both platforms lean closer to the liberal-progressive side of things as opposed to the conservative one. Simply reporting on the many unfavorable stories surrounding Hillary Clinton and not blindly fawning over her candidacy doesn’t qualify as “institutional bias”, though in largely controlled systems such as the American one where most of the media openly back the Democrats, then the Overton window concept would suggest that Sputnik and RT’s balanced reporting and analyses would understandably stand out as attention-grabbing and exemplary.

Just for the record, I am in favor of putting the language of “Left” and “Right” on sabbatical, in exchange for recognition of a new political axis– the “Tops” (1%) and “Bottoms” (99%)– at least until we can grasp with a steady hand the holy grail of getting Big Money out of politics (one can always dream).  Nonetheless, this hilarious tweet response is one of my favorite of the year:

troll farm coastal libs

On the flipside, Korybko points out:

In addition, it should never be forgotten that it was the on-the-fence population of the Rust Belt who surprisingly turned the election in Trump’s favor. One would presume that the liberal-progressive masses in the solidly Democratic states on each coast would be Sputnik and RT’s core audiences given how these two outlets’ more leftist-leaning stance on many matters overlap with the prevailing preferences there, so it’s ridiculous to believe that these Russian companies somehow convinced voters to want to “Make America Great Again” in the more stereotypically nationalistic heartland with their liberal-progressive messaging. In fact, it’s uncertain how many people in that part of the US listen to, watch, or read Sputnik and RT in the first place when Fox News, CNN, and Rush Limbaugh dominate those media markets, and whether these Russian companies are even capable of making any difference at all in those swing states.

That. ^^

 

But NOOOOO

Instead of chilling out, the U.S. government has decided to make RT and Sputnik register as “foreign agents.”

The government is not making war-mongering thinktanks funded by oil companies, defense contractors, and foreign countries register as foreign agents.  Weird.  Even the NYT has given coverage to the idea.

The government is not making the BBC register as a foreign agent.  But the BBC carries just as much fake news as the usual MSM suspects in the U.S. (i.e. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, et al).

Russiagate motives

 

Washington Post again

Predictably, the Washington Post loved the idea of making RT register as a Foreign Agent (this is a “perspective piece” from someone from the Brookings Institution– a thinktank that accepted $13 million from Haim “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel” Saban).

Here is a choice cut from WaPo:  “Just as Americans have a right to know how corporations attempt to affect legislation, they should also be informed of the ways in which other countries try to influence our political process.”

Ahh yes, let’s think about that for a second.  How I would love to see our mainstream media spend every day of the year discussing nothing except which multinational companies and arms dealers and PACs are paying for which pieces of American legislation and foreign policy– instead of spending every day talking about how $100,000 in Facebook ads with possible connections to someone in Russia– 55% of which ads didn’t appear until after the election– somehow impacted our election.

Going back to WaPo, their perspective concludes with a broad claim that “RT is not a ‘news service’ in any meaningful sense of the term.”

Great!  Then why does an American need to go to RT to watch a well-produced segment about a very reasonable theory about Bana Alabed?

Also from WaPo:  “Critics of the move to register RT and Sputnik as foreign agents generally make two arguments: that doing so would chill free speech and provoke retaliatory measures against American journalists working in Russia.”

Okay, correct.  How about this one too:   doing so would provoke retaliatory measures against Russian and American journalists working in America.

As reported in many news outlets, RT employees in America now fear for their safety:

The editor-in-chief of Russia Today, [the publicly financed Russian news program], said on Thursday that American members of its staff are quitting in their “masses” because of security concerns, appearing to suggest they were at threat of U.S. law enforcement action.

Margarita Simonyan, the head of the news site, told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that its staff on American soil “fear for their security.”

It has become so tough for the news site to operate in the U.S. that “it’s hard for us now even to find a stringer in the USA,” Simonyan said.

Source:  Newsweek

(A “stringer” in this industry is a guy or gal who works by the individual photo or article– a freelancer.)

Of course, the ridiculously mainstream Newsweek goes on to mock RT, but the idea that American journalists– and Russian journalists– and anyone else who works at RT America– are being intimidated by U.S. law enforcement and/or other citizens is a terrible statement about the status of free speech in America.

olbermann hockey tweet crop

For the love of all that is good, free speech is free people!  It really is.  There is no cost to letting people think for themselves.  It literally is a 100% abstract, non-material thing.  It consumes no energy other than what it takes to run your own brain.

And if you tell me “well then boy, you are lucky you live in the Land of the Free and not Communist Russia,” I will quote Run The Jewels: “run backwards in a field of dicks.”  The point is that right now, we are imposing sanctions on a television show.  It’s not like they are producing snuff films.  Imposing this kind of political pressure on a news show is a ludicrous low!  If they lie, sue them for libel!!  That’s what our court system is for.

But what do we expect.  At least we’re not jamming radio signals (yet).

I already mentioned Google’s new algorithms for suppressing “fake news.”  I can’t say it better than this guy’s comment:

comment on libel laws vs algorithms

That comment was posted under an April 25, 2017 article about Google’s new algorithms.

It is sad that Alternet, a left-wing website, says it is getting hammered by Google’s algorithms (claiming search traffic has plummeted 40% since the algorithm was introduced).  Unfortunately, Alternet seems to have become a bastion of the #McResistance.  The executive editor of Alternet can’t even say that Russiagate is the real cause of his website’s catastrophic drop in readership, because that would enrage his Trump-hating audience.  Instead he chants the jingo “Our goal is to stay strong, keep our great staff and fight Donald Trump and his cult of core supporters.”

He won’t even name the true enemy staring him in the face.

You seriously need to look at his request for donations, and see how he completely fails to call out the Red Scare that is propelling the censors into power.  I didn’t include the full article below, but you can go to the page to see for yourself that I am not exaggerating when I say he doesn’t even mention Russiagate as a possible source of his problems.  No, it must be the alt-right or something.  He knows the rank-and-file Democratic voters who read his site (again, in full disclosure, I would have been one of them a year ago) would LOSE THEIR MINDS if he suggested we tamp down the anti-Russia rhetoric and the local censorship it is ushering in.  I am sorry to bash Alternet but I have to.  PLEASE READ:

alternet censorship

altneret2

alternet 3

Now.  I ask you.  Who has done the brainwashing?

 

Conclusion

My point here is not that The Motherland is great and the U.S.A. is bad.  I’ve never been to Russia, I am not a Russian government shill, and I am not Russian by ancestry, though I am 50% Polish.  I write for free.  Beyond my own catharsis, I can only hope that anyone who happens to read this and doesn’t already know this stuff will take a second to lay off the kool-aid and compare and contrast the value of uncritically absorbing the narrative offered by our mainstream media, compared to the cost of welcoming in censorship and McCarthyism.

Oh, and escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower while simultaneously making it politically impossible for our tender president to back down from any potential conflict that could otherwise be resolved diplomatically–  sad.

fake netanyahu

The above tweet is a parody account, by the way– and the account doesn’t hide that fact if you check its profile.  “Parody” is not fake news– unless we want to censor The Onion now.

I leave you with a post from my favorite independent (i.e. non-mass media) journalist:
What’s Behind the Man Behind the Curtain

 

Don’t give up my friends.

Pantera with Russian police 1991

Metal band Pantera hanging with Russian police, circa 1991 appearance at Monsters of Rock, the first Western outdoor rock festival to be held in the former Soviet Union

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