Opinion: Russian propaganda lands on America’s shores

RT's propaganda ad within 50 meters of the US State Department HQ.   Photo Ludo Segers

A propaganda ad has even shown up within less than 50 meters of the State Department. According to RT, these ads may pop-up soon in more cities. The ads have a bit of a Soviet look and feel to them. Buzzfeed quoted RT’s spokesperson Anna Belkina in a hush of some secrecy that “RT was working with ‘partners’ on expanding the ad campaign”.

The very subject of the ads is a divisive one, even in the USA. RT uses an equally disputed and potentially libellous quote that is nearly invisible and very difficult to read. Some second opinion! The ad represents a subject that often shows up in the fallacies of Russian propaganda. Disputable figures are quoted and propaganda uses the past to justify the present illegal annexation of Crimea and the lies about Russian involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine.

Until very recently, the massive propaganda activity was mainly visible in the major on-line news channels such as these of Bloomberg, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Whenever an article mentions Russia, particularly one that also reports about events in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, an army of the Kremlin’s propaganda writers takes to the keyboards with fervour.

Although most of the propaganda written in US comment sections can easily be identified with the usual rant of lies, deceit and disinformation, some of it is becoming increasingly ugly with ad hominem comments targeting defenders of the truth and facts.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin’s mouthpiece, RT, released a statement: “Alternative voices, however rare, are often met with fear, hostility and bureaucratic obstructionism in the attempt to stifle them — because they are inconvenient to the establishment. We want the viewers to know that no matter what, RT will remain the place to go to for that second opinion.”

Ms Simonyan seems to know something about the subject of ‘obstructionism’ as her statement comes at the very same time that Western news channels are increasingly facing serious restrictions operating in Russia. That second opinion is certainly not welcome in the Kremlin. In the FT’s comment section yesterday, one commentator addressed the Russian propaganda and absence of freedom of the press rather eloquently: “The propaganda is in the same mould as that of the Soviet Union with use of all social media and technology available in the early part of the 21st century. Meanwhile they (the propaganda) abuse Western freedom of the press. More than 200 journalist have been murdered in the last 15 years, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was murdered when he exposed the gangster activity that goes on day in, day out in the Kremlin.”

Lithuanian Ambassador to the USA Žygimantas Pavilionis, during a speech last Saturday to the Ukrainian American Bar Association, had addressed a number of issues, including the massive Russian propaganda. Ambassador Pavilionis questioned funding and a strategy to deal with the attack on the truth in face of the Russian propaganda onslaught.

RT has been operating in Washington since 2009. It has been marred in some high profile defections as opinion host Abby Martin resigned earlier this year after criticizing Russia’s illegal land grab of Crimea. Soon thereafter RT’s main anchor Liz Wahl resigned in protest on air. Sara Firth, a London-based correspondent for Russia Today, resigned after MH17, the Malaysia Airliner, was shot down over eastern Ukraine in mid July. Firth protested against the Kremlin pointing fingers the wrong way, whilst all evidence pointed to the Kremlin and Russian-backed separatists being responsible for that mass murder.

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