What Do Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dick Cheney, Oprah Winfrey, Erin Brockovich, Stephen Hawking, Harrison Ford, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Jon Krakauer, Michelle Obama, Dan Rathers, Malcolm Gladwell, and Yours Truly Have in Common? Smeared by a Soros-Funded Think Tank for Appearing on RT

The New McCarthyite program of demonizing anyone and anything associated with Russia continues apace. A Soros-funded think tank called European Values has put out a screed (no exaggeration, read the hyperventilating tone of the “report”) which has as its major aim chilling the participation of guest speakers on RT, per its title, The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West.

This self-styled think tank posted a list of people who had appeared on RT on a series of its shows since 2013. Despite its claims of being comprehensive, the former producer of the RT show Boom Bust, Ed Harrison, quickly identified some names that were missing, and I am sure if he thought further, he could come up with more.

The list is so lengthy and includes so many highly respected people that I doubt including will hurt them in any way. But some were mighty annoyed anyhow:

I didn’t read the list as carefully as I could (see this spreadsheet, and notice it has lots of categories), plus my selection was admittedly personal. These names caught my eye:

Anat Admati

Dan Alpert

Kofi Annan

John Authers

James Baker

Bruce Bartlett

Bill Black

Hans Blix

Russell Brand

Sherrod Brown

Pat Buchanan

Richard Borosage

Erin Brockovich

Pierce Brosnan

Helen Clark

Dick Cheney

Andrew Cockburn

William D. Cohan

Jeremy Corbyn

Russell Crowe

Ann Coulter

Satyajit Das

David Davies

Richard Dawkins

John Dean

Alan Dershowitz

Barry Eichengreen

Jesse Eisenger

Keith Ellison

Nigel Farage

Harrison Ford

Morgan Freeman

Malcolm Gladwell

Glenn Greenwald

Mikhail Gorbachev

Bob Graham

Amy Goodman

Germaine Greer

Tulsi Gabbard

Stephen Hawking

Seymour Hersh

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Mark Halperin

David Igantius

Laura Ingram

Jeremy Irons

Gary Johnson

Neil Kinnock

Naomi Klein

Jon (they spelled it John) Krakauer

Jesse Jackson

Kerry Kennedy

Les Leopold

Michael Lind

Chris Matthews

John Mauldin

Ralph Nader

Michelle Obama

Nomi Prins

Yasmin Qureshi

Barry Ritholtz

Dan Rather

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Robert Reich

Jim Rogers

Kevin Rudd

Donald Rumsfeld

Paul Ryan

Bernie Sanders

Lee Sheppard

Ben Stein

Jill Stein

Gloria Steinem

Matt Taibbi

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Jean-Claude Trichet

Mike Tyson

Cenk Uygur

Dick Van Dyke

Yanis Varoufakis

Evangelos Venizelos

Denzel Washington

Marcy Wheeler

Oprah Winfrey

Bob Woodward

The irony here is that I appear to have been picked up for what were my last appearances on RT, mainly on Ed Harrison’s Boom Bust show. As much as I like Ed and enjoyed that the interviews were six to ten minutes (leisurely by TV standards), I quit doing pretty much all TV (save Bill Moyers’ show) because it was a lot of work for little payoff. First, they tend to ask you to appear the same day and spout off, which never works for me (I am too time stressed to drop everything and fit an appearance into my schedule). Second, you have to do some research perp. Third, for the level of TV I was invited to do, I would have to go to a remote studio. That means you do your own hair and makeup. Women have to use specialized makeup for high def camera (different foundations, more like paint primer, requires use of bronzers and blush, and hooker level eye liner). It takes 20 minutes to do it if you don’t screw up the liner. Even in studios (where the makeup artists do it and they know the lighting, so they know were they can do less v. more), it’s a bare minimum of ten minutes for them, more like 15-20. Fourth, you have to transit time to and from the studio and you need to get there at least 15 minutes before the “hit time”.

So it’s a minimum of a three hour time sink all in, which is longer than it takes to do a post. And while readers liked seeing me on TV, I didn’t get new readers this way. The audiences for the shows to which I’d be invited were not all that large and overlapped heavily with my existing audience.

And as for the productiveness of this attack on RT, which no matter what you think of RT, is an attack on the First Amendment. On one level, it won’t dent any of the reputations of the individuals named, since with so many prestigious names across such a wide range of positions, being on this list is in practice meaningless. But it will still have a chilling effect on RT’s ability to attract guests, at least in the US. As Ed Harrison pointed out:

Even if we expose this move for the McCarthyism it is, the blacklist will still have its intended impact by putting a chill on RT’s ability to get guests. EVERYONE will think twice before appearing on the network. The damage has been done.

And as Mark Ames confirmed:

But the point of the McCarthyism more than anything has been to scare respectable people away from so much as appearing on RT. It’s worked, because our spooks know that Americans with media ambitions are easily frightened by anything that can hurt their social capital.

But the perverse bit is, that as John Helmer pointed out in previous reporting, and the the think tank study confirmed, RT’s audience in puny. So why should anyone care if it has no real reach?

From Helmer via e-mail, who has been blacklisted by RT for reporting on how it exaggerated the size of its audience:

Rag picking is a sorry task, but occasionally there are gems to be salvaged [the screenshots are from the think tank report]:

In short, this is evidence, again, of the self-sucking icecream. RT is an audience failure. In order to earn its budget from the Kremlin, it used to rely on trickery in Nielsen and other survey manipulation, fabricated data, bots, etc. For example, Nielsen told me in 2009, when I investigated, that because RT places its service on hotel room televisions, the audience count includes every guest who turns on the TV set in the hotel room. It apparently didn’t occur this moron to speak to Nielsen.

When I ran this story in Asia Times – http://johnhelmer.net/black-hole-television-how-the-little-pigs-lie-to-the-big-bad-wolf/ – [RT editor-in-chief Margarita] Simonyan issued a lawfirm libel threat until AT agreed to give her a large interview space in which to damn everything I had done. Peter Lavelle, now the “anchor” for RT’s John McLaughlin-mimic show, telephoned because he was terrified Simonyan would realize I had been talking to him by telephone and by email.

Nowadays, no trickery is needed. The USG, the US media, Pomerantz, Edward Lucas et al., all do the job of promotion for RT – so Putin is convinced, and [Press Secretary Dmitry] Peskov grows rich. Simonyan too.

So while this little hit piece on potential RT guests will probably be effective, at least in the US, in hurting RT’s ability to produce credible content, it will increase its appearance of effectiveness and hence its funding. So this may not net out to be a negative and could still over time be a net plus for RT.

And that’s before we get to the fact that some individuals who don’t like intimidation campaigns, such as Russell Brand and Nicholas Nassim Taleb, having some sport with this, particularly since many of the people on this list have much bigger megaphones than the think tank shooting at them.

Put it another way: this sort of report is not the product of a confident ruling class. It’s far too easy to blame a legitimacy crisis on outside agents when the fault lies in decades of neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of leadership: that of making a serious effort to assure the welfare of ordinary people. Even if one were to believe the barmy thesis that RT has damaged the US body politic, it’s because the the rot is so widespread that takes only a minuscule dose of PR to further weaken the foundations.

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  1. Wukchumni

    Then: Useful Idiots

    Now: Useful Vidiots

    I grew up in the era of Pravda/Tass, and you got used to the Soviet Premier winning with 99.43% of the vote, and it was certainly news to me that the Russians had invented baseball, as they claimed.

    But that was the game then-the communists lied all the time, stupid fabrications not for the audience beyond it’s borders, it was strictly for domestic consumption. Hitting people over the head with the same tales enough so it sunk in, so as to be truth.

    Here in the west, we were by no means saintly, but by mostly being open about things, we were leagues more truthful, in yet another aspect of the Bizarro World existence capitalism & communism had with one another.

    But that was then and this is now, and Fox seems to have taken the Pravda angle and gussied it up so as to appeal to the masses, and
    despite so many other media outlets available to the public (unlike in the USSR) their model worked to a charm, and now our Premier gets his news from them and often repeats it verbatim.

    We’re in obviously an odd time, and a which hunt atmosphere is taking hold, witness the all of the sudden issue with sexual harassment that’s gone as far as including a President in his 90’s in a wheelchair as the perps, along with the usual Hollywood types. Apparently everybody seemed to know about Harvey’s perversion proclivities for decades, why expose him and others of their preying ilk now?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Why expose them now? Because it distracts the rubes from the root cause of the elites’ legitimacy crisis.

      Thank you, Yves, for identifying that root cause.

      1. Wukchumni

        In the Soviet Union, the ‘tell’ when something happened they wanted to squelch news of, was a steady diet of classical music on the radio airwaves.

      2. urdsama

        I’m confused; how does the Weinstein matter have anything to do with Yves’ post?

        I’d like to think that reports of women being assaulted and raped by a powerful Hollywood figure, (and now male teenagers with the Spacey revelations) would be an important matter to report on and bring to light.

        To imply that such actions are being taken “Because it distracts the rubes from the root cause of the elites’ legitimacy crisis” seems flawed when the person being called out is considered one of those elites.

        Should those women continue to suffer in silence because the timing is inconvenient?

        1. flora

          Just my opinion, but I think the point is to get everyone panic running, by whatever interest point/shocking story might get them running. Once everyone is panic running, for whatever reason, they can all be “herded” into the preferred corral/poltical conclusion by careful MSM media manipulation – which has been used to get them running in the first place. imo.
          Sexual harrasment/abuse is a serious issue, but it’s not a new issue.

    2. djrichard

      Apparently everybody seemed to know about Harvey’s perversion proclivities for decades, why expose him and others of their preying ilk now?

      I’m assuming it’s because one can’t throw rocks in glass houses. Or flip that around. Rather they are throwing rocks in glass houses and to show their even handedness, they’re taking aim at themselves as well. I guess it establishes their bonafides when it comes to throwing rocks.

      More importantly, I think it re-enforces their bonafides for being the arbiter of what’s “normal”. See CJ Hopkins on this theme: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/20/tomorrow-belongs-to-the-corporatocracy/.

      This also manifests itself when language is invoked about various parties being irredeemable: see Clinton’s comments on deplorables. Or various parties not being repentant: see media comments on John Kelly regarding his comments on Wilson.

    3. John k

      If not now, when?
      Is your argument that since everybody knows, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue?
      I see these outings as long overdue, hopefully moving us to a place where harassment costs far more than it’s worth.
      And I don’t see this as the elites throwing a few bones to the rabble to distract from the lack of real benefits; freedom from harassment is a real benefit.
      As far as ex pres go, in or out of wheelchairs, nobody should get a free pass because it happened back when everybody knew everybody was doing it.

  2. wellclosed

    Geezis F.C. Guantanamo is going to have to be updated and expanded to the whole state of North Dakota to accommodate the quarantine of those thusly infected – while the crack PropOrNot Medical Unit develops its GetYourMindRight vaccine.

  3. dearieme

    I must say that I wouldn’t care to be associated with a Cheney or a Kennedy. But I wouldn’t mind being associated with Tulsi Gabbard (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

    But seriously, this hysterical anti-Russian stuff reminds me that many Americans must be completely indifferent to the rest of the world thinking them crooks and fools.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Boris Johnson must be part of this mob as he too has attacked people that appeared on RT. He attacked Labour MPs for appearing on this program recently (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4709175/boris-johnson-slams-rt-then-finds-out-his-dad-went-on-air/) only to discover too late that not only were several Tory MPs also on this program but also recently his dad as well – do’h!
    For those unaware of who Boris Johnson is and what he looks like, imagine Donald Trump but with unkempt hair instead of styled hair.

  5. Nervous, north of 49th.

    The corporate funded Democrats and Republicans are playing a two-man con game against the American people. One runs up the deficits with tax cuts to the rich, the other cuts social spending to balance the books, and both are in favour of endless war.

    When people start to take notice – “Look! Over there! A Russian conspiracy!!”

  6. divadab

    My approach is simple – look at who is ginning up this anti-Russia hysteria, and know that they are the enemy. Corrupt scum who lie as a matter of habit.

  7. annenigma

    I use a cheap digital antenna to get free, over-the-air television broadcasts which includes RT along with about 40 other channels. No one is counting us as viewers. But shhh, don’t tell the Gov’t many of us are enjoying these RT programs, I mean Russian propaganda, or they’ll shut it down.

    RT may have a small audience, but however small, that audience is still bigger for people like Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges, et. al. than what corporate media provides them. Many have been blacked out and blackballed.

    The above list includes people who, for the most part, have not been blacked out and have other avenues besides RT to reach the masses on tv. Sadly, for many of our most outspoken patriots who dare speak truth to power, RT is the last refuge for those scoundrels.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I watch Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight show on YouTube. It’s an RT show.

      I also enjoy Al Jazeera.

      1. Huey Long


        Redacted Tonight is fantastic;I had the privilege of seeing the cast perform live in NYC once, with free drinks on RT! I mean, when’s the last time CBS ever took me out to a great stand-up show in Times Square AND paid the bar tab?

        Ummmmmm, NEVER!

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      If you have a Kodi video streaming system you can get an RT app for it. The software is downloadable for free and can run on an older computer if the latter is capable of handling it. Or you can get a Raspberry Pi 3 for less than a Franklin and run it on that with the also free LibreELEC operating system, which is a stripped down Linux for Kodi.

  8. sinbad66

    This whole Russia goes to the fact that only 4 countries on this Earth can give ‘murica the middle finger and get away with it: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
    Now, of these, only China and Russia are a real threat. However, you can scratch China off the list because they are our “frenemy with benefits”. They are the spouse that, if you divorce them, you will pay dearly (make a lot of our stuff, holds a lot of our debt). So, as Johnnie Taylor had sung “its cheaper to keep her”.
    So that leaves Russia. They are they only entity in the world where you can justify the Gerald Ford supercarriers at $10B a pop. Justify that white elephant called the F35 (with $180 billion in cost overruns and counting). Spend billions revamping the nuclear arsenal (and the list goes on). Can’t justify those things because of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram or al-Shabaab. But you can with Russia…
    Yes, Virginia, this is why you can’t have nice things…because of those darn Rooskies!

    1. polecat

      Anyone notice how the billionairgasbags (on BOTH sides of the libricon aisle) are suddenly dialing the Trump blame-cannons to 11+

      “He’s CRAZYYY !!” … “Has LAUNCH-CODES !!” … “Must IMPEACH, NOWWW !!!” … “Oh, and would you please you sign this petition … ??”

      I should’ve grown popcorn this season ..

    2. Mark P.

      So that leaves Russia … only entity in the world (that can) can justify the … supercarriers at $10B a pop …. that white elephant called the F35 … revamping the nuclear arsenal (and the list goes on). Can’t justify those things because of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram or al-Shabaab…

      Exactly so.

      Presidential candidates who were recipients of defense industry money, and how much they received —


    3. Oregoncharles

      you forgot Bolivia. I used to think Venezuela was another, but that was before Chavez died and the price of oil plummeted.

  9. FiddlerHill

    I teach journalism as an adjunct professor, and one of my former students is now an on-camera newscaster at RT. When she was first offered the job, she phoned me with some vague concern about RT being funded by the Russian government. I told her not to hesitate, to take the job. I said simply judge the organization by its content — and the content then as now is entirely in-line with the power-confronting material seen on this website, The Intercept, the Jimmy Dore Show and dozens of other progressive news sources in the US.

    Now Neo–McCarthyism has set in. She emailed me a few weeks ago — horrified that the State Department was now insisting that she and all RT reporters register as foreign lobbyists. I couldn’t get over the hypocrisy and irony of it: the US government — beneficiary of a massive sycophantic domestic corporate media empire — going after one small voice in the wilderness, hammer and tong, because of its source of funding, not because of the nature of its reporting. I know from regular contact with my former student that RT’s “agenda” isn’t dictated from the Kremlin. There’s no need whatever for that. A vast corrupt and self-serving American political class provides any semi-conscious journalist with more than enough stories to pursue every day of the week.

    1. Arizona Slim

      She should register as a foreign agent, but do all sorts of stupid things on the registration form.

      Y’know, like leaving things blank, entering contradictory information, and misspelling words. Call it being a cheerful saboteur.

    2. sd

      Does the same apply to any of the other state funded foreign media in the United States? For instance, BBC. Anyone know?

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        So far as I know, the BBC hasn’t been officially designated a foreign propaganda mouthpiece, which (albeit in more “legal” phrasing) RT America has. The truly scary part is the same piece of “legalness” is so vaguely worded with regard to what defines a foreign propaganda mouthpiece any alternative medium could acquire the same label.

        It’s like the FBI now labeling any African American who dares protest a “Black identity extremist.”

    3. Mel

      the State Department was now insisting that she and all RT reporters register as foreign lobbyists

      To be way too blunt, this kind of pushing local interests in restraint of foreign trade is just the reason ISDS courts are required. When local sovereignty is being applied unfairly, even local courts can’t be trusted.
      It’s also why Canadians can be so antsy about foreign content in media.

    4. Chauncey Gardiner

      Do you know whether the State Department will require past guests on RT from the list above to register as foreign lobbyists, as well? That possibility brings a smile to my face.

  10. Alex Morfesis

    The browder plague…grandson tells us the russians are bad, grandpa helped crazy joe McCarthy make the argument that talking to russia was bad, by his wondrous service as mister communist party usa…


  11. Dikaios Logos

    re: RT audience size

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I had a run-in with Ed Harrison a few years ago that shows how small RT’s audience likely is. During a time I was spending too much time on finance twitter, I noticed a very familiar face from a twitter avatar walking down a very quiet residential street early one morning. As I got closer I felt the need to confirm this, since I was worried I was seeing things (happens when you’re a neurotic insomniac!). Turns it out it was Ed and he was, it seemed to me, very unaccustomed to being recognized on the street and almost certainly took my curiosity to be hostile. People who are recognized on the street have ways of dealing with it, Ed really seemed to not have figured those out, suggesting to me that being on RT didn’t interfere with his being anonymous! So much for ‘Russian propaganda’!

  12. clarky90

    “A Soros-funded think tank called European Values

    This is what we are up against; Ass-backwards, widderschynnes, black magic.

    Harvey Weinstein at the January 2017 Women’s March in Park City, Utah.

    “At least he went with a gray beanie instead of the de rigeur head wear.”

    The world is awash with petty tyrants and compromised magicians. The hordes of invented organizations, reliably do the opposite (contrary) of what their name says. Thus “European Values” really means “North Korean Police State Hellhole”.

    I learned this simple rule of thumb from the NC Commentariat. The “truth” is often merely the diametric opposite; hiding in plain sight. Turn upside down and inside out, and the pig-Latin code is easily deciphered! Voilà!

  13. ChrisPacific

    I had a skim through the article. Overall it strikes me as a particularly acute case of projection. There also seems to be a significant lack of good faith (as you’d expect).

    The biggest thing that struck me though, was an assumption that was so pervasive throughout that it was never explicitly stated:

    Criticism of an entity makes that entity weaker.

    This strikes me as both profoundly unscientific and undemocratic. Any think tank advancing arguments on this basis is advertising itself as an instrument of propaganda over critical thinking and rigorous analysis.

  14. leapfrog

    My goodness. Are we talking about Professor Bill Black, Barry Ritholz and Nomi Prins? Love their work – especially during the financial meltdown (and love your work too, of course). And Matt Taibbi? Oh, I can’t wait until Matt takes this and runs with it (I hope, I hope). “Useful idiots” indeed. Ridiculous! You know what? All the people on this list should count this as a ‘badge of honor’ to be listed so and tell the Soros fund to shove it. (Well, truth be told I’m not much of a Coulter, Cheney or Pat Buchannan fan, but that’s beside the point).

  15. Octopii

    NPR this evening was in a tizzy about RT and Sputnik “promoting divisive issues” such as Tony Podesta firing himself and what they called the false equivalence to the Clintons. Guess they don’t understand that a) everyone knows Tony is dirty, especially his clients, and b) those stories wouldn’t get any traction if there weren’t something to them.

    1. Homina

      And Mike Tyson. “Iron Mike”. “Iron Curtain”. The Soviets sure are bold with their sleeper agent code names.

      And they somehow got word to Comrade Mikhail about the espionage device in Holyfield’s ear. Nice try, Evander!

  16. For_Christ's_Sake

    Thanks Yves,
    Not clicking any Soros’ links. I knew you’d be on that list, so I came here hoping for the run down.

  17. RBHoughton

    Soros has his own undemocratic agenda to promote. The interesting thing is the ease with which evil philanthropists find venal managers to do their bidding for a dollar, like quislings and fifth columnists in war.

    It highlights the defect in our education system – we inculcate conformity not independent thought.

    I should admit that RT is a regular stop-over on my daily trawl through the news sites and its usually rewarding. I have not detected the fake news (actually fake opinions) that characterise so much of the English-language press in the west.

  18. Lo

    I dont understand this. On one hand Soros is funding the recently finished INET 2017 conference, on the other hand, his think-tank has released this list. Very strange behaviour.

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