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:
— Christopher Whalen (@rcwhalen) October 29, 2017
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:
William D. Cohan
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Jon (they spelled it John) Krakauer
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Dick Van Dyke
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.