An unbeatable insight into the minds that control Russia

European Voice

Foreigners seeking to explain the paranoia of Kremlin’s elite need only look to the country’s state-sponsored television.

Russia Today, the state-financed television channel for foreigners, is a must-watch. Not because of journalistic excellence: it has glitzy presentation but huge holes in its coverage and bizarre quirks in its editorial outlook. But it does give an unbeatable insight into the minds of the people who run it – and into the regime that sponsors it.

To be fair, I should note that the channel has substantial strengths. It reports thoroughly on official utterances and it covers most of the headline stories in Russia with reasonable professionalism. In that sense it is quite different from the old Soviet media, which simply ignored topics that did not fit the official line. Russia Today has reported, for example, on the grotesque posthumous trial of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after exposing a $230 million (€175m) fraud against the Russian taxpayer, perpetrated by officials. It also rarely misses a story about UFOs or life on Venus.

But the hallmark of Russia Today is anti-Westernism. It gleefully highlights weaknesses, anomalies and double standards in countries that like to criticise Russia. The message is blunt: get your own house in order before lecturing others. Human-rights violations, political corruption and economic weaknesses get a particularly enthusiastic outing, even when the factual basis is tenuous or non-existent. One commentator says that the US is fascist. Another report claims that Nazism is on the rise in Germany and the Baltic states.

This weekend the channel highlighted the way in which an American soldier had run murderously amok in Afghanistan, how Ukraine banned a film about the Georgian war of 2008, and that American law-enforcement officials could seize internet domain names registered even outside the US, if they believe that these sites are breaking US law.

Many Western media outlets would share much of Russia Today’s ire at all this and cover these stories too. But they tend to be critical of government wrongdoing everywhere. Russia Today steers well clear of taboo subjects such as the private wealth of the top people in Russia, while stitching the woes of the Western world into a single implicit narrative of hypocrisy, brutality and decline.

Its news judgement aside, the comment pages and features on Russia Today repay particular scrutiny. Some are from the respectable mainstream, such as the estimable Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

But others would be lucky to get a look-in on any other national broadcaster. Those who believe that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were an inside job get a good hearing. When Russia Today berates the “mainstream media” for not telling the truth about the financial system or foreign-policy decision-making, it is then a short step to respectful interviews with the promoters of conspiracy theories.

Russia Today’s defenders might argue, with some justice, that Western journalists also regularly seek comment from supposedly marginal opposition figures such as Boris Nemtsov or Gary Kasparov. But that would be an unwise argument to make, when they decry this selective approach so vehemently. If Russia Today’s editors want to rise above the level of the despised “mainstream media”, they might try seeking comment from those who disagree with their worldview, not those who enthusiastically echo it.

The real advantage of the channel is not its specific programmes or website items, but the overall sense it conveys of a world in which the West is decadent and hostile, while Russia is a besieged fortress. For a foreign journalist to explain the paranoia and venom swirling round the heights of power in Moscow can be hard. Russia Today, doubtless unwittingly, makes it a lot easier.

The writer is central and eastern Europe correspondent of The Economist. займ на карту онлайн unshaven girl https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php https://zp-pdl.com hairy girls

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