Media

The Ethics of Soviet Journalism

Guest: Natalia Roudakova on Losing Pravda: Ethics and the Press in Post-Truth Russia published by Cambridge University Press.

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The Russian Propaganda Machine

Guest: Alexey Kovalev on Russian propaganda.

Wading Through RuNet

Guest: Kevin Rothrock on the politics and pleasures of RuNet.

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The Soviet Era of Television

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Guest:

Christine Evans is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research interests include Modern Eurasian mass culture and communications and play, leisure, and consumption. She’s the author of Between Truth and Time: A History of Soviet Central Television published by Yale University Press.

Watch some Soviet TV!

KVN Final, 1964

Vremya news broadcast, 1977

Chto? Gde? Kogda? (What? Where? When?), 1982

Music:

Dramarama, “70s Tv,” Stuck in Wonderamaland, 1989.

 

The State of Russia

Guest: Masha Lipman on the current state of Russian politics.

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Politkovskaya Ten Years On

It’s been ten years since an assassin put four bullets in Anna Politkovskaya—three in her chest, one in her head, the hallmark of a contract hit. And what can be said on this macabre anniversary?

Love, Sex, and Porn in Russia

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Guest:

Natalia Antonova is a pundit, playwright and sometime journalist living in Russia. You can read her blog where she comments a wide variety of topics, including sex, at nataliaantonova.com. Her most recent article is “Russia’s Porn Stars Aren’t Just Hot, They’re Also Ostracised And Exploited” on Open Democracy.

Music:

Prince and the Revolution, “Darling Nikki,” Purple Rain, 1984.

Western Journalism and the Ukraine Crisis

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Guest:

Keith Gessen, journalist, translator, and writer. He’s one of the founders of N+1 Magazine and the translator of Kirill Medvedev’s It’s No Good: Poems / Essays /Actions. His most recent article is “Western Journalists in Ukraine” part of N+1’s special symposium on Ukraine.

There are a few texts mentioned in the interview. Here they are for those interested:

Where Foreign “Experts” and “Political Scientists” on Russian Television Come From

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One of the outcomes of the Maidan Revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the ensuing war in the Donbas has been a marked explosion in Russian propaganda. So much so that dissecting it has become a genre in and of itself. Indeed, over the last two years an entire discursive universe has emerged to analyze, adjudicate, and combat Russia’s “weaponization of information.”

Alexey Kovalev’s “Hello, is this Noodle Remover?” is a recent example of this effort sniff out the stink in the Russian media’s bullshit. And what large steaming piles of bullshit he’s found.

Below is a translation of one of his posts (I originally saw it on Maximonline.ru. My translation is of that text) that caught my eye. Links between the Kremlin and American and European rightwing groups has been well documented. So that fact that neo-Nazis, LaRouchies, and other fringe rightwing characters find their way on Russian television is that surprising. Perhaps what is novel about Kovalev’s post is that the circle he uncovers all seem to be one degree or so from the Kremlin.

This is not to say that Russian television has the monopoly on the tin foil hat brigade rolodex. Anyone with enough patience to look askew at Fox News will notice Birthers, 9/11-Truthers, and other conspiracy mongers gracing their screens. Nevertheless, what attracted me to this particular post are the wacky neighbors Russian state media has cozied up with (I have somewhat of a strange fascination with cultists of the Right and the Left) and how this confirms my belief that Russian propaganda is so propagandistic—turned all the way up to 11—that it’s essentially a (unwitting) parody of itself. It’s all very meta.

Where Foreign “Experts” and “Political Scientists” on Russian Television Come From

Alexey Kovalev

Hello, is this Noodle Remover?

These experts appear on domestic Russian channels like the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) and for the foreign market like RT and Sputnik. They are used for legitimizing propaganda talking points abroad: You see, we didn’t come up with all this about America being treacherous. Even American experts say so.

There’s quite a small set of people who migrate from story to story where they are introduced as “experts,” then “analysts,” and then as “journalists and writers.” Even though they aren’t considered experts in their own country. In Russia, this could be the speaker of parliament, the heads of large state-owned corporations, or someone who serves in some other high governmental post and as such spin the most elaborate conspiratorial nonsense for the public. And it will be printed in the state media, and no one will raise an eyebrow.

But in the West, unlike in Russia, the idea of a reputation still carries some weight. And even if people hold some very fringe views or flirt with conspiracy theories, they try to keep it to themselves if they want to serve in high office. Those who can’t manage to keep their love for tin foil hats quiet are left with only a small number of websites for their small circle of adherents or channels like RT where their fantasies are broadcast live to a considerably larger, though on a global scale still marginal, audience. So first they make it on RT, and then from there they land on Vesti as “experts” who on closer examination turn out to be village idiots, swindlers, and outright Nazis.

Where do they get all these people? Does some unknown VGTRK editor sit there and come up with some reputable foreign expert to put on air to talk about American plots?

Let’s try to sort this out with a Vesti story on “armchair experts” as an example.

Take, for example, William Engdahl [3:40 in the Vesti report] who says that “the US government has concocted a entire plot to demonize Russia.” Engdahl is the author of numerous books, articles and speeches about the dangers of GMOs, that global warming is a myth, and that the CIA is behind every incident in the world, from the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran to the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. He often appears on RT, and in particular on the program Truthseeker in July 2014, the same episode about “crucified children” that was eventually taken off the air after numerous viewer complaints.

If Engdahl is introduced as a “writer and political scientist” in the Vesti story, here he’s an “investigative journalist.”

 

In addition, Engdahl is a regular contributor to the Centre for Research on Globalization and frequently publishes on the website globalresearch.ca. Noodle Remover has already written about  why this site is a valuable source for various “analysts” and “political scientists” for Russian television. And Michel Chossudovsky, the Centre for Research on Globalization’s founder, is on the scientific council of the Italian magazine Geopolitica, whose editor, Tiberio Graziani, in turn, sits in the high council of the International Eurasian Movement, whose leader is Aleksandr Dugin. If you don’t already know who this is, then read on, so I don’t have to tell you. In general, in just a few years this multifaceted personality has morphed from a “nutty professor” into one of the most influential Russian public intellectuals with a huge impact on domestic and foreign policy. There’s perhaps nothing that demonstrates Dugin’s attitude toward Russia’s leadership than this quote from 2007. His views haven’t changed much since:

“There are no more opponents to Putin’s policy, and if there are, they’re mentally ill and need to get their head examined. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, Putin is indispensable.”Alexandr Dugin, the leader of the Eurasian Movement, at a reception for Izvestiia newspaper September 17, 2007.

There is an Italian magazine for far right intellectuals that supports Putin on the principle “the enemy of my enemy” (the main criteria is to be against America), and there on the scientific council is Engdahl on the next line after Dugin. We can assume that Engdahl is personally acquainted with Dugin and through him he enters the minds and offices of the highest managers, including the heads of VGTRK, and not put on air on the personal initiative of some junior editor.

It seems that generally European right-wingers, neo-Nazis, Eurosceptics and various conspiracy theorists in Dugin’s orbit are the main source of “experts” for Russian television. And not just for television. Take for example, Manuel Ochsenreiter, who appears regularly on RT and Russian television channels as a “journalist.”

Manuel Oschsenreiter, editor of the neo-Nazi magazine Zuerst! on Channel One.

 

Of course, the journalist Ochsenreiter is more specifically the editor of the far right journal Zuerst!, which has been involved in several scandals in Germany (for example, the publisher Bauer dropped the magazine due to its sympathy for Nazism). Moreover, Ochsenreiter isn’t just a frequent commentator on Russian television; he was an “observer” to the “elections” in the Luhansk People’s Republic, which is defending itself against the aggression of the fascist junta. All with the help of a real German neo-Nazi, who publishes a German magazine about the glorious victories of the Wehrmacht.

 

This is literally the cover of the magazine Deutsche Militärzeitschrift, which Ochsenreiter edited until 2011.

 

Continuing with the Vesti story. Jeffrey Steinberg comes on next after Engdahl [at 3:51]. Steinberg is an author for Executive Intelligence Review which is published by the so-called LaRouche Movement. This “movement,” to put it kindly, is actually just a bunch of LaRouchies—a quasi-fascist cult with fairly seedy rituals (read about “ego-stripping“, for example). Their views are also purely cultish and conspiratorial. LaRouchies, for example, are completely nuts about the British royal family, which, in their view, are to blame for all of mankind’s troubles, Queen Elizabeth II personally controls the drug cartels, and so on. Jeffrey Steinberg, for example, claimed in an interview that Princess Diana didn’t die in a car accident but was killed by British intelligence on the orders of Prince Philip (Conspiracy theories that Diana was murdered and didn’t die in an accident are popular). EIR magazine regularly publishes covers like this:

 

As you probably guessed, American magazines with such covers and viewpoints, while they aren’t illegal to publish (try to imagine something like this in Russia), don’t enjoy a massive following, to put it mildly.

Are they active in Russia? First, there’s a LaRouche office in Russia—the so-called Schiller Institute. And the Executive Intelligence Review has a Russian website with all the same stuff as the original only it looks even more insane in Russian:

 

British agents and advocates for genocide organized the American imperial coup in Ukraine. My God. However, they just didn’t show up yesterday. Lyndon LaRouche himself has been regularly interviewed on RT since 2008.

But he also didn’t appear out of thin air. The thing is, Lyndon LaRouche isn’t the personal and longtime friend of just anyone, but of Sergei Glazyev, the adviser to the President on regional economic integration. Here’s LaRouche and Glazyev together at a joint press conference in 2001:

 

And here’s a personal congratulation from Glazyev to Lyndon LaRouche on EIR‘s Russian site:

 

As you can see, these “experts” and “analysts” on the Russian television aren’t picked out of thin air or by the whim of broadcast news editor, but from the friends of those in the highest levels of the Russian government. Dugin, Glazyev, and the Rodina Party have close ties with the European and American far-right, neo-Nazis and other yahoos, who are dragged on television as influential Western political scientists and journalists when they really aren’t. And they are so very pleased when they’re let on television. Even if they’re introduced as important people in Russia and not back home. The Rodina Party, which Glazyev belongs, is also a major supplier of a variety of hand-fed “experts” for television. For example, Vesti has constantly quoted John Laughland at least since 2002:

 

Now Laughland is cited as the “Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.” The respectably named Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, or the Institut de la Démocratie et de la Coopération is headquartered in Paris. Only Laughland is not really he director of this institute nor is any Monsieur for that matter. It’s Natalia Narochnitskaya, a former Duma deputy from the Rodina party from 2003 to 2007. Putin personally appointed her as director.

Narochnitskaya has also been good friends with Laughland for ages.

John Laughland and Natalia Narochnitskaya

 

The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation is an NGO officially established and financed from Russia. So, if you see such experts on television, don’t be fooled by the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation and Mr. Laughland criticizing NATO, America and democracy. It’s all for the homeland. In such cases don’t let your noodles hang on your ears and stay by the phone.

PS: Noodle Remover thanks Anton Shekhovtsov, whose profound research has provided a lot of useful leads on the links between the Russian political establishment and the European and American far-right.

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