RT Backfire

There used to be a time when the BBC and CNN had a monopoly on world news. In recent years that monopoly has been challenged by professional operations like Al Jazeera, and also by less independent but sometimes useful channels like RT and Press TV. This is a good development. Though, just as the BBC and CNN operate within a paradigm broadly consonant with the foreign policies of their respective states, RT and Press TV are also sensitive to the foreign policy concerns of Russia and Iran. They are all good at reporting the failings of other states. But when it comes to their own and their allies, all of these channels are by and large uncritical.

This diversity is to be appreciated. Viewers for the first time are in a position to make intelligent choices as to the channels they can turn to in each situation. So, if the story is Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, CNN or the BBC will be the wrong place to look for the truth. Conversely, if the news is Syria’s latest assault on Homs, you had best skipped RT and Press TV. You’d be a fool to turn to the BBC for reporting on the London riots; just as you’d be a fool to consult CNN on the OWS movement, RT on Chechnya, or Press TV on the Green Movement. It is important to take them all with a pinch of salt.

The following program, RT’s Crosstalk, illustrates what I mean. The show has often provided a platform to voices that you’ll never hear on the BBC and CNN. Where else can you find a Norman Finkelstein debating a Benny Morris? This broadening of the discourse is a good thing. But it only works where the debate is weighted in favour of the Russian position. As the following show illustrates, when a conversation veers off script, the host is extremely heavy-handed in trying to enforce discipline. In this instance, about 10 minutes into the debate, the host starts battling all his guests to force them to see the situation in Syria his way. This is embarrassing. This side of Bill O’Reilly, the only time I had seen an intervention of this nature was when the BBC’s Ben Brown interviewed Jody McIntyre about the London protests.

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

8 thoughts on “RT Backfire”

  1. I noticed the same type of bias when discussions or interviews took place concerning the Occupy Movement in Russia.

    There was barely a mention of it, but the protests in North America were covered wall to wall.

    I view it as RT attempting to stuff propaganda down our throats in the same way that Radio Europe and whatever did to them for countless years.

    I enjoy RT and watch it daily because I see opposing views as per the American scene.

    I’m just as sceptical of RT as I am of CNN.

    But, I do like to see a bunch of Lefties being interviewed once in a while.


  2. i saw nothing wrong with the host’s opinions being interjected with those of the guests but that’s because i tend to see things from his perspective, as opposed to the critic who obviously doesn’t…



  3. What a load of rubbish, RT is presenting the perspective of the people who dont have ANY voice in the mainstream organisations such as CNN & BBC. You have simplified the situation to the point of absurdity, CNN & BBC have powerful lobby groups pressuring them on a daily basis to ensure the flow of information is what they would like it to be, I stopped watching their complete fabrications long ago. CNN have been caught out faking stories, video evidence of it, BBC showed the pressure from the govt superseded the publics right to know. The Israeli lobby is all powerful & spans the globe. Get real writer, there is no comparison.

  4. I watched an RT report on countries that sold weapons to Qaddhafi, implicating the UK and others. Nowhere did they mention the fact that Russia sold four times as many weapons to Qaddhafi than any other country.

    But they sure do air US journalists that have accurate stories that make the US’ leaders look bad that don’t get play on US networks, which shows the degree to which the networks here and there are state propaganda. We need networks that analyze facts based on their merits that don’t have a factional affiliation.

  5. I see nothing of the sort. He gives his guests more than adequate space to express themselves before interjecting his own questions. The comparison to O’Reilly or anyone in the Western media is a joke, as O’Reilly typically shouts his guests down and those with a genuinely leftist as opposed to liberal slant are rarely if ever given air time. The show is Crosstalk where anyone, including the moderator, is allowed to interject at any time so the few times he actually does this is hardly out of sorts with the stated format.

    I’ve seen RT be very critical of the Russian government before, but of course they are not going to play host to some US-backed color revolutionaries and their bullshit. I don’t blame them.

    The moderator’s questions are relevant and to the point, such as why the West and the protestors are resistant to a negotiated settlement, just as was the case in Libya where Western intervention was every bit the disaster it was predicted to be. The Egyptian guy was full of it when he claimed there was no armed violence by the “protestors,” when a large percentage of the dead and wounded include Syrian soldiers and police.

  6. I think the moderators of this site need to explain their standards. I posted a comment on February 18, 2012 at 7:30 am that is still ‘awaiting moderation’, while two comments that are time-stamped more than 19 hours later than mine have been approved already.

    What is, perhaps, different about my comment is that it is written explicitly from the perspective of the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Perhaps that makes some people with editorial power here uncomfortable?

  7. good post Idrees. RT and Press TV have been asurdly biased against the Syrian people, as have their sponsor regimes – which are now profoundly hated in Syria. They are to Syria what Fox News is to Palestine.

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