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“Edward Lucas Urges Challenging — and Ostracism — of RT.com; Faces Kiselyev, Trolls Backlash” is reposted from The Interpreter website. Edward Lucas, energy editor at The Economist, who previously worked at the BBC and The Independent, called on journalists to boycott RT.
Speaking at a discussion at the Munich Security Council last weekend, Edward Lukas said that journalists who are Holocaust deniers, who think that 9/11 was an inside job, who believe that [the] Pope is a lizard and make such statements on RT programs should not be treated as real journalists but as “cranks and propagandists.” They should be pushed out “into the media fringes,” Lukas said.
New Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) director and CEO, American journalist and media executive Andy Lack, said in an earlier interview with The New York Times that RT (formerly called Russia Today) is one of the BBG’s major challenges. He said that other challenges were ISIS and Boko Haram. RT launched relentless attacks on Andy Lack for making his statement, which RT claimed compared them to terror groups, although Lack’s comment, as reported by The New York Times in the same sentence, did not make any comparisons.
During a discussion at the Munich Security Council last weekend, Edward Lucas, Economist columnist and author criticized the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet, RT.com.
He called on journalists to boycott it, since it has produced so much disinformation and himself said he would not hire anyone with RT.com in their resume.
Gordonua.com and other regional media reported that Lucas accused the Russian state journalists of “producing lies” and that they should be “pushed outside the gates of the media space” (reverse translation).
RT.com published a full transcript in English, which appears to be accurate. Here’s an excerpt of Lucas’ remarks:
“The use of information warfare was another big mistake we made in 1991. We thought: what can possibly go wrong? We have a free press, we have a free media market – truth will triumph. Well, it doesn’t. It doesn’t triumph when you’re faced with RT, the former Russia Today, or with Sputnik – the so-called media organizations, which are directly plugged into the Kremlin lie machine.
The use of force is only part of this hybrid warfare. Sometimes it’s just assassination as we saw in London a few years ago with the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko. It can be the use of organized crime. It’s the use of cyber-attacks to disable and confuse. It’s also the little green men whom we saw in Crimea – deniable. When you complain about them, you’re told that this is just patriotic volunteers on holiday.
We also see the use of airspace violations – dozens and dozens and scores and scores of airspace violations in the Baltic States, the new frontline states of Europe. Very difficult to know what to do to respond. Do you want to shoot these planes down and start a war? Do you protest when the protests are just ignored? What do you do?”
Lucas then proposed:
“We need to get back the ability to rebut and to criticize. If RT puts on people – and it does put on people who are Holocaust deniers, who think that 9/11 was an inside job, who believe that [the] Pope is a lizard – I’m not joking, this is true – we should be able to humiliate those channels and those people and the people who put them on, and the producers who put them on and push them out into the media fringes so they are no longer treated as real journalists and real programs but as cranks and propagandists.
I think we could do a bit more of ostracism. I’m quite happy to say that if anyone puts a CV on my desk, and on that CV I see they worked at RT or Sputnik or one of these things, that CV is going into the bin and not into the intro. We would not have accepted it during the Cold War that people could move from working for Pravda, or Izvestia, or TASS, and then into jobs in Western media. Far too many people see a job at RT as the first stage on a career ladder. It’s not. It’s the last stage on a career ladder. It’s like working as a PR person for a tobacco company, but even worse. And only then would I start looking at regulatory things — and there are things we can do on a regulatory side. We have a regulated media space. In my own country, Ofcom is complaining to RT about its lack of balance. So, there are things we can do but I think those things are the last resort, not the first resort.”
The reference to “lizard people” had to do with conspiracist Karen Hudes:
I was especially glad to see @edwardlucas reference Karen Hudes and her "pope is a reptile" thing which I mentioned a few days ago.
— Eddy Elfenbein (@EddyElfenbein) February 8, 2015
The Interpreter‘s columnist Adam Holland has also covered the use of Hudes by RT.com producers.
Lucas also asked a tough question of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after his presentation at the Munich conference, regarding Russia’s military plane flying in international civilian airspace with its transponders shut off (27:43).
— Thomas Frear (@FrearUK) February 9, 2015
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT.com, couldn’t help trying to score points about the reliance of Westerners on RT.com for the very news of Russia’s bad behavior:
Эдвард Лукас, который не любит наш канал, критикует Лаврова со ссылкой на наш канал pic.twitter.com/4O8Kj2B32E
— Маргарита Симоньян (@M_Simonyan) February 9, 2015
Translation: Edward Lucas, who doesn’t love our channel, criticizes Lavrov with reference to our channel.
Back in November, Simonyan wrote on her Facebook, invoking Orwell, that the UK was threatening to remove her company’s broadcasting license — but that never happened. So it was hard for her to play the victim, but RT.com came up with a self-serving editorial:
We are absolutely outraged by Mr Lucas’ comments. It is the height of hypocrisy to come to an event, dedicated to the collective resolution of the multitude of tough security questions the world faces today, to use it as a platform for specious attacks.
In fact, while Mr. Lucas was shaming RT journalists from the comfort and security of this conference, our crew was under fire near Donetsk.
Lots of journalists have been under fire in Donetsk, including those we have covered frequently in our Ukraine Live, but they don’t feel the need to endorse Karen Hudes or justify flying without transponders — or lie about shell fire in fact coming from the Russian-backed separatists.
Some of the social media reaction to Lucas’ call, engineered by propagandists and Kremlin trolls, was far more brutal and some of it even turned to death threats:
interesting that so many peace-loving Putinistas respond to criticism with death threats. Good night everyone
— Edward Lucas (@edwardlucas) February 8, 2015
Then Dmitry Kiselyev, talk show host and head of Rossiya Segodnya, which is the parent company of RT.com, devoted a segment to Lucas, reported by Vesti.
Kiselyev and some other regional media covering the story got some of the facts wrong – Lucas in not the editor-in-chief of the Economist, and not even the editor for Russia coverage, but a senior editor responsible for coverage of energy, commodities and natural resources, and made the recommendations regarding RT.com in his personal capacity.
Kiselyev called Lucas “odious” and a “relict” of the Cold War.
Kiselyev also made much of the fact that the US Embassy spokesman in Moscow, Will Stevens, reportedly ran a poll that attracted more votes for RT.com than Lucas — as social media polls that come to the attention of organized troll power will do. We haven’t found such a poll in Steven’s Twitter time-line, however and have sent him an inquiry. He did comment on the show:
You know you've made it when Kiselov mentions you on Sunday night TV.
— Will Stevens (@WBStevens) February 9, 2015
The question of how to address the challenge of RT.com will continue to divide the Western journalists’ community and continue to provoke outrage from RT.com far outsized to the offense. Fact-checking the lizard-people proponents is the easy part — it becomes harder when you have to report on the Kremlin’s own bad behavior.
As we noted in The Guild War – How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists?, the focus should be on documentation:
And whether this focus on the facts is done by boycotting or participating in panels, the task is still the same – to confront not only those who are knowingly part of the system of paid information apparatchiks, but the freelancers and fellow-travelers who maintain their veil of integrity by not technically working for the state yet spouting the same elements of its line.
Decent journalists need to document and expose the lies RT.com and other Moscow-run media concoct and perpetrate, and challenge those reporters who keep insisting on their status as legitimate and independent critics. If journalists want to retain credibility as independent and honest in their writing, they have to explain why they sound just like the Kremlin.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick