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20 Apr, 2023 13:10

Western media suddenly hates Twitter’s ‘government-funded’ labels

Establishment outlets were perfectly fine with the social media scarlet letter when it was handed to their “undesirable” counterparts
Western media suddenly hates Twitter’s ‘government-funded’ labels

Recently, some media outlets have quit Twitter over what they see as unjust labeling, which leads to the question – where was their outrage when the same rules were being applied to their competition?

Where was the Western fury when the social media platform was slapping labels of state affiliation or funding on media linked to Russia and China, like RT? Nowhere to be found. How about when the platform was extending that same labeling to individual journalists contributing to those platforms? Again, silent. It’s only now that they can’t object strongly enough. So what changed?

The platform’s ‘newish’ owner, Elon Musk, woke up one morning recently and decided to level the playing field by slapping Western media recipients of state funding with the “government funded” label. Britain’s BBC has protested its tagging, America’s National Public Radio rage-quit the platform over its new designation, and Canada’s CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) suspended posting. “Twitter can be a powerful tool for our journalists to communicate with Canadians, but it undermines the accuracy and professionalism of the work they do to allow our independence to be falsely described in this way,” CBC spokesman Leon Mar said

The Western media outlets object to these tags being applied to them because they’ve long accepted the negative connotation that such tags carry when they are exclusively applied to media or journalists linked to Russia or China. They didn’t care that the integrity of those journalistic competitors was smeared by a scarlet letter. They didn’t appreciate or support the coverage offered by those labeled platforms that offer alternative information and analysis to the mainstream Western establishment agenda and related narratives. 

It apparently never occurred to the Western press – even to the CBC, which received $1.24 billion in 2021-2022 from the Canadian federal government – that they could be next in line for this kind of labeling. At least not enough for them to stand up against such labels. Why? A likely explanation is that they felt that social media platforms like Twitter would always fall in line with the Western establishment agenda and narrative. Also, that it was just an extension of the ongoing efforts to marginalize geopolitical competitors and alternative sources of information that might challenge them. Labeling of Western media makes no sense in that context, so they likely presumed that they were safe. 

However, Musk came along and opened Pandora’s Box, with Western media now haggling with him over precisely how much funding they ought to be able to get from the state without being slapped with a “state-affiliated” moniker. “Canadian Broadcasting Corp said they’re ‘less than 70% government funded,’ so we corrected the label,” Musk tweeted, stating that he had amended CBC’s label to “69% Government-funded media.”  

Musk has also managed to make Western politicians denounce the tags, which they previously supported when it was used against press sources that they didn’t like. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hysterically played the class warfare card in defense of the CBC, accusing Conservative Party opposition leader Pierre Poilievre of cozying up to US billionaires (an obvious reference to Musk). Poilievre had written a letter to Twitter drawing attention to the fact that the CBC shouldn’t be left out of the labeling spree. 

“We must protect Canadians against disinformation and manipulation by state media. That is why I’m asking @Twitter @elonmusk to accurately label CBC as ‘government-funded media’,” tweeted Poilievre. 

Canadian conservatives routinely accuse the public broadcaster of kowtowing to a left-leaning establishment agenda, and marking it as associated with the current Trudeau-led government would effectively assist in its marginalization. 

“CBC officially exposed as ‘government-funded media’,” Poilievre tweeted after the labeling was applied. “Now people know that it is Trudeau propaganda, not news.” Sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric that Trudeau and the entire Western establishment have used against foreign news competitors. And now it’s being used against those they like.

But hey, Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter, so he can do what he wants with his own private company, right? At least that was the argument made by those who supported banning dissenters and activists of all kinds under Twitter’s previous establishment-friendly leadership. 

Who’s to say that the tagging will end here? If anyone at Twitter digs deeper, they’ll learn, for example, that the Canadian media – even privately-held – is largely government-funded and subsidized to a far larger extent than meets the eye.  And what about the corporate US news media that’s largely concentrated in the hands of a few billionaires – 15 of them, according to Forbes – and whose interests may or may not be entwined with special interests that drive Washington’s agenda? 

This entire labeling rabbit hole could have been entirely avoided. If Western media outlets, politicians, and journalists had stood up for press freedom and free speech when the targets were their competition. Maybe they wouldn’t now find themselves in exactly the same firing line.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.