First Amendment flop: McCain & gang call for ‘shutting down’ RT
The First Amendment suffered a beating in broad daylight this week as a neoconservative think-tank headed by Senator John McCain released an article calling for the US government to put the squeeze on RT's assets.
In the latest ‘McCainikaze’ attack on President Putin, RT and anything else that happens to inhabit the 11 time zones from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, David J. Kramer offers an embarrassingly reckless plan to “knock Putin on his heels.”
You're very, very foolish if you even remotely believe we live in a society that honors and respects and believes in The First Amendment.— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) June 23, 2015
Yes, at the very same time the Russian leader has his hands full battling Islamic terrorists that US smart bombs just aren’t smart enough to hit, Kramer, senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership, has decided it’s a good time to go after RT.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to go on the offensive, in a non-military way, to knock Putin on his heels, while also shutting down his odious propaganda machine? Here’s how it can be done,” schemes Kramer.
Personally, having been forced to watch the US military trailblaze across an unsuspecting planet for the last 15 years, it would be great to see the United States “go on the offensive, in a non-military way.” But ever since the ‘War on Terror’ mindset took hold, the book known as ‘Diplomacy for Idiots’ has been tossed in the backseat of the global juggernaut. Today, the only language America understands is the language of brutal force, and this will become more apparent as we delve further into this latest contender for 'Russia hit-piece of the year' award.
But before we consider Kramer’s creepy call for shutting down RT and, by extension, the freedom of speech, it is crucial to consider his opening splash, which is so incredibly sloppy one must wear an apron and goggles while gazing upon it. And I quote: “Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed forces to Syria, US military officials described his regime as an ‘existential threat’ in light of his invasion of Ukraine.”
Immediately out of the gates Professor Kramer has fallen from his horse. Russia was not labeled an “existential threat” by the Pentagon due to ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’ – an ‘invasion’ that only existed in the tall grass and strangling weeds of the neoconservative brain. Rather, Russia was labeled an “existential threat” due to its nuclear arsenal. This was admitted by no less a civilian warlord than Ashton Baldwin Carter back in August.
“Russia poses an existential threat to the United States by virtue, simply, of the size of the nuclear arsenal that it’s had. That’s not new,” Carter says, before adding, almost as if suddenly remembering something he forgot on his grocery list: “For a quarter-century or so, since the end of the Cold War we have not regarded them as an antagonist.”
If owning a nuclear arsenal (as opposed to conducting an non-existent “invasion of Ukraine”) is all it takes to get nominated into the “existential threat” hall of fame, then it would be more honest to include room on the podium for Team USA, which also has some very shiny, efficient and deadly accurate nuclear missiles, many of which are pointed directly at Russia.
Or should we assume that "existential threats" where Russia is concerned do not matter.
Second, Kramer seem overly keen on awarding the Russian military more accolades than it can really make fair claim to: “Putin, who oversees one of the most corrupt, kleptocratic regimes in the world [groundless generalizations without examples certainly would not pass muster at Harvard, Professor Kramer] has been driving the international agenda of late — from Ukraine to Syria — while Western leaders, including President Obama, have been reactive and defensive.”
“From Ukraine to Syria?” Yes, from the slippery steppes of Ukraine to the sultry suburbs of Damascus, and every square inch of lush land in between, the Russian military has been in a hot, impetuous gallop, inciting fear in the hearts of women and orphans as they go, while “Western leaders, including President Obama, have been reactive and defensive,” Kramer wails.
America? "Defensive?" Are you joking? If anything, after 15 years of very offensively pursuing bogeymen and phantoms around a shell-shocked planet, you would think Western leaders and their war-weary citizens would welcome the chance to put down their bayonets and bravado, allowing Russia a fair chance to whack the nasty boys of Islamic State. After all, the Middle East is in Russia’s backyard, not America’s or the EU’s. Yet sadly, and not a little strangely, the West refuses to cooperate with Russia against the baddies of Islamic State.
The fact that the US and its collared EU lapdog refuse to work in tandem with Russia in eliminating this global scourge points to some very unsavory unmentionables, which we must nevertheless mention: Exhibit 1: Why does the US take exception to Islamic State actually being hit by bombs as opposed to military aid packages? Certainly a good many of those Russian sorties are hitting the intended target. But I digress.
A rock-solid US-Russia partnership is an idea that aspiring US politicians – ‘renegades’ like Donald Trump and Rand Paul, for example, who are not fully owned lock, stock and barrel by the military industrial complex - can fully appreciate (and which explains why they'll never be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office).
Now this brings us to the really ugly part of the article, where Professor Kramer (who forever stained his academic record by working as a fellow at the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), the group that pushed the US into the illegitimate war in Iraq following the terrorist attacks of 9/11) forwards a call to silence what he calls the “odious propaganda machine” - more popularly known to its millions of dedicated viewers and readers as RT.
Media Monsters, Inc.
If there is one thing that the severely monopolized, homogenized and fanaticized US corporate-owned media despises more than anything, it is competition. But the reason has surprisingly little to do with money. No, the extra voice on the airwaves does not noticeably detract from the MSM's bottom line (GE, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS control over 90 percent of US media, an empire worth about $300 billion dollars annually). Rather, the extra voice detracts from the MSM’s mass-produced message.
Just 10 years ago, US media enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the hearts and minds of the global village to promote the ‘NATO narrative,’ as it were. Now the US media ‘masters of the universe’ want to return to the vaulted golden days of journalism when they ruled the airwaves.
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Today, when Western audiences watch a program that delivers a new perspective or frame of reference outside of the Big 6 script, it throws into stark contrast the nakedness of the MSM – news stories that are mass produced and delivered like a cold pizza minus the toppings into US homes. RT, however, provides Western audiences with a daily reminder as to what is so woefully lacking from their corporate-owned broadcasts - namely a variety of opinions on which to build a more balanced view of the world. Anchovies and pepperoni, if you will.
Thus, the not entirely surprising backlash and baseless claims of “propaganda.” Here is Kramer in full histrionic mode, decrying RT’s global reach:
“RT is the key to Putin’s propaganda effort to discredit the West and obfuscate the truth of Russian actions. It has a global reach through cable and the internet and claims an audience, likely exaggerated, of 700 million people in 100 countries. It has a large studio in Washington and bureaus throughout the United States and Europe. Russian government financing for RT and similar propaganda outlets, including Sputnik news, is roughly half a billion dollars.”
The intelligent reader will immediately see through such mindless rants. To believe that a channel could become so successful by peddling nothing but lies and propaganda – in an age when every statement and comment can be verified by the reader at lightning speed – is not only disingenuous, it is insulting to the intelligence of the audience. Simply put, millions of people appreciate the additional voice that RT provides on the global media stage.
But not Professor Kramer, it seems.
Freedom of Speech fallout
Kramer and the McCain Institute have grand designs for making the American media space – not unlike America’s military space – unilateral and univocal once again: “Freeze the assets of Putin’s state-funded RT cable network, not because of the odious things it spews but in compliance with two court rulings against the Russian government involving the multibillion dollar Yukos oil company.”
Kramer is referring to a ruling last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that said Russia should pay $52 billion in damages to shareholders of the now-defunct oil company.
(Yukos was acquired by Mikhail Khodorkovsky during the controversial "loans for shares" bonanza following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In May 2005, Khodorkovsky’s fortunes reversed dramatically as he was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison. In December 2010, while serving his first sentence, he was found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering. He was released from prison on Dec. 20, 2013).
Such a suggestion on the part of an American academician is startling to say the least. As even Kramer admits in his piece, “Russian authorities have appealed The Hague ruling.” In other words, to even suggest grabbing Russian property anywhere in the world is simply madness, and more so given that the court case has effectively been frozen.
This fact does not deter Kramer in the least since he has turned into something of an academic with a crystal ball as he risks a prediction: “[Russia’s] prospects for overturning it are slim because appeals are limited to ‘technical’ issues.” So essentially Kramer is advocating that the US government break the law, to say nothing of the hallowed Constitution, and move to freeze RT’s assets over a court case which is still being played out.
Kramer’s anti-Russia rhetoric throughout this latest hit piece - which represents such an ominous threat to the future of the First Amendment that it regrettably cannot be ignored - demonstrates that he is more concerned with silencing RT’s voice at a time when the West is desperate to control the information space than he is with Yukos' shareholders being awarded billions of dollars in compensation.
The only truly redeeming part about Kramer’s article was the correction it provided regarding a serious misstatement in the original piece:
“Correction: An earlier version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that British authorities froze the accounts of the RT television network in July in response to court findings against the Russian government over the breakup of the Yukos oil company. The British action instead targeted the Rossiya Segodnya news agency.”
Nice gesture, but it is doubtful that many readers took the time to read the scandalous op-ed piece a second time to catch the correction. Damage done, mission accomplished. Another pathetic piece of jingoistic journalism apparently aimed at Russia, but in reality it is aimed directly at the American people in what amounts to keeping their informational options as limited and concentrated as possible.
Meanwhile, the US military continues with its global misadventures to the detriment of every person on the planet.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.