The question asked by the original McCarthyite witch-hunters to people who held the ’wrong’ views back in the era of Rosemary Clooney and the Andrews Sisters was "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"
Today, in the era of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, the neo-McCarthyites ask: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a guest or pundit on RT or Sputnik?" The wording might be slightly different, (and the background music more in your face), but the aim is the same. Namely, to try and scare people from speaking out against a foreign policy which relies on war and the threat of war, for fear they’ll be branded a Soviet, or Russian 'agent'.
A 79-year-old piece of legislation, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, initially passed to counter Nazi propaganda activities before the start of World War Two, is the latest weapon being utilized by the ‘Pro-Freedom and Democracy’ Imperial Truth Enforcers, in their campaign against news organizations which don‘t toe the line. All genuine supporters of free speech and media pluralism, whether or not they are fans of RT or Sputnik, should be alarmed at recent developments.
You don’t have to be the owner of a giant magnifying glass or possess the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes to see whose fingerprints are on the ’Get RT and Sputnik to register under FARA' operation. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand why they are so keen to tarnish the RT and Sputnik brands.
Let’s go back to January 13th. On that day, the Atlantic Council, whose donors include leading US arms companies, NATO, several foreign governments, as well as lobby groups such as AIPAC, posted an article on its website entitled ‘US Should Require Russia’s RT to Register as Foreign Agent' by one Elena Postnikova, a JD candidate at Georgetown University Law Center and a former DC Events and Outreach Officer at the US government-funded Freedom House.
Postnikova’s article of 13th January was republished by Newsweek and the Kyiv Post.
The Atlantic Coundil explained:
“In Agent of Influence, author Elena Postnikova, not only argues that RT should register with FARA but makes a legal case for it while laying out recommendations for policymakers. At a minimum, RT’s activities warrant a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ).”
You can just imagine Senator Joe McCarthy punching the air on hearing that last statement, can’t you?
In her paper, Postnikova mentions the benefits of the DOJ getting RT to register. "FARA registration means that RT would need to conspicuously label its information as 'distributed by an agent on behalf of the foreign principal' and include these statements on its website, social media accounts, and in all broadcasts." This would, she says be "warranted to alert the US public about the origin of RT’s information." Showing that she possesses a fine sense of humor, Postnikova claims that getting RT to register as a ‘foreign agent‘ would actually boost free speech. "The disclosure would serve the First Amendment by supplementing information about the agent and ensuring that the public is not misled that it represents a disinterested source."
A week after the 1st September publication, the Atlantic Council held a special meeting in Washington to discuss the paper (giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘AC/DC‘).
Then a few days after that the news broke that the FBI was getting involved, to question an ex-Sputnik employee called Andrew Feinberg. Feinberg, it was reported, had handed over to the FBI a thumbnail containing hundreds of internal emails and documents.
The anti-Russian media crowd couldn’t conceal their excitement.
Jamie Kirchick, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, who had spoken at the 8th September Atlantic Council panel, and who had been high-fived by other neocons on social media for ‘ambushing’RT live on air a few years back, tweeted triumphantly "Three days after our Atlantic Council panel both RT.com and Sputnik under investigation as foreign agents."
If the McCarthyite hawks of the Atlantic Council get their way and the authorities in the US do force RT and Sputnik to register under FARA, under threat of a large fine and/or civil/criminal prosecution, then a disturbing precedent will have been set. FARA wasn’t designed to target bona fide news or press services not directly controlled by foreign governments, so to take action the authorities will have to find that RT and Sputnik aren’t kosher.
Of course, claiming that RT and Sputnik are not "proper newsgathering organizations" like CNN and the BBC and that the journalists who work for them are ‘fakes’ too, is standard fare for War Lobby propagandists and their fart-smelling groupies. If the robotic nature of these smears strikes you, then all you need to do is to turn to Sharyl Attkisson’s new book The Smear for an explanation. You can read my review of the book here.
Having aggressively pushed the case for FARA registration, those responsible are now keen to stress that it’s really no big deal. The Colombia Journalism Review ran a piece by one Jon Allsop, entitled ‘Concerns over FBI investigation into Russian ‘news’ are overblown.' (Note how ‘news’ is put in inverted commas).
"FARA doesn’t add up to press censorship in this case: Outlets like Sputnik and RT aren’t conventionally seen as 'the press,' and the law in no way prohibits their activities," Allsop explained. He cites Jamie Kirchick, who says "There is no concern about slippery slopes," but there’s no mention that Kirchick described merely as "a journalist and writer who has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union," was on the Atlantic Council panel that called for RT and Sputnik to be registered under FARA.
In similar fashion, a 9/11 Yahoo report on the Atlantic Council’s demands neglects to mention how the ‘Washington think tank’ is funded by NATO and the arms industry, and ironically enough given the subject matter, several foreign governments as well.
The move to get RT and Sputnik branded as ‘foreign agents’ is being presented by ‘mainstream’ outlets as a neutral process. In fact, it’s about as ‘neutral’ as General Franco refereeing a football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, or The Joker having the casting vote on a jury deciding on whether to indict Batman for speeding.
What we are witnessing is a well-coordinated, well-synchronized and well-oiled campaign to marginalize all dissenting views on foreign policy.
Think back to November, when a mysterious new anonymous website called ’Prop Or Not’ popped up to publish a list of US news sites which it accused of "reliably echoing Russian propaganda," and called on the G-men to investigate them for espionage.
‘The List’ included RT and Sputnik, but also sites from across the political spectrum with absolutely no connection to Russia. Prop or Not’s blacklist was then promoted as the work of ‘experts’ by the neocon Washington Post.
Again you can imagine Senator McCarthy’s whoop of delight.
We’ve reached the stage now when, as in the early Fifties, anyone who opposes a hawkish foreign policy is accused of either being in the pay of Moscow, i.e. a Russian agent, or of ‘echoing Russian propaganda.' Against the overthrow of the secular, Christian-protecting government in Syria? Then you’re a stooge of Vladimir Putin!
It’s not just Donald Trump who’s been smeared in this way, but the likes of Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader, and Labour’s left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn too. All you have to do is to say "I want to end the wars and have better relations with Moscow," and you’ll get the label.
And if you want to lose the label? Well, you have to do what the War Lobby demands of you, like sign a bill imposing even more draconian sanctions on Russia, bomb a Syrian air force base, or publicly condemn ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine.
The great irony behind all of this is that the ’realist’ Russian line on foreign policy is far more in tune with public opinion in the US and UK than the actual policies carried out by the neocon influenced US and UK regimes. Russia opposed the illegal invasion of Iraq, which directly led to the rise of ISIS. It’s also stood firmly on the side of government forces fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda groups in Syria, instead of trying to undermine them, as the West has done.
It’s because people reject the fraudulent War Party narrative that people across the world are increasingly turning to networks such as RT and Sputnik which provide a very different perspective on world affairs. These organizations provide a platform to people from the left and the right, who are kept off the ‘mainstream’ networks because they don’t meet with establishment approval. I remember the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq when programs such as the BBC’s Newsnight trotted out a series of ‘think tank pundits’ who assured us that Saddam possessed WMDs which threatened the entire world. These ‘experts’ went largely unchallenged, and we got a disastrous war which led to the deaths of one million people. The cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion would love us to go back to the halcyon days of 2002/3 when they had control of the narrative and could dictate who could and couldn’t appear on television. It was much easier to sell illegal wars to the public without ’pesky’ stations like RT and Sputnik around, much easier to peddle WMDs-style BS, much easier to launch phony ‘humanitarian interventions’ against the governments of resource-rich independent countries.
Fake news and ‘foreign agents‘?
Physician heal thyself.
Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.