All the Kremlin’s men: Farage, Moscow and six degrees of Kevin Bacon

Simon Rite
Simon Rite is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites
All the Kremlin’s men: Farage, Moscow and six degrees of Kevin Bacon
I’ve noticed some journalism recently that owes a debt to the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Random links are assembled Watergate-style, and it’s often pretty believable ... until you get to a subject you know a bit about.

Carole Cadwalladr of the Observer has been joining the dots and last weekend published a lengthy piece under the headline “Who is the real Nigel Farage … and why won’t he answer my questions?” The piece describes her exhaustive attempts to ask the former leader of UKIP awkward questions, including following him all the way to Australia. Reading it made me wonder why the question was needed in the headline, because the reason seems pretty obvious to me. He doesn’t want to because she’s mean to him.   

The Observer labels Farage “Mr Brexit”, which we can assume is not meant to be a compliment, but what’s really being suggested is he’s Mr Kremlin, or one of them, because there’s loads of them.  

Cadwalladr came to prominence for her work outing the alleged nefarious activities of data devils Cambridge Analytica, and is now embarked on the journalistic equivalent of attempting to find a ‘Theory of Everything’; that is to say, she’s trying to link everything back to the Kremlin. And good luck to her, because it’s a competitive field.

Part of any respectable attempt to pin political mishaps on Russia is to throw in a section about RT, assign the traits of evil genius to everything it does, and just connect the dots. This is really useful because it means that anyone who has appeared on RT over the years can be accused of, well anything you need.   

Also on rt.com Stupidity of some mainstream media coverage has me defending Russians… again!

So it’s assumed Farage (who at this point hasn’t been on for a while) is in the pay of the Kremlin, alongside the likes of WikiLeaker Julian Assange. Leave.EU financier Aaron Banks is also in the Venn diagram (his wife is Russian so …).  

What annoys me is, when you actually work for RT, it really ruins your appreciation of the work of other media outlets, because when you get to the inevitable section about RT, it’s usually so inaccurate, you question everything else that’s been said too. I’m beginning to think I can’t trust everything I read.    

So take Cadwalladr’s Farage hit piece, which is actually just a lengthy description of how she failed to get him to talk to her.

My personal favorite part was a quote from Guillaume Chaslot, who’s an adviser for the Center for Humane Technology. He says of RT: “They’re the biggest information network on YouTube. They’ve 22 channels and they have an absolute masterful understanding of how the algorithm works.”

This line was so good, we actually discussed it in the office for about 10 minutes, after we’d all stopped laughing. Honestly, if someone out there does have a “masterful understanding of the algorithm” and is looking for work, please do send in your CV to the following address RT, Hollowed Out Volcano, 37 Bond Villain Drive, Island of Evil, the Pacific.

Cadwalladr’s claim that “RT made Farage a YouTube star,” though, is extremely flattering.

Also on rt.com 75,000 Russian expats spying in London? Their handlers’ workload must be a nightmare!

It’s also weird how RT, and by association Russia, is being blamed not just for Brexit, but for Farage too!  

This ‘if they’ve been on RT, they must be a Russian spy’ method of building a story is versatile. Cadwalladr goes on to say: “RT recognised Farage’s value way back in 2011. An ex-Ukip insider tells me how RT’s London correspondent “practically lived inside Ukip’s offices. They targeted Gerard Batten first [the current leader of Ukip] and then Farage. They loved it. RT would ask them on every week.”

“Targeted” is quite an interesting term. Other outlets phone people to see if they’re available for an interview, but RT ‘targets’ them. The language is pretty loaded. I could also go into the paradox of politicians accusing RT of lacking balance and then refusing to come on to provide the balance, but I won’t.

I’ve got no idea whether Farage, Assange, Boris Johnson’s dad, or anyone else who has been on RT is in the pay of the Kremlin. All I know is when I read descriptions of how RT operates in articles like Cadwalldr’s treatise on stalking Farage, I don’t see a lot of accuracy.

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

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