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WSJ ‘investigation’ of aggregator that dared include RT scares other members into ditching the network. Democracy at work!

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

WSJ ‘investigation’ of aggregator that dared include RT scares other members into ditching the network. Democracy at work!
After social media censorship failed to zero out RT’s web traffic, an establishment US media outlet has revealed it reached out to sites in the same link-exchange network as RT, spooking them into backing out.

The Wall Street Journal has launched an investigation into a link aggregator that includes RT.com, publishing the names of participants and the network itself in an effort to shame them into kicking the site off, in a hit piece on Wednesday. If this thinly-veiled intimidation is the behavior of a democratic country’s media, one shudders to imagine what an authoritarian nation might have done.

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RealClearPolitics – a mostly-nonpartisan site that reports poll results and political news – is held up as an example, guilty of wrongthink through its association with Mixi.Media, a web-ring that links to headlines from news sites of various political persuasions (including RT) at the bottom of partners’ webpages. Mixi doesn’t show the source of the headlines right away, no matter where they come from, which –in the eyes of the Journal– proves it’s up to something nefarious.

The pearl-clutching pseudo-exposé made it clear that even unwitting association with RT is beyond the pale in this paranoid day and age. “If [readers] see RT, they are going to freak out,” Mixi founder Alex Baron is quoted as saying. Asked whether he agrees with RT’s “politics,” he answers in the negative, of course. However, the implication is made that he’s a Kremlin agent at heart through his past association with a Russian private equity firm - never mind that he’s suing that firm after being fired in 2018. Merely working for a company owned by a Russian executive initiates an irrevocable cootie-transfer.

The Journal doesn’t illustrate exactly how they approached the web-ring participants for the piece, but at least five sites were sufficiently intimidated –including The Blaze, Newser, and AccuWeather– that they fled Mixi’s network after being asked about the Russian intruder in their midst. Presumably the dialogue went something like “Gee, that’s a nice news outlet you’ve got there, sure would be a shame if it got shut down for Russian collusion.”

If that sounds like an exaggeration, one need only refer to the New York Times’ warning that merely reporting a story RT has covered is actually “sowing discord” and “creating division.” As far back as 2016, the Washington Post was accusing US-based, US-run alt-media websites of being Russian “useful idiots” merely for disdaining to go along with Washington’s neoliberal warmongering agenda, laundering its smears through the anonymous Ukrainian front “PropOrNot.

The WSJ’s “don’t click that link - there might be Russians in it” scare story is just the latest in a long string of efforts to pressure friendly networks into giving RT the cold shoulder. The same outlet bemoaned RT’s seeming invincibility to TV censorship back in January 2017 as part of a multi-pronged media blitz ginned up by the US intelligence community’s attempt to implicate RT in “meddling” in the 2016 election – an allegation that has never been remotely substantiated yet has become part of the narrative wallpaper for the American establishment, assumed to be true even in the absence of evidence.

The dubious allegations of hacking the Democratic National Committee were followed by a lengthy screed against programs RT no longer even aired – but that was enough for the New York Times and other “papers of record” to pile on a competitor they didn’t know they had, treating the uninspired smear like a smoking gun. Breaking precedent set by other state-owned foreign media, the Justice Department forced RT to register as a “foreign agent.” The designation was subsequently held up, bizarrely, as “proof” it was foreign propaganda, as officials insisted it was voluntary, even though the network was threatened with criminal charges if it refused.

And the UK Sunday Times pulled a similar stunt to the WSJ’s back in 2017, phoning up RT’s British advertisers – many of whom were spooked by the probing questions into pulling their ads – and misrepresenting their vanishing act as motivated by the channel’s “propaganda and fake news.”

Efforts to sideline RT have only increased since then, with first YouTube and more recently Facebook and Twitter labeling it as state-run foreign media and burying its content. WSJ’s report glossed over the obvious follow-on effect from such a move, crowing gleefully that social media traffic to the site dropped 22 percent from 2018 to July and web traffic in general dropped 14 percent.

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But until it drops to zero, the US’ propaganda mill will never be satisfied. Having coasted for decades with a virtual monopoly on viewers’ eyeballs, its quality declined accordingly, and the rise of the internet saw Americans hungrily lapping up any alternative source of information. When they’re presented with the sight of rioters burning businesses, bibles, or people and told these are peaceful democratic protesters who must be supported, they recoil not because they are propagandized by RT or some other outlet, but because they’re aware they’re being lied to.

With the 2020 election looming on the horizon, social media platforms and news outlets alike are renewing their fatwa against all things Russian. That reliable “enemy” ensures they will never have to answer for the many holes in their own one-sided coverage, the flagrant falsehoods regularly passed off as gospel, and the unrelenting fear porn that keeps too many Americans glued to their TV set. Heaven forbid they change the channel – they might trip over the truth.

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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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