How they missed RT: Here comes the Guardian's spring offensive

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
Headquarters of the Guardian newspaper in Kings Place, London (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
The Guardian's RT section must have been feeling lonely. After a flurry of “hit-pieces” against the Russian state broadcaster between mid-November and orthodox Christmas, the barrage suddenly paused.

RT’s staff probably thought The Guardian may have decided to call off the, doubtlessly well-groomed, dogs. Sadly, it turned out be a kind of New Year truce. Alas, nobody even suggested a quick game of soccer.

On Monday, our friends from King’s Cross crawled back into the trenches and resumed their shelling of RT positions. Ofcom, the UK government’s media watchdog, listed 11 new investigations in their most recent report. One of these concerned RT. Guess which one The Guardian jumped on? No snuff Sherlock, it was RT.

A Channel 4 documentary is also under scrutiny following 5,200 complaints. The RT show under the microscope, Peter Lavelle’s Crosstalk (23 December 2014), received one complaint. The Guardian failed to even mention their fellow muesli-muncher's travails in the piece and focused solely on RT, launching into the minutiae of RT’s history with the regulator, yet conspicuously omitting any mention of Ofcom’s inquiry into RT’s MH17 crash coverage. You know the one where Ofcom diligently assessed complaints of bias and found no problems that merited investigation, nor any breach of standards? This wasn't remedied until RT itself contacted the newspaper.

READ MORE: RT cleared over coverage of MH17 crash reporting after complaints to Ofcom

To be fair, the Channel 4 spoof, UKIP: the first 100 days was also covered by the Guardian a few weeks ago in another report.

Perhaps energized by the opening salvo of their spring offensive, The Guardian decided to follow up with an unsigned (Hi Luke!) editorial, which rather spuriously linked RT and the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

Despite throwing in a few KGB references, it’s unclear what exactly has upset their little liberal heads this time. They also declared that facts were sacred while quoting Pontius Pilate, a figure from 2,000 years ago, which makes the veracity somewhat questionable. I’m not sure Pontius would have been a ‘Guardianista’; he always struck me as being a bit of a conservative.

The concluding paragraph is also rather confusing. “Amid the various narratives of “the truth” now being rehearsed by the Russian state, it is necessary to insist upon a reality; on Friday morning Mr. Nemtsov was alive, but by the day’s end he was dead. Amid the mischievous misdirection of the Kremlin’s counter-measures, this is, quite simply, the truth.”

I’m not sure what exactly The Guardian is trying to say here. It’s unlikely the Russian government – or RT – would disagree with their statement. Unless the editorial is trying to suggest that someone thinks Nemtsov is still alive? If he were, it would be quiet remarkable. President Putin has already sent a telegram of condolence to Boris Nemtsov’s mother that suggests he's pretty sure Nemtsov is dead. RT reported on it as such.

READ MORE: Losing ground? RT, Guardian & the facts behind BBC cash call

In my teenage years, the only people who expressed an interest in ‘Exhuming McCarthy’ were the rock band R.E.M. Sadly the specter of old Joseph now stalks much media invective against RT.

We are living in a strange period of history where the, outwardly, liberal press is arguing for censorship. Not for ideological reasons, but because RT’s success frustrates a gang who’ve had the field all to themselves for far too long. They are behaving like a spoilt child who doesn't want to share their football with other children.

As the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald - of Snowden files fame - put it on Monday: “fathom how authoritarian a society must be if it gets its journalists to play the leading role in demanding that the state ban journalists it dislikes.”

Greenwald also, correctly, points out that the most vocal RT bashers in the UK press are pro-Downing Street hacks who supported the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. He cites Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm. The latter once wrote an op-ed for The Guardian under the headline “Bush made the world a safer place” - that tells you all you need to know about Kamm’s credibility.

The “hit piece” on RT began with a Nietzsche quote: “There are no facts, only interpretations.” I also have a bit of Nietzsche for the Guardian’s editorial team. “I am affected, not because you have deceived me, but because I can no longer believe in you.”

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