France's Macron latest victim of 'fake news' on Russia & RT's role in Western elections

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.
France's Macron latest victim of 'fake news' on Russia & RT's role in Western elections
French Presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron’s team banned RT from his campaign headquarters last weekend. But even NATO’s think tank can’t find evidence of RT bias against the candidate. The affair shows the power of media embellishment, distortion, and overstatement.

It’s the old pub quiz standard: “What's the biggest country in Europe?” Blinded by the usual political definition of the continent, the contestant usually hums and haws, stumped on Germany or France. And is then startled to discover it’s Russia.

A few rounds later, another poser is frequently lobbed in. “What’s the biggest country in Asia?” Cue much conferring as the assembled brain boxes deliberate over the acreage of India and China. Of course, they are then stupefied when the answer is Russia again. Over the post-tournament drinks, talk turns to the country’s sheer magnitude, and there may even be a few resolutions to visit.

You see, this is probably Russia’s central problem in Western minds. The place is colossal, immense and vast. And this scares folk. What’s more, it means you can convince ordinary punters that Russia is a tremendous threat, even when all credible logic suggests otherwise. Such as the current madness surrounding elections in the “liberal democratic” world, which we are encouraged to believe are increasingly manipulated from Moscow.

Table Missing A Leg

For instance, let’s talk about the G7? All members have either held general elections in the past two and a half years or are scheduled to do in the next twelve months. And we constantly hear about how the Kremlin manipulates votes in America, Britain, and France, but we pick up diddlysquat, nada and zippo about Japan, Italy and Canada. Already, there have been attempts to ignite the same nonsense over Germany’s forthcoming campaign but the BND (Berlin’s secret service), to their credit, knocked that on the head before the exaggeration was given space to embed.

That said, Politico, Buzzfeed and Newsweek are still duping their readers with the distorted narrative.

Now, there's a serious question to be asked here. If Russia were indeed exploiting ballots to torpedo Western resolve, why would it exclusively target America, Britain, and France? Why not Canada, Germany, Italy or Japan? Because, after all, the latter four have a far less noisy or influential media, except Germany, and would be easier pickings.

Perhaps the answer lies in how the whole smear campaign is complete nonsense? And has become a crutch for liberals to explain away electoral failures without having to review their own failings honestly? For evidence of this inference, you need only look to America’s Democrats who, five months after losing to a, possibly insane, clown bigot, are still banging on about “Russia. Russia, Russia” rather than reviewing the actual reasons Donald Trump won.

Parisian Days

Meanwhile, France is fertile ground right now for the "Kremlin as Sauron" trope. After all, you have the telegenic liberal Emmanuel Macron battling Marine Le Pen in the current Presidential runoff. And during the first part of the campaign, the former visited Berlin to get Angela Merkel’s seal of approval, and the latter appeared in Moscow to meet Putin. Notably, the German encounter was presented a good thing in the popular press and the Kremlin rendezvous as something sinister.

And following Sunday’s initial stage, many Western leaders openly hailed Macron’s slim advantage. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was one of them, taking to Twitter to hail the En Marche! Leader as “the hope and future of our generation.” By coincidence, she was slated to meet her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow the morning after the night before. There, responding to a question from this network, she dodged the subject like a guilty parent hiding a drunken Good Friday Easter Egg snafu from a child.

Reporter: “Around the same number of French voters rather apparently see Marine Le Pen as their hope and their future. My question is if Russia calls one of the candidates a hope of the generation, will it be accused of interfering in French elections?”

Mogherini: “Sergey, you don’t want to take that one?”

We can safely say this is an answer which won’t be cited as an example of conviction by professors of political studies. However, Mogherini wasn’t alone. The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, called Macron to congratulate him. Which seems like a highly unethical move, given he will have to work with whoever the French people elect.

Satellite of Deception

Nevertheless, while the politicians were letting off some steam, the real hysteria was in the media. CNN brought us a madcap, foolish and preposterous report on how cyber attackers “possibly linked to Putin” were targeting the En Marche! candidate. Evidence was scant, the cited experts dubious, and CNN was even forced to admit that Macron’s staff clarified how “no sensitive data was stolen from them.” Meaning they were essentially distancing themselves from their own the segment in real-time. Also, at the tail end, obviously unable to find a genuine Russia expert to add gravitas to the nonsense, they wheeled out a startled looking Ben Judah, who metaphorically phoned in his usual anti-Russia soundbite.

At the same time CNN was putting out its latest “fake news,” this network was engaged in a different battle. Because on Sunday, an RT journalist rocked up to Macron’s campaign headquarters and was refused entry by, what she described as, the assembled “hipstery volunteers.” But it wasn’t Polly Boiko’s colorful turn of phrase that raised En Marche! ire, it was her association with RT.

Of course, the delicious irony here is how Macron was aping the behavior of his ideological nemesis, Trump, who banned The Guardian, New York Times and CNN from some campaign briefings. Predictably, none of those outlets leaped to RT’s defense either. And it’s worth noting that French state media, such as Agence France-Presse and France 24 have never been hindered in covering Russian elections.

Question of Truth

Apparently, nobody from Macron’s team had the integrity to go on the record to explain their actions. But The Daily Beast, an American website, quoted anonymous “sources” who said, “we have decided not to give it (RT) accreditation.” No clear reasons were given, but the Daily Beast appeared to insinuate that it was a reprisal for RT’s alleged hostility to Macron’s candidacy.

However, there is no actual evidence to support this supposition. And the Daily Beast doesn't link to any examples either. What’s more, even NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct agrees. In an extensive report published last week, its writer, Ben Nimmo, forensically analyzed Russian media's French-language presentation of the election. He concluded how “much of RT France’s coverage has been adequately balanced: it has tended to report criticism of Macron, but at least mentioned the candidate’s stance, albeit often briefly.” 

Regular Russia watchers will know that The Atlantic Council’s raison d’être usually appears to be promoting tension with Moscow. And their list of “fellows” reads like a who’s who of Russophobes. Indeed, Nimmo himself could never be accused of Kremlin sympathies in a month of Sundays. Thus, if even NATO’s “intellectual wing” can’t find proof of RT bias against Macron, it’s most definitely because RT is not biased against Macron. His team would do well to study the facts, and ignore the media hyperbole. Especially if they harbor genuine aspirations of leading France after next month’s concluding ballot.

I wrote RT’s main, English-language, preview of the French election. After it was published, I was attacked on social media for being too sympathetic to Francois Fillon and Macron, and coming across as “anti-Le Pen.” It seems you can't win.

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