‘String of brain-dead slogans’ – Social media reactions to RT’s foreign agent registration
On Thursday, RT America announced it will comply with the DOJ demand to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but will continue to challenge it in court. The Committee to Protect Journalists stayed completely silent on the subject.
Comedian and former 'Daily Show' producer Jena Friedman, however, took up the slack and accused RT of attempting to “destroy” America’s “liberal democracy.” She also called comedians for RT America’s popular comedy-news show ‘Redacted Tonight’ “useful idiots.”
I'm not "ganging up on RT", I am literally just calling them out for what they are- a Russian propaganda valve. Cool that they are giving journalists like @AbbyMartin a platform but that doesn't erase their intent, which is to destroy our (work in progress) liberal democracy. https://t.co/9Ju3iOpXAK— Jena Friedman (@JenaFriedman) November 10, 2017
RT is a Russian propaganda tool. Any Americans who work for the network should at least own up to that. Dear friends who work at @RedactedTonight, don't be useful idiots to a country that censors speech and kills journalists. You are smart and talented and can get work elsewhere. https://t.co/u0Nmyz07gx— Jena Friedman (@JenaFriedman) November 9, 2017
Friedman also offered up a list of acceptable media outlets for US journalists:
Anywhere else, The Young Turks are pretty awesome, a lot of journalist friends work for Vice, Washington Post, the New Yorker, Teen Vogue, etc etc etc— Jena Friedman (@JenaFriedman) November 10, 2017
Unfortunately for writers who would abide by Friedman’s list, Teen Vogue is scaling back its operations - but not before its final print issue will be entrusted to guest editor Hillary Clinton, who called the magazine “a celebration of resistance and resilience.”
Today, we're announcing a very special issue of Teen Vogue, guest-edited by @HillaryClinton — the first-ever female Presidential candidate nominated by a major party, a woman who sits at the center of a historic paradigm shift. pic.twitter.com/uC1f5asL4w— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) November 8, 2017
Journalist Rania Khalek asked why the Washington Post - which is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos - is acceptable, saying the outlet “regularly lies the public into war.”
Also why is it okay to work for the Washington Post, which is owned by a billionaire and regularly lies the public into war, but not an outlet like RT? Why is corporately owned wapo moralistically superior?— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) November 10, 2017
Journalist Adam Johnson called Friedman’s comments “a string of brain dead slogans.”
none of this means anything, it's a string of brain dead slogans.— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) November 10, 2017
Abby Martin, former RT America journalist who now hosts ‘The Empire Files’ on Telesur English, accused Friedman of “resurrecting McCarthyism.”
There’s highly respected, award winning journalists hosted on RT like Mike Papantonio, Larry King & Chris Hedges. The only ones trying to divide the left are ppl like you, resurrecting McCarthyism against leftists who provide platforms 4 anti-war voices & activists, like Lee does— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) November 10, 2017
Friedman went on to accuse critics of having been “radicalized” or being “paid trolls.”
Here's a theory: maybe people are so upset when I call out RT for being Russian propaganda because they're being radicalized by it, that or paid trolls. If you criticized the news I watch (@maddow, @FullFrontalSamB) I wouldn't find your private email and call you a rat lizard.— Jena Friedman (@JenaFriedman) November 10, 2017
Author Max Blumenthal pointed out that free speech advocates and human rights groups were conspicuously silent over the FARA announcement.
Threatening arrests, Washington orders @RT_America to register as foreign agent by Monday. Where are all the liberal free speech & human rights groups that defended Al Jazeera this June? Dead silence. https://t.co/nJLDjpIGwF— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 9, 2017
The American Civil Liberties Union may have had other priorities, though.
Author Jeffrey Kaye called the FARA announcement a “direct attack on 1st amendment.”
This is direct attack on 1st Amendment. Note: The Foreign Agents Registration Act demands “disclosure of the channel's confidential data, including the personal data of its staff. The move ‘will have serious legal consequences’ and ‘compromise the safety of [RT] employees’....”— Jeffrey Kaye (@jeff_kaye) November 9, 2017
User @crypticvalentin wondered if the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) should also be required to register. AIPAC was set up after the Kennedy administration requested the American Zionist Council to register under FARA in 1962.
That sentiment was shared by Baltimore-based activist Delo Taylor.
But nothing about AIPAC though. 🤔— Ni**as in Moscow (@Delo_Taylor) November 9, 2017
Journalist Ben Norton called the announcement a “blatant attack on the freedom of the press in the US” and “a dangerous precedent.”
This is an obvious, blatant attack on the freedom of the press in the US. Of course the US government is not forcing state media outlets from allied countries to register as foreign agents.This is a dangerous precedent meant to silent critical media. https://t.co/ot9wBB5oRs— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 9, 2017
Left I on the News, a California-based blog, called the announcement a “completely outrageous attempt to suppress media with a different point of view.”
Completely outrageous attempt to suppress media with a different point of view. Dozens of foreign media operate in the US, including state-owned ones; none has been asked to register under FARA. The law requires disclosure of the personal data of the staff https://t.co/MSgmDdHy4a— Left I on the News (@leftiblog) November 9, 2017
University of South Carolina professor David Crockett called the FARA order “transparent nonsense.”
I don't like everything RT puts out but a FARA order is transparent nonsense. Declaring a bona fide news agency "an enemy of the Republic" cannot possibly lead anywhere good. https://t.co/gcM75J59l8— David Crockett (@dcrockett17) November 9, 2017
Comedian and writer Katie Halper tweeted a famous movie scene poking fun at the muted reactions from free speech advocates to the FARA announcement.
Adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on US soil, FARA exists so that “the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy, and laws.”
There are 401 entities in the active FARA register including tourist boards and lobbyists. Media outlets have traditionally been exempt from the legislation.