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Reflecting On the Outward Voice of Russia

"Instead of aiding in dialogue and mutual understanding, (Western) media are broadening the mis-understanding gap and escalating tensions."

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The world owes Simonyan and her team at RT a debt of gratitude for the enormous contribution they make to the alt-media landscape.

Many of us have a wide reach, but are seriously underfunded, so the heavy lifting RT does is simply invaluable. Here at RI, our small team relentlessly scans what the alt-media is writing about Russia, and I see every day how much the they use and amplify what RT and Sputnik produce, because they have the budgets. It is colossal and invaluable.

<figcaption>Margarita Simonyan, portrait from 'Putin's Praetorians'</figcaption>
Margarita Simonyan, portrait from 'Putin's Praetorians'

And RT is lucky to have Simonyan at the helm. One of the things she gets right is using humor to fight back against deep state budgets which dwarf hers. She is poised, smart, and witty, and often wins the day skillfully deploying these qualities. To get a sense of this, watch the revealing video at the end of this article.

This is a short excerpt from Simonyan's contribution to Phil Butler's excellent new book 'Putin's Praetorians', which profiles alt-media personalities, large and small, who played a key role in the online revolt against the media's obsessive hostility against Russia. The book was an immediate success, topping Amazon best-seller lists, where it is getting glowing reviews. We carried reviews of it here (the Saker) and here (Jim Dean).

Charles Bausman, Editor, Russia Insider

For a very long time we had the same few outlets setting the news narrative about the entire world, for the entire world. They had the same people telling the same stories, often casting aside important issues and voices. But we know that the world is more diverse, more complicated than that, and that people across the globe have been hungry, for a long time, for a news source that truly reflects this diversity of stories and opinions.

This is the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of RT finding its space in a crowded news universe: by reporting on what the mainstream media ignores.

Our goal has never been to diminish anything or anyone else. Our mission isn’t to shout down other news sources – including those we consider ‘mainstream media’. Yet we do aspire to providing greater diversity in news at large, to serve the audiences by helping them break out of the mainstream media echo chamber.

And yes, it is an echo-chamber.

We have seen it time and time again: whatever internal politics may be a cause of disagreements between news outlets within any given country, whenever larger international stories become involved, most of these outlets sing in unison. There are predetermined good guys and bad guys, and the narrative becomes almost identical for nearly every paper and TV channel.

In Russia, there are a lot of media outlets that openly support the US and the West in their anti-Russian sanctions, many journalists who openly go on Russian TV to voice their support for any anti-Russian acts or restrictions, and entire media organizations which strongly oppose the Kremlin's foreign policy.

It’s a precedent unimaginable in, for example, the US news media – to see people supporting anti-American sanctions imposed by another country, or supporting a US adversary. In Russia it happens all the time.

Or take the presidential election in France. From the start, there was a clear media darling – Emmanuel Macron. He was by far the front-cover fix on most, if not all, newspapers and magazines. Perhaps there was some critical coverage of Mr. Macron when it came to internal debates. But when his team made entirely baseless statements that RT was spreading “fake news” about Macron, not a single major French newspaper or TV channel even bothered to ask for a sole example of the supposed transgression. Nor did they check RT content for any of these supposed “fake news” items.

Of course, they wouldn’t have found any, if they did. And yet, French media outlets simply reprinted these libelous statements without question or scrutiny. Nobody challenged the establishment narrative. This isn’t something simply lamentable. Myopia in news and public discourse can be downright dangerous.

Instead of aiding in dialogue and mutual understanding, this news media is broadening the mis-understanding gap and escalating tensions. Which is why alternative voices – on any story, any issue – are critical to a healthy public debate.

Today, more than ever before.

Here is a fascinating recent Russian TV appearance by Simonyan in which she tries to explain America's whacky recent behavior trying to shut down RT in America. It is funny and entertaining, and gives a good sense of what she is like. You can watch the full show and read the full transcript here.

Margarita Simonyan

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