|You gotta spin it to win it|
|Stop the presses!|
|We want pictures|
|Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
|—RT's slogan, which can be translated as JAQ:161-162|
“”Every single day we're lying and finding sexier ways to do it.
|—Former RT reporter Sara Firth|
Правда Russia Today) is a Russian state-run 24/7 English-language Ministry of propaganda news channel launched in December 2005. The network aims to present the world with a Russian point of view and "become Russia's version of the BBC", but comes off like a state-sponsored Fox News, prone to coverage slanted against "the West" in general and the United States in particular, and indulging in conspiracy theories and other fringe beliefs. The European Parliament has termed it "[an instrument of] international soft power" and "Russia's main international media weapon".
RT's preferred methods of disinformation are lying by omission and treating rumors as fact. This allows it to further a set of narratives, spins and rumors, without publishing something that could in isolation be regarded as an intentional lie. The only "news" they publish is re-heated articles from Reuters and other wire services. They sometimes approach real news when they publish stories that don't have any connection to the U.S. or any Russian interests.
Ironically, the channel was founded by a Soviet bureaucrat-turned entrepreneur who merged his private channel with the state channel. Long story short, if you are looking for actual news stories- look somewhere else.
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, multiple media providers in at least 10 nations, as well as several technology companies, removed Russia Today from their services. In addition, the European Union, citing Russia's "systematic, international campaign of media manipulation and distortion of facts in order to enhance its strategy of destabilisation of its neighbouring countries", banned RT and Sputnik from broadcasting within the EU, covering both traditional broadcast channels (like satellite TV) as well as online platforms. As a result of this, RT America (their American branch) ceased production and laid off most of their staff. On March 18, 2022, RT's license to broadcast in the United Kingdom was revoked.
Conspiracy-related posts form the bulk of all comments on the majority of videos published by RT online. Although Fox News has supported conspiracy theorists including Birthers, Russia Today is the only international news organization that promotes conspiracy theories on an industrial scale. For example, there is a compilation of (originally no fewer than) 56 Russia Today YouTube videos on 9/11 (7 now deleted). The majority publicize and clearly support conspiracy theories. The remainder involve other criticisms of the United States.
RT regularly features interviews with cranks as experts on various subjects. The conspiracy theories it gives publicity to are generally those that portray the United States as deeply amoral, malicious and/or doomed to failure. However, as a government mouthpiece of the world's number one fossil fuel supplier, RT has also featured global warming conspiracy theory proponents including Piers Corbyn, Christopher Monckton, James Corbett, and Patrick Michaels. Other examples are in a compilation of seven videos on "Climategate".
RT's news articles have sourced fake news websites such as InfoWars and WND. Uber-conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones has been interviewed by the network on numerous occasions, and other conspiracy theorists that have appeared as guests on his radio program and been interviewed (several times in most cases) by RT include Mike Adams, Mark Dice, David Ray Griffin, Jesse Ventura, Lyndon LaRouche, and Gerald Celente. It's a needle-thread away from Scopie's Law status.
Peter Lavelle hosts CrossTalk on RT. On July 23, 2014, he claimed on his show that "I'm not a conspiracy theorist and I never allow conspiracy theorists on my program." However, in the same show, he went on to propose that a conspiracy theory that Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in order to gain worldwide sympathy (rather than the consensus opinion that it was a Russian-sponsored militia). PolitiFact has further documented several conspiracy theorists who have appeared on his show on other dates.
Alongside nutty conspiracy theorists, RT had also given voice to genuine whistleblowers from the Western world like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, while (unsurprisingly) ignoring similar whistleblowers or opposition figures (like Garry Kasparov) from Russia.
Funding and objectives
RT's self-described objective is to "show you how any story can be another story altogether." In this, at least, they do not disappoint. Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, has specified that the station was born out of the desire to present an "unbiased portrait of Russia". Ironically (but not surprisingly for anyone who knows about what "unbiased" usually means), most critics share the opinion that the channel's main objective is to present a very biased portrait of other countries.
RT promotes itself heavily on YouTube, and has achieved a significant following. A 2012 survey published by the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project found that the network had the largest percentage of top videos out of all the other news organization surveyed:
Russia Today has developed a large online following through a combination of factors. The network has actively promoted its online content. The RT YouTube channel has more than 280,000 followers and the videos in its official channel have been viewed more than 740 million times, a number far greater than many other well-known sources such as Al Jazeera English (380 million views), Sky News (52 million) and Fox News (23 million). Other prominent news organizations have far fewer followers, such as ABC News (111,000), the New York Times (78,000) and ITN News (54,000).
“”Globally, you're probably the most popular man in modern history... you are looked on as a savior of sorts.
|—RT's Peter Lavelle to Putin|
Russian political dissident Boris Kagarlitsky described RT as a "continuation of the old Soviet propaganda services". The network is also accused of having close ties with the Russian state authorities and helping the Kremlin project an overtly positive image of Russia by refraining from criticizing the government, particularly Vladimir Putin.
Other criticism includes claims that RT is deliberately and incessantly engaging in US/NATO/EU-bashing through "interviews" in which only Russian ultra-nationalists or exuberantly critical, anti-Western "experts" are interviewed — without any probing questions or challenges by RT reporters, and without even bothering to hear opposing points of view. The following "news" titles from RT may provide some examples of this:
Some Western interviewees have found the experience of an RT interview weird. The network fishes extremely hard for the quote they're looking for and are prone to just completely making shit up in the resulting story. Other Russian networks (e.g. NTV) don't weird interviewees out like this.
RT was also the only network to broadcast The World Tomorrow (a.k.a. The Julian Assange Show), considering it as "rallying a global audience of open-minded people who question what they see in mainstream media". The irony is not lost to anyone.
A European Parliament briefing said:
RT brands itself as a platform for provocative and original perspectives (its slogan: 'Question More'), raising sometimes legitimate concerns – for example over fracking, austerity policies, the EU's democratic deficit, NSA surveillance – that resonate with a heterogeneous mix of environmentalists, civil liberties campaigners, eurosceptics, far-right parties, and various disaffected groups. Its reports feature the Occupy Wall Street movement, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and Scottish Nationalists – precisely the kind of dissenting voices whose counterparts within Russia are ignored by the Russian domestic media.
While RT focuses on attacking the US and EU rather than defending Russia, the methods it uses are very similar to Russian domestic media. Like her domestic counterparts, RT chief editor Magarita Simonyan admits to having a hotline to the Kremlin, and she echoes Dmitry Kiselev's disregard for 'objective reality'. Conspiracy theories are a staple both on RT and domestic media – one Spanish-language RT article (since withdrawn) speculated that the US may have been to blame for spreading the Ebola virus.
Due to its status as an "Alternative media outlet", RT UK and RT America enjoy a large degree of sympathy from both the far-left and the far-right in Europe. RT America employs several left-wing journalists and reporters, who criticize militarism, corruption and money in US politics. They include the co-hosts of the Ring of Fire network (journalist Farron Cousins and lawyer Mike Papantonio), progressive radio talking head Thom Hartmann, Alyona Minkovski (who left and joined The Huffington Post), Abby Martin (who left and joined teleSUR[note 1] with Chris Hedges), frequent guest Sam Seder of the Majority Report, and even Larry King of all people. David Pakman, Benjamin Dixon, Martin, Seder, and Hartmann are also part of the Ring of Fire, but other than the last two, they don't appear at all on RT America, which means they have complete autonomy over their own shows.
By 2014, however, namely the annexation of Crimea, Seder, Pakman, Dixon, Hartmann, Cousins, and Minkovski all stopped associating themselves with RT. A great way to lose progressive support is by acting like an imperialist power.
Over in the UK, some of the comedic "progressive" voices include George Galloway on his show Sputnik (although his comedic skills are not premeditated), Sam Delaney's News Thing and fake newsreader Jonathan Pie Despite being partially funded by the Russian government, these individuals have a degree of autonomy over their own shows. Pie, for example, has used his platform to criticize Russia's anti-LGBT laws and attitudes, alongside other countries. Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland for the center-left Scottish National Party, started a chat show in November 2017, whose early episodes featured Labour and Conservative politicians and discussed Catalan independence, Brexit, and LGBT rights. Salmond said the show is editorially independent because it is produced by his own company. Given the sexual misconduct allegations that have plagued him recently, it remains to be seen if the show will survive, although he was cleared of all charges.
This is actually a very calculated move on RT's part: plant genuine left-wingers on their English-language outlet and allow them to give legitimate criticisms of the United States without allowing them to talk negatively about Russia (unless they have their own shows to do that without RT breathing down their throats). This means they can look at the average public and say, "See? We're not totally bullshit!" so they can claim a veneer of credibility. We recommend ignoring RT altogether, of course.
Mindful of RT's unfortunately accumulating reputation as bat-guano insane propaganda, the same government department launched the totally unrelated SputnikNews, which will surely not gather a similar image as the home of gibbering delusion, with headlines like "US Anger with RT Will Start World War Three". Possibly. Or given that SputnikNews quickly established itself as more overtly conspiratorial and biased in favor of the Russian government, it could be that it was created to make RT seem reasonable in comparison.
Andrew Feinberg, an American citizen and SputnikNews' former White House correspondent, was interviewed by the FBI in September 2017; he also turned over to them "a thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents." The FBI investigation was with regard to whether SputnikNews was "acting as an undeclared propaganda arm of the Kremlin" in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but may have also been in connection with Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Radio Sputnik is the audio service of the Sputnik platform, broadcasting Russian propaganda across the world in several languages. Through the efforts of Florida resident Arnold Ferolito, it is carried on several broadcast stations in Washington, D.C. and Kansas City. After brokering deals with radio stations to put Radio Sputnik on the air, Ferolito was pressured to register as a foreign agent under terms of the Federal Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Much to our surprise, the French-language version of RT published a debunking of "two Russians pursued their aggressors from Le Bourget to Saint-Denis" (unsurprisingly fake news from...French far-right Pro-Putin websites!).
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
RT has been a strong proponent of Russian warfare against Ukraine, or what the Russian government calls a "special military operation" as Russian president Vladimir Putin forbid calling the war a war. The Russian invasion and mass murder on civilians is said to be done in order to "liberate" parts of Ukraine from Ukraine and to "defend" Ukrainians against Ukraine.
RT editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, has claimed that Ukrainian forces target children with banned cluster bombs (a blatant lie), that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has banned all private media (a blatant lie), that Ukrainians don't consider Russians to be human (a blatant lie), that Ukrainian doctors have called for Russian prisoners of war to be castrated (a blatant lie), and that Ukrainian “Nazis” are "prepared to pluck children’s eyes out based on their ethnicity" (a blatant lie).
TV presenter Anton Krasovsky in RT said on public TV that Ukraine should not exist, and that Ukrainian children who complained about Russian occupation should be drowned or burnt alive.
- RT's official website
- RT's YouTube channel
- How the Truth is Made at Russia Today
- Who’s afraid of Russia Today?
- basically Venezuelan RT
- The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder (2018) Tim Duggan Books. ISBN 0525574468.
- , Gawker
- Russia Today to be 24-hour, English TV station, CBC
- Briefing 2015: Russia's disinformation on Ukraine and the EU's response (European Parliament)
- "Roku is removing RT from the Roku Channel Store in Europe - source" by Dawn Chmielewski, Reuters, 2022 February 28
- "EU's ban on Russia Today and Sputnik is now in effect" by Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch, 2022 March 2
- Council Regulation (EU) 2022/350 of 1 March 2022 amending Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, Official Journal of the European Union, Volume 65, 2 March 2022
- RT America ceases productions and lays off most of its staff, Oliver Darcy, CNN 4 March 2022
- "Russia Today - News channel RT's UK licence revoked by Ofcom", BBC News, 18 March 2022
- Fox News' conspiracy theory obsession, Media Matters
- "Fox Promotes Birther Myth In At Least 52 Segments", Media Matters
- A playlist
- RT interviewing quack Piers Corbyn
- RT interviewing the Lord!
- "The great climate change swindle: global warming is not manmade!"
- James Corbett RT YouTube search
- Patrick Michaels on climate change
- Another playlist
- Alleged US Army doc: Re-education camps and psy-op missions aimed at activists RT. May 3, 2012.
- ‘Absolutely easy’: Global train systems are vulnerable to hacking, warn security researchers RT. December 31, 2015.
- RT interviewing Jones on FEMA concentration camps
- RT interviewing Alex Jones on Gulf oil spill conspiracy
- RT interviewing Alex Jones on CIA creating Al-Qaeda
- RT showing Alex Jones demonstrating against Bildeberg conference
- The US government deliberately created e-coli!
- Mark Dice on secret think tanks to further “American imperialism”
- David Ray Griffin on 9/11 conspiracy theories
- Jesse Ventura on American conspiracies
- Lyndon LaRouche alleging that the Russo-Georgian War was a “British-American operation intended to crush Russia”
- 'America lives in a fascist state' —; Gerald Celente
- RT's Peter Lavelle says he doesn't allow conspiracy theories on his show, then utters one by Katie Sanders (Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 at 5:32 p.m.) PolitiFact.
- How Russia's independent media was dismantled piece by piece, The Guardian.
- Anatomy of nonresistance, Lenizdat
- About Us, RT
- Journalism mixes with spin on Russia Today: critics, CBC
- Russia: New International Channel Ready To Begin Broadcasting, RFE/RL
- YouTube Video Creation – A Shared Process, Pew Research Center
- Might be regretting saying that in a few years.
- Russia Today Built on Kremlin Ties, Kommersant
- Russia Pumps Tens of Millions Into Burnishing Image Abroad, Washington Post
- "No country can legally invade another country without UN approval" Oh.
- In this case, one RationalWikian and people he's asked
- Assange TV Presented by the Kremlin, New York Times
- Everett, Chris (August 4, 2016). "The 'alternative' right has a Putin problem". Comment Central.
- See: "Sputnik" stories on the RT website.
- See: "News Thing" stories on the RT website.
- Bish, Joe (June 9, 2016). "The Cult of Jonathan Pie, Facebook's Dire Political Satirist". VICE.
- "A slice of GAY Pie", via Johnathan Pie's official YouTube channel.
- "'Be ashamed, Alex': Salmond courts controversy with RT", The Guardian, 17 November 2017
- "Alex Salmond resigns from SNP after sexual misconduct claims", The Guardian, 29 August 2018
- US Anger With RT Will Start World War Three – Emir Kusturica. Sputnik News, 15 May 2015.
- Sputnik, the Russian news agency, is under investigation by the FBI by Hunter Walker & Michael Isikoff (September 11, 2017) Yahoo News.
- Chris Haxel, Russian 'Propaganda Machine' Selects Kansas City As Its Second Radio Broadcast Site. kcur.org, 25 January 2020. It appears that the Kansas City station that airs Radio Sputnik will sell airtime to anyone. They also broadcast Rick Wiles' racist, conspiracy-clogged TruNews.
- Jeff Pegues, Russia's Radio Sputnik, funded by the Kremlin, airing in Kansas City. CBS News, 17 February 2020.
- The two faces of RT’s coronavirus propaganda. Meduza.
- "RT news channel in spotlight in UK over pro-Russia slant on Ukraine crisis", The Guardian, 25 February 2022
- "'Military Brainwashing': Russian State TV Pulls Out The Stops To Sell Kremlin's Narrative On The War In Ukraine", RadioFreeEurope / RadioLiberty, 29 March 2022
- "Russian State TV Presenter Suspended After 'Disgusting' Call To Drown Ukrainian Children", RadioFreeEurope / RadioLiberty, 24 October 2022