There’s something of a mini-rebellion of news anchors (an anchor putsch) going on at Russia Today, the propaganda channel operated by the Kremlin. First 9/11 Truther Abby Martin made negative remarks about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and now another anchor, Liz Wahl, has gone further and resigned on air.
I’m cynical enough, of course, to suspect that the whole thing is just another bit of propaganda theater from a regime known for it. But Wahl has also given an interview to the Daily Beast’s James Kirchick, with some extremely direct statements about the true mission and purpose of her erstwhile employer: Exclusive: RT Today Anchor Liz Wahl Explains Why She Quit.
“In order to succeed there you don’t question,” she adds. “In a way you kind of suppress any concerns that you have and play the game.”
And that game is spewing anti-American, anti-Western, pro-Russian propaganda, 24-7. “People don’t want to speak up so they won’t be that person who speaks out, who’s ruffling feathers, that’s something that I thought of, ‘just shut your mouth,’ that’s a lot of how it goes. The status quo remains that way because nobody wants to speak up for fear of the inconvenience or what it will cause you in your future.”
Having worked on the inside, Wahl understands perfectly RT’s marketing strategy, which is to appeal to a young, Western demographic cynical about mainstream media outlets and traditional political authority. “I think some of them are kind of like this hipster generation, they just kind of think it’s cool to question authority,” she says. But what the network’s many young viewers don’t understand, or refuse to understand, is that the channel’s message emanates from the most authoritarian of sources: the Kremlin. “I don’t think it’s a service to anybody to push a narrative that’s not true or actively twist the truth.”
“It actually makes me feel sick that I worked there,” Wahl says. “It’s not a sound news organization, not when your agenda is making America look bad.”
Again my cynical side rears its sarcastic head and tells me that Liz Wahl’s sudden epiphany seems to come at a very convenient moment, after years of obediently pushing the Kremlin line, when Russian propaganda is at a height not seen since the Cold War. But still, this is a pretty extraordinary statement regardless; she’s calling out Russia Today for exactly what’s been obvious to many observers for years, that it’s a pure propaganda outlet that exists to undermine the US on every level.
And that particular point of view is one that’s vehemently denied by … the Mighty Glenn Greenwald, who takes every opportunity to defend Russia Today against precisely this kind of criticism, and who has himself appeared on Russia Today many times.
You can expect a chorus of cheers from the Greenwald personality cult over this, but will any of them also have the honesty to admit that what Liz Wahl said is the simple truth? Or will it be absurd bogus equivalence… like this:
Nothing remotely similar happened during run-up to Iraq War. No US news anchors resigned http://t.co/44nSybWqUH
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) March 5, 2014
Next act in the play; Russia Today’s response:
Ms. Wahl’s resignation comes on the heels of her colleague Abby Martin’s recent comments in which she voiced her disagreement with certain policies of the Russian government and asserted her editorial independence. The difference is, Ms. Martin spoke in the context of her own talk show, to the viewers who have been tuning in for years to hear her opinions on current events - the opinions that most media did not care about until two days ago. For years, Ms. Martin has been speaking out against US military intervention, only to be ignored by the mainstream news outlets - but with that one comment, branded as an act of defiance, she became an overnight sensation. It is a tempting example to follow.
When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.
We wish Liz the best of luck on her chosen path.