On Sunday the New York Times published the latest in the Western media’s assault on Russian funded news outlets predicated solely on the source rather than the substance of the underlying reporting titled: A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories. The 2,000 word article, if it deserves to be called that, claimed that outlets like Sputnik and RT are providing intentionally inaccurate or distorted reports to our viewers but failed to provide any evidence to substantiate the claim.
"The Kremlin uses both conventional media – Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet," claims Neil MacFarquhar without considering the gravity of his statement. This statement accuses, in no uncertain terms, American writers and television personalities of participating in a treasonous plot to subvert American democracy — that’s quite a charge, but is there anything to back it up?
First of all, no evidence was provided that we are somehow controlled by the Kremlin and there never will be any evidence because it does not exist. It may surprise the New York Times to learn that our US writers do not speak with Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Peskov over our morning coffee prior to our shift.
Second, no evidence was provided to challenge the accuracy of any specific report. Instead, on the domestic scene, the author claims that "RT often seems obsessed with the United States, portraying life there as hellish. It’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention, for example, skipped the speeches and focused instead on scattered demonstrations."
Not really. It is true that we covered the fallout and implications of the WikiLeaks document leak that showed leading figures in the US media, including Nevada’s dean of the political press corps Jon Ralston, regurgitating intentionally false narratives about Bernie Sanders spun by the DNC "without attribution" – we did cover that subversion of the US democracy, but we did not create it.
If the only news outlets that existed in the United States were Sputnik and RT, or if our viewers observed no news content from additional sources and did not possess Twitter accounts of their own then perhaps the coverage balance would be off. However, we do not exist in a vacuum and it is equally important to point out that the mainstream media did not cover protests at all and heavily downplayed the controversy surrounding the DNC – Wolf Blitzer even opened up some champagne to celebrate Hillary’s speech.
Other news outlets celebrated Hillary’s speech and tried to navigate the discourse back towards beating Trump. That is not our opinion. The LA Times wrote an article titled "To Fight Trump, Journalists Have Dispensed With Objectivity," the New York Times published an article titled "Trump is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism," Univision’s Jorge Ramos called on journalists saying "Neutrality is not an Option," and Glenn Greenwald said the US media is 100 percent against Donald Trump.
Compared to that type of reporting, our mere blasting of Donald Trump receiving endorsements from various white supremacist groups, saying controversial things, or the coming divestment in his candidacy by the RNC may appear to be somewhat fawning coverage since we are also covering Hillary’s assault on opposition media deeming what opinions do or do not have a "right to exist" in addition to scandals associated with the WikiLeaks dump, the private email server, or the Clinton Foundation and may seem untoward to a journalistic establishment that decided to take the year off from covering news.
The New York Times also claims in their story that Sputnik is part of the "Kremlin propaganda machine" that is "spreading false stories," but then it attacks our reporting for “relying heavily on articles abridged from other sources.” How, precisely, can both of these things be true at the same time? It is factually impossible — it has to be one or the other.
Finally, the article cites the Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist as saying that both RT and Sputnik "depict the West as grim, divided, brutal, decadent, overrun with violent immigrants and unstable." Was this before or after our coverage of the plight of Syrian refugees and the consequences of the Turkish-EU refugee deal that leaves displaced people without protections – that’s a far step from vilifying immigrants as a violent and unsympathetic population.
Maybe Hultqvist is referring to our coverage of pro-immigration rallies or inspiring social movements against police brutality. And if not that, maybe he is referring to RT being the first outlet to allow Jill Stein to speak to the American public of her vision that can literally be defined as "peace and love" or progressive Bernie Sanders who spoke with RT’s Ed Schultz.
Then there is the argument that RT and Sputnik provided too much coverage of the pro-Brexit side. It could be argued that the BBC, the Guardian, etc. provided too little coverage to the Leave campaign – notably because those outlets have probably over 50 times the market share of Sputnik or RT in the UK, but they covered exclusively the side that lost. Pollsters agree with that assessment finding that the Election Day results were so surprising because people were shamed into lying when polled because the UK media made clear that it was socially unacceptable to favor Brexit.
Then again, the article itself is quite literally a fallacy — "Ad hominem is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself." I ask the New York Times to kindly provide evidence before falsely accusing my colleagues and I of what amounts to a most serious crime.